Communicating with Exhibitors

Judges and tracking test committee members have an important responsibility when it comes to communicating with exhibitors. Tracking test participants should be well informed before the event, warmly welcomed at the test, and encouraged by their judges.

The AKC Tracking Regulations guidelines for judges’ state: “Judges are expected to be friendly and courteous to all. Without exhibitors, there would be no tests. For every experienced exhibitor there are many newcomers. The future of this sport is in the hands of the novice.”

Exhibitors are always going to have a few nervous moments when they are faced with having their tracking performance evaluated in a test environment. So much goes into preparation and training before the event, that it is understandable that the handler may feel stressed. We cannot know all the stressors, but we can do our best to alleviate some of the anxiety.

Judges should strive to be friendly and approachable. Take a few minutes at the test track draw meeting to introduce yourself and your co-judge. Thank the club and exhibitors for their participation and let them know that you are rooting for them. Explain the details of traveling to the tracking field… which car to follow, who will oversee the gallery and special parking restrictions. Ask if there are any questions, then give them time to use the facilities.

When you arrive at the tracking area, judges should let the exhibitor know where they can walk their dog and if the track is ready now or how long they will have to wait. Just before the team is directed to the start flag, take a minute to ask the handler if they have any questions and wish them good luck. Do not unduly hurry the team and be sure to give them plenty of space between your position and the start flag.

Once the dog has started the track, communication with the handler would be limited to granting permission to restart (TD/TDU only), to warn of a potentially dangerous situation or if the team has been failed. Judges should not acknowledge whether items found are official test articles until the celebration at the final article.

If the exhibitor requests information regarding individual dog’s performance, the conversation should be delayed until after the judge has completed the assignment and turned in the judge’s book. However, a judge should never continue a conversation with an angry or aggressive person. This is a wonderful time to point out all the things the team did well, and to encourage them for their next try at the title.

Happy Tracking!

AKC Educational Requirements Policy and Recommendations

Dear AKC Judge,

This communication is to inform you of action taken by the AKC Board of Directors at its April 2024 meeting.

As an additional step in creating a safe and respectful sport environment for all, the AKC Board of Directors approved the following educational requirements policy and recommendations. Effective immediately:

* AKC Board of Directors, Inspectors, Field Staff across all sports, AKC Registered Handlers, and additional AKC Staff that regularly attend events, will be required to successfully complete the Stewards of Children® training from the non-profit organization Darkness to Light once every three years.

* All current and future Junior Showmanship judges will be required to successfully complete the Stewards of Children® training. The initial course will be offered by AKC on a complimentary basis and must be refreshed every three (3) years. All current Junior Showmanship judges must fulfill this requirement in 2024.

* All current and future Club Junior Coordinators will be required to successfully complete the Stewards of Children® training. The initial course will be offered by AKC on a complimentary basis and must be refreshed every three (3) years.

* Junior participants and their parents will be recommended to take the following complimentary courses as applicable from SafeSport:

* SafeSport® for Youth Athletes (ages 13-17)

* SafeSport® for Kids (5-12)

* SafeSport® Parent’s Guide to Misconduct in Sports Core.

* All Superintendents, AKC approved Show Secretaries, and AKC approved Agility Trial Secretaries will be strongly advised to take the Stewards of Children® course.

* All current and future Judges across all sports are required to complete the Stewards of Children® training. The initial training will be provided on a complimentary basis by AKC. This requirement will be phased in.

Additional details will be communicated by the AKC to those impacted by this policy concerning fulfillment of this requirement.

Questions concerning this notice should be directed to the department which manages the sport one is approved to judge:

Thank you,
The Companion Events Department Team

Accommodations for Tracking Exhibitors

The Tracking Judge’s Guidelines state “The tracking fraternity is known for its friendliness, hospitality and encouragement of all participants.” This legacy lives on thanks to the efforts of club volunteers and tracking judges. Together, we endeavor to make tracking tests pleasurable for dogs, handlers and sponsoring clubs while upholding high standards for titling.

Encouraging participation in our sport is so very important. Thank you all for your role, whether it be to lay a track for a friend, teach a class, volunteer for a test, support a potential new tracking judge or put in the many hours of work as a judge for an event. The tracking community embodies the best of camaraderie.

Accommodating the special needs of tracking exhibitors is one way that we can support continued participation in our sport. Although we are not able to give an “easier” track to an exhibitor with physical limitations, we can help by modifying the draw so that they would run a track that has easier access to the start of the track. A track that has a nearby parking lot would be a better choice than a track that has a substantial walk-in to the field.

Exhibitors with wheelchairs, sight impairments, or other physical limitations may be assisted on the track by a helper designated by that exhibitor. The helper would walk behind the judges and provide momentary assistance to the handler without guiding the dog in any way. After assisting the handler, the helper would return to a position on the track behind the judges.

Additionally, an exhibitor may need to take a short rest during a test track. The handler can momentarily catch their breath, resting the dog and themselves. The handler must be made aware that no “restart” or guiding of the dog is allowed but can “rescent” and release the dog to go back to tracking.

Happy Tracking to All!

Alternate Tracks

A frequent question from event committee members and judges is “Can we put in an extra track and use it for titling.”  The answer is a bit complex.

First, it depends on the test track limits that were set on the test application.  If the published track limit is already at the maximum number of dogs that judges can judge, then an alternate track may be plotted but would not be available as a titling track.  The maximum number of dogs two judges may test at a TD or TDU test in one day is 12, the maximum for TDX is 6 and the maximum for VST is 8.  However, at a combined test the limits change to:

Up to 2 TD/TDU with up to 5 TDX or 5 VST entries

Up to 4 TD/TDU with up to 4 TDX or 4 VST entries

Up to 6 TD/TDU with up to 3 TDX or 3 VST entries

Up to 8 TD/TDU with up to 2 TDX or 2 VST entries

Up to 10 TD/TDU with up to 1 TDX or 1 VST entry

TDX tracks combined with VST tracks are limited to 6 entries.

If the test has been approved for less than the maximum, then it would be possible to put in an alternate track which might be available as an additional opportunity for an alternate exhibitor to run for titling.  Whether an alternate track is plotted is the sole decision of the judges.  They will base their decision on the land available, equipment and personnel available, and their opinion that a regulation track that is equivalent to the other tracks is possible.  For an alternate track to be available for an additional titling track, it must be plotted on the same day as all other tracks.  It is imperative that the judges communicate their desire to put in an alternate track so that the club can be prepared.

Since the alternate track is at the discretion of the judges, a club should not publish that an additional track will be available in their premium list.  A test secretary may communicate with the first alternate in the test to let them know that an alternate track has been plotted.  However, the priority for use of the alternate track is to replace a fouled track.  The alternate exhibitor should be made aware of this priority and not promised a chance to run.

An alternate exhibitor will be offered the chance to run the alternate track after all of the regularly drawn dogs (including any bitches in season) have completed their tracks.

Happy Tracking!

Mastering Track Yardage

One of the requirements for tracking tests at all levels is track length. Tracking enthusiasts and judges need to acquire several skills to lay regulation tracks.

Calculate your “walking-stride to yards” ratio.
Very few people have a stride that measures exactly a yard with each step. The first thing that you need to do is to find out how many steps you take in a controlled, measured length. An official running track is 437.45 yards, a football field is 100 yards from the goal line to goal line or 120 yards if you include the goal areas on each end. Practicing on these fields will give you a good baseline of your stride length but keep in mind that this is a quite easy walking environment, and your stride will shorten in heavy cover and on hills. Once you have your stride to yard calculation you can make up a conversion chart, use a multiplier or “skip a step” count as you walk.

Here are examples of ways to calculate yardage for a person that takes 125 paces for 100 yards (yours will probably be different):

Chart: # Step = # Yards
i.e., 5 steps = 4 yards; 20 steps = 15 yards; 60 steps = 45 yards; 125 steps = 100 yards
Multiply your steps by .75
Skip every fourth step in your step count
(1, 2, 3, take a step without counting, 4, 5, 6, take a step without counting, etc.). With this method you will always know your running track measurement in yards.

This is a good exercise to do from time to time, as your stride can change.

Develop a Good Sense of Distance.
You must be able to gauge (“eye”) distances accurately in the field to know if it is possible to plot elements like:

  • A minimum, 50-yard leg
  • A minimum, 100-yard leg to hold cross-tracks
  • Plot a Moment-of-Truth turn with at least 30 yards of non-veg after the turn
  • Stay more than 50 yards away from another track
  • Have enough space for a regulation length track in a field

Much like a golfer who hones his ability to estimate the distance from his golf ball to the pin to choose the right club, a tracking enthusiast can train themselves to estimate distances in the field or urban surroundings. You can stand at a corner and find a landmark out in the field, jot down your yardage guess and then see how close you are. This can be done in everyday life as well… park your car at the back of the Walmart lot and see how close you can come to estimating the yardage to the front door before you walk off the measurement. Practice makes perfect. You will be glad that you played these games and own this skill.

Happy Tracking!

Gallery Considerations

Spectators at tracking events are important for our sport. The people who come to watch the test are often friends and family of the exhibitors, dog owners who may be there to see if tracking might be something that they would like to do with their dog, and club members who are volunteering their time in support of the test. Any of these reasons for attending would place these people in the “VIP” category and it is important that we treat them as such.

Spectators form their opinion of the sport through seeing the actions of the judge, handler, and dog. Care must be taken to avoid any action that might reflect poorly on the sport. Judges should work to maintain spectator appeal in the sport while keeping foremost in mind the welfare and convenience of the exhibitor and the dog.

When plotting tracks, the judges should always consider the staging of exhibitors and gallery. Especially in urban tracking, smart use of the parking areas is imperative. If parking lots are at a premium and must be utilized for non-vegetative yardage and “Moment of Truth” turns, using a centrally located parking area for test parking and starting a couple of tracks in different directions from that lot can really help with test day organization.

It is also important to give clear instruction to the handlers and gallery at the draw meeting. To ensure that the spectators do not interfere with the dog’s work, indicate the location of direction of the track or contaminate unused tracks, these instructions should include:

· Introducing a test committee member who has been authorized to lead the caravan to the staging areas and move spectators into an area where they can safely observe the team. Make sure that this Gallery Control Chief has been advised of the judge’s instructions for each track.

· All those present should be mandated to stay with the group as they move to the track area and use only the specified areas for parking, exercising their dogs and available restrooms.

· Spectators should be reminded to keep talking volume low and noise to a minimum. If they wish to walk the track behind the team and judges, the gallery must stay in a tight group and only move with permission of the judges or gallery person. This includes controlling the gallery as they walk back to the start area after the dog has failed or passes.

It is the judge’s responsibility to make certain that spectators remain more than 50 yards away from the start flag until the dog, handler and judges have moved out of the starting area.

Dogs should be trained to accept and ignore the presence of people in the tracking areas at all levels of testing. Sometimes, handlers request that a gallery not be permitted to watch their track. Observation by the gallery is integral to the test, and such a request would not be granted unless unusual circumstances occurred. We can, however, assure the handler that the gallery will be controlled and will not interfere with the dog’s work.

The tracking fraternity is known for its friendliness, hospitality, and encouragement of all current and future participants.

Happy Tracking!

Plotting TDX Cross-Tracks on Leg 2

Plotting cross-tracks can be one of the most challenging judging tasks when designing Tracking Dog Excellent tracks. The AKC Tracking Regulations require the cross-track layers to stay at least 75 yards away from the start of the track. It is important that the dog have an uncontaminated area around the start of the track to “lock in” on the primary tracklayer’s scent left on the start article and first leg of the track.

Many tracking sites have limited access to fields leaving judges few opportunities to bring in cross-track layers and get them out of the field without getting within 50 yards of the track (except when they are crossing the actual track). It is essential that the judging team have a plan for cross-tracks before they start plotting. Often, when faced with limited access to the field, you need to plan to bring in cross-track layers on the second leg of the track.

There are several options available to you when plotting the first cross-track on leg 2. Choose a design that works well for the field space available and ensures that the start area is unaffected. The following illustrations show three ways to effectively plot regulation cross-tracks on leg 2.

Don’t forget that the cross-tracks must be perpendicular to the track and be in a straight line at least 50 yards before and 50 yards after each crossing. Cross-track layers must also be instructed on how to exit the field in order to stay at least 50 yards away from any other portion of the primary track.

Happy Tracking!

Updated Tracking Regulations now available

Dear Tracking Judge,

A new copy of the Tracking Regulations book has been published and posted, and you are eligible to receive a complimentary copy. Please send an email request to to receive a copy in the mail.

In the email Subject Line type: “Tracking Regs – Judge Request.”

In the body of the email include the following information:

·        Judge Number

·        First and Last Name

·        Street, City, State and Zip code

The document can also be found on the AKC website:

The Companion Events Team

TDX and VST Blind Starts

Tracking Dog Excellent and Variable Surface Tracking tests require the dog to demonstrate an advanced skill at the start flag.  The handler is instructed to approach the start of the track without indication of the direction of the track.  The dog takes scent from the start article and without guidance from the handler, must commit itself to the direction of the track before the handler may leave the start flag.

In order for judges to plot a good, one-flag blind start, there must be careful planning before they enter either TDX or VST fields.  Both of these tracking tests require a start in an area that permits the direction of the track to go in any direction within a 180 degree arc.  The judges must include a 30 yard, straight walk-in by the tracklayer, to ensure that there is not a turn at the starting flag.  For TDX tracks, the judges must also think about staying away from obstacles on the first leg and plotting the first corner out in the open.  For VST tracks, the judges must have at least 20 yards of vegetation after the start flag.

At the time of plotting, it is important for the judges to discuss the exact approach and path the handler will be advised to walk in with their dog to get to the start.  This is important for two reasons.  The first is to make sure that the handler’s direction of approach is less than 90 degrees in relation to the first leg.  The team should not have to work an acute angle at the start. The second consideration is to ensure that the handler brings the dog to the start flag at an angle that does not give away the direction of the track and allows the dog to demonstrate his ability to take scent from the start article and find the direction of the track.  This is a fundamental requirement for advanced tracking dogs.  Handlers work hard training their dogs to be competent at indicating direction from a blind start and they expect this component at the test.

Happy Tracking!

AKC Tracking Regulation Revisions

Tracking Tests – Recording Devices, and Protective Eye Goggles

At the July 2023 Board Meeting, the Board VOTED to modify the AKC Tracking Regulations, Chapter 2, Section 19 to state that:

1) That recording devices are not allowed on the tracking field and 2) That dogs may wear eye goggles, effective August 1, 2023.

Section 19. Praise, Play, and Items on the Track and Dog. Praise and petting of the dog are allowed after the dog finds the article(s). However, exhibitors will not excessively play with articles as toys, toss them to the dog, or throw them on the ground, which may be construed as a restart. Once the track is complete, playing with any of the articles is allowed.

   The only items permitted on the tracking field are those items considered by the judges to be essential to conducting the test and permitted by these Regulations. Judges will not allow any motivational items such as food, balls, or toys to be used or carried within 30 yards of a track. Judges will not allow any type of recording devices that film video, capture pictures and/or locations, to be carried by the handler or attached to the dog. The carrying or use of motivational items or recording devices will require the dog to be failed and excused from the field.                                                    

Dogs may wear a protective coat, eye goggles, and/or footwear. If worn, the coat, tracking harness, goggles and/or footwear must be put on in the presence of both judges.

As soon as a regulation insert is availalbe, it will be published.


The Companion Events Team