Tracklayer Instructions

One of the most important resources at a tracking test are the volunteer tracklayers. It is essential that judges give good instructions to every tracklayer. Making sure that the tracklayers are trained to do a good job will help everyone relax, have a pleasurable experience and continue to be willing to track lay tracks at future tests.

Here is an example of good communication on plotting day:
• Take the approved articles home with you tonight and put them in your boot overnight so that they are well scented.
• Today, draw your own map while we are plotting your track. If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to ask. You can use your own step count or convert to yardage. You may rewalk your track today.
• Tomorrow, your track is to be laid at __:__. Please arrive at the test site ½ hour before your track is to go in and check in with the head tracklayer. The tracklaying times may need to be adjusted.
• On test day, before laying your track, be sure that you have your articles and your map. Please take a cell phone and call me at (___/___-_____) if you have questions while you are on the track.
• Approach your start flag as we are doing on plotting day… you must walk in straight in at least (10 yards for TD/TDU or 30 yards for TDX/VST) yards before the start flag.
• Pause at the start flag, note the exact time and drop your start article. Please bring a duplicate start article. We will ask you for it if the original goes missing so keep it in your pocket “just in case”.
• Leave the start flag (and the second, directional flag for TD/TDU). Pick up all of the rest of the flags (except the cross-track flags for TDX).
• Drop the glove (or final article for VST) and pick up the last flag. You must continue to walk in the same line at least 30 yards after the final article drop.
• If you observe anything unusual or if you make an error of any kind in laying your track, dropping articles or leaving flags, please report it to the judges right away. Do not discuss this with anyone else.
• Meet us at the start of your track when the time comes for the dog to run. Please stay more than 50 yards away from your start, bring your map and the second start article.
• You will be walking along while the team is being judged. Please stay on the track and behind the judges so that you can easily orient yourself and help the team to complete the track should they be failed by the judges.

Judges can boost tracklayer confidence by using “double siting” on near and far objects during plotting. Judges should also take a quick look at the tracklayer’s map after the track is plotted to make sure that the turns and article placements are correct and well documented.

Happy Tracking!

The Worker Option

AKC Tracking Regulations provide clubs an option to award certificates that can be used for an advantage in the drawing for entries at future club tracking events.  These are called Worker Option certificates.  Each club will decide on their own WO policies that will determine how volunteers can earn a WO certificate, if and when the WO certificate expires and if WO certificates will be given to judges.  A test worker cannot benefit from a Worker Option slot in a test in which they are working.

If a club decides to implement the Worker Option at a tracking test, the information and the number of tracks to be set aside must be published in the premium list.

The number of tracks that a club may set aside for past workers is determined by the total number of test tracks offered.  If a club is offering a combined test, then the tracks from all test types are added together.  For example, a 3 dog TD combined with a 3 dog TDX test would be considered 6 test tracks and would qualify to offer 2 WO slots.  Alternate tracks that might be available for running as a titling track are not considered as “test tracks offered”. 

Entries with Worker Option certificates are drawn before non-worker entries in each draw category (see lists below).  After the WO slots are filled, the remaining WO entries are added to the non-worker entries for the draw for the remaining tracks.  If the test is being given by a specialty club, then preference is given to the specialty breed before “other” breeds.  Non-titled dogs are always drawn before titled dogs.  A dog is considered “titled” if they have either a TD or TDU title in TD and TDU tests.

Happy Tracking!

AKC National Tracking Invitational September 9 & 10, 2023

The 10th AKC National Tracking Invitational will be held at the beautiful Branched Oak State Recreation Area in Raymond, Nebraska and hosted by the Cornhusker Kennel Club and Nebraska Kennel Club. Event information and updates can be found on these sites:
2023 NTI website –
2023 NTI Facebook page –
AKC website –

The 2023 AKC National Tracking Invitational is a “by invitation” event limited to dogs who earned a Champion Tracker (CT) title between January 1, 2012 through June 30, 2023. If your dog is eligible then soon after June 30 you will receive an electronic invitation via email to enter. If your dog is eligible, we highly recommend you sign in to the AKC website and verify that your email address is correct.

Entries for the NTI will close on Friday August 11, 2023 at 6:00 pm CDT. A random drawing of all entries will be made on Saturday August 12, 2023 at noon CDT. The first twelve lucky dogs drawn will be awarded an exhibitor position and the remaining entries will be assigned an “Alternate” status in the order drawn. The blind drawing will be streamed live on the NTI 2023 Facebook group!

Ilene Morgan, Grand Isle, Vermont
Pia Paulsen, Malibu, California
Jeanne L Ramirez, Bucyrus, Kansas
Inge Suchanek, Milton, Wisconsin

Chairperson, Dian Quist (
Event Secretary, Shelly Rehmeier (
Volunteers, Sue Volkmer (
Donations & Supporters, Christy Brandt ( & Alycia Noble (
Merchandise, Ron Weaks (
Website & Facebook, Joe Bradley (
Photographers, TBD
AKC Representative, Carol Ruthenberg (

Quick Reference Guide for Tracking

Both in training and in official test plotting, we are often asked to switch between creating tracks for TD, TDU, TDX and VST. Since each test type has it’s own requirements, it’s important that we don’t get the details confused in the field.

Here is a handy, one-page table comparing the requirements for each test. Please print it and carry it along in your clipboard compartment for easy reference.

Quick Reference Guide

Happy Tracking!

Observation Without Influence

One of the essential responsibilities of every tracking judge is to observe everything that goes on in the field. It is important that judges do not place pressure on the working team by being so close that their proximity to the team influences the dog or handler in any way. Dogs need to be trained to accept that people will follow along while they track. Handlers need to be able to read their dog and follow the dog’s lead without cueing off of the judges.

At the start: The AKC Tracking Regulations state that judges will instruct the handler to approach the start flag from a distance of 50 yards for TDX tracks, and at least 30 yards for TD, TDU and VST tracks. As a judge, you want to set them up for success by giving them the space to collect their nerves, perform their regular start routine, and allow the dog to take scent from the start article without contamination.

On the track: While it may be possible to see an entire track from a single vantage point, it is virtually impossible to evaluate a marginal or failing performance from a single, stationary point. Judges should maintain a discreet and constant position behind the handler, either on the last completed leg of the track, or at least 40-50 yards on a long leg. This is a recommended MINIMUM and you should leave more room when there is an unobstructed view of the team. If judges are too close, they make it very difficult for the team to back up should the dog need to work through a scenting problem. This is a critical tool that may be key to a passing performance.

At corners: The position of the judges should not “give away” the direction that the track may go. Judges should stay on the track and not venture into a still-unused part of the field showing the handler that the track does not go into this area. It is also imperative that the judges not move until the dog and handler have committed to a new direction, and are well down the new leg of the track. Movement by the judges as soon as the dog takes a new direction will indicate the direction of the track to the handler.

“Observation without influence” should be the goal of both judges and people laying blind training tracks.

Happy Tracking!

Turns “Out In the Open”

The Tracking Regulations for Tracking Dog and Tracking Dog Urban test tracks state that at least two 90-degree turns will be well out in the open and the first turn on a Tracking Dog Excellent test track must be in an open area

The basic concept of a TD/TDU turn in the open is that the direction of the next leg is completely unpredictable. When the dog is at a 90-degree turn that is well out in the open, the track could go right, left or continue straight. Since you will need to plot at least two of these of turns, it is a great idea to plan for the first turn to be one of these “out in the open” turns. That way you will have half of your requirement taken care of and it will make plotting easier for the rest of your track. Leaving the “out in the open” turns until the end of the track is risky as you may be reaching the maximum required yardage or be constrained due to the size or shape of the field. 

In order to plot a good start, first leg and turn for a TDX track it takes careful consideration. There are four components to think about before you even step into the field! 

• TDX starts should be in the same cover as the first leg and first turn. 

• TDX starts should be in an area that permits the direction of the track to go in any direction within a 180-degree arc. 

• Obstacles are not permitted on the first leg of a TDX track (which includes the first turn). There should not be a scenting, physical or line handling challenge on the initial leg nor near the first turn. 

• The first turn on a TDX track should be in an open area where the track could go in any direction. 

Take a few moments to plan for these track requirements before you start. Plotting great tracks is an art form that takes thought and practice to master.  

Approving Articles

One of the required elements of all tracking tests is that the dog find and indicate articles. Trainers of tracking dogs spend a lot of time making sure that their dogs are reliable at finding these items and either training for a specific response to the find or studying the dog’s behavior at articles so that they can identify article indication.

The Tracking Regulations state specific requirements for articles at each title level. It is important that judges present each exhibitor with a fair test of the dog’s ability to indicate articles. Providing the best article experience takes a bit of planning.

Know your regulations when it comes to approving articles.

All articles (for every test level) must be inconspicuous in color in comparison to the surroundings. The articles are not to be visible from a distance of 20 feet and must not be covered in an effort to conceal them. Brightly colored articles are prohibited, except for the start article.

Remember to approve two prospective start articles of the same material. If the start article disappears, the tracklayer can have the replacement start article readily available.

It is acceptable for the clubs to provide articles and/or for articles to be supplied by the tracklayer. In either case, judges should not feel pressured to approve articles that do not meet the requirements of the regulations. Please give your tracklayer instructions on how to effectively impregnate scent into the article. This is especially important when the item is new.

TD track articles:
Start article must be cloth and the size of a glove or wallet
End article must be a glove or wallet and can be cloth or leather
TDU track articles (dissimilar):
Start article must be cloth or leather and the size of a glove or wallet
Midpoint article must be cloth or leather and the size of a glove or wallet
End article must be a glove or wallet and can be fabric or leather
TDX track articles (dissimilar):
Start, 2nd & 3rd article must be personal to the tracklayer, the size of a glove or wallet
End article must be a glove or wallet
VST track articles (dissimilar, common, safely picked up by the dog):
Sized between a minimum of 2″ x 4″ and a maximum of 5″ x 5″
Weighing no more than 8 ounces and easily carried by the tracklayer
Four articles; leather, rigid or semi-rigid plastic, metal and fabric
Start article must be fabric or leather
End article must be temporarily marked with a number “4″

Tracking Apprentice Guide

One of the requirements for becoming a new tracking judge at the TD/TDU level or applying for additional tracking judge levels (TDX or VST) is that the applicant complete two apprentice assignments. In order to support these applicants and set them up for success, judges should take this opportunity to mentor and encourage these apprentices. It is of utmost importance to the sport of tracking that we bring along new judges so that clubs have good choices and affordable options when they are considering their judging panel.

How does an apprentice set up an assignment?
A person wishing to attend a tracking test as an apprentice must contact the test giving club and both judges asking for permission. Only one apprentice is allowed at a tracking test. A minimum of three tracks must be plotted and judged for the apprenticeship to apply.

The club is agreeing to provide transportation for the apprentice during plotting and judging. The apprentice cannot have any other responsibilities for the test so clubs must understand that they cannot serve as tracklayers or have any other duties on plotting or test days. Judges are agreeing to serve as an example, instruct and educate the apprentice.

What is an apprentice assignment?
A person must “shadow” the judges at a tracking test at the level in which they plan to apply. During this two-day commitment, the apprentice should plan to attend the entire plotting day, draw track charts and observe test day judging procedures.

How to prepare to be an apprentice:
After receiving permission, the apprentice should communicate with the club to find out when and where to meet on plotting day. The apprentice will need to bring the following:

● Map making materials for drawing field maps during plotting
● Forms for drawing simulated judge’s book charts. Apprentices must transfer their track information onto chart forms (no need for 4 part forms… download single-page forms from AKC website
● Current copy of the Tracking Regulations (download available at
● Copy of the Tracking Apprentice Judging Form (download at Both officiating judges will need to fill out the form at the end of the apprentice assignment.

Completed charts and the Tracking Apprentice Judging forms from two apprentice assignments must be submitted with judging applications.

Judge and apprentice topics on plotting day:
● Details that need to be discussed with the club and head tracklayer (available land, plotting equipment, tracklayers and tracklaying conflicts, test day schedule)
● Approving articles including a duplicate start article
● Tracklaying instructions (time to lay track, drawing a map, walk-in, flags to leave/take, start article and possible replacement, sight line of legs, corner markers, triangulation of articles, walk-out and exiting the field, when the track will run and courtesy help after fail)
● Tracklayer instructions if there is an error or unusual circumstance
● Judge’s responsible for plotting regulation tracks
● Alternate track (judges decide, use for exhibitors, when it can be used for titling)
● Determining length of stride and conversion to yardage
● Judges and apprentice should review field maps to verify yardage and track shape
● Apprentice may need instructions on transferring information onto chart forms

Judge and apprentice topics on test day:
● Observing tracks whenever possible
● Judge must be at draw for running order (bitches in season, judge/exhibitor 10 day conflict, tracklayer/exhibitor 10 day conflict)
● Communicating with exhibitors and spectators (friendly, welcoming and approachable)
● Gallery location (possible club member appointed to direct gallery position)
● Judging (exhibitor instructed on approach to start flag, determining if the dog is working, description of guiding, restarts, article indication, minimum requirements met to award title?)
● Judge position on the track
● Co-judges discuss when and why a dog might be failed
● What to do if an article is missing
● Assist the apprentice in completing charts (wind, times, path of the dog, pass/fail with reason)

At the completion of the test please take a few minutes to ask/answer any questions, go over charts and discuss decisions made while judging the teams.

Thank you for your support of new and advancing tracking judges.

Please feel free to share this guide with current or future apprentices.

Tracking Test Closing Dates

At the April 2022 AKC Board meeting, the following item was approved:

Tracking Tests Closing dates update – effective July 1, 2022.

   If a tracking test is announced in a show or trial premium list, the show or trial closing date will apply to tracking entries; otherwise, the closing date for tracking test entries will be at least seven (7) days prior to the tracking test.


The American Kennel Club (AKC ®), today announced leadership changes in the Companion Events Department.

Pamela Manaton, Director of Obedience, Rally and Tracking has announced her retirement effective March 1, 2022 after 22 years with the AKC Companion Events Department. Senior Field Representative, Diane Shultz, has been promoted to the Director of Obedience, Rally and Tracking position. Additionally, Bob Withers has been hired as a Field Representative for Obedience and Rally, and Carol Ruthenberg has been hired as a Field Representative for Tracking.

For the past 11 years, Pamela has served as the Director for Obedience, Rally and Tracking. She has been responsible for the day-to-day management of the sports and has initiated enhancements for their long-term benefit. Since becoming Director, she has served as the chair for 34 National events. Pam has taken a personal interest in promoting the involvement of Juniors in Companion Events.

“Pam has been an integral part of the Companion Events Department for over two decades. Her contributions will be of lasting value to the sports.  She has been a pleasure to work with and we all wish her the best in her retirement,” said Doug Ljungren, Executive VP for Sports & Events. “We are very fortunate to have someone with Diane’s experience and knowledge who is prepared to take on the role of Director.  Diane will be working closely with existing field representative Mary Higdem, Bob, Carol, and the hard-working office staff.  We are confident these sports are in good hands.”      

Diane Schultz has been with the Companion Events Department since 2005.  Prior to joining the AKC, she was an active exhibitor in obedience, conformation, tracking and herding events.  Diane has served as a trial chair, national club officer and a judge in obedience, rally and tracking.  She clearly brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new position.  Diane can be reached at    

Bob Withers has been hired as an Obedience/Rally Field Representative.  Bob is an active exhibitor in both obedience and rally and a dog training instructor.  He has judged both the Obedience and Rally Nationals and served as an expert commentator on AKC TV for these events.  Bob is an avid supporter of Juniors, having judged the AKC Juniors Classic and volunteered his time to assist 4-H and FFA clubs with their dog sport events.  Bob will officially start as a field rep on March 1st.  

Carol Ruthenberg has been hired as the Field Representative for Tracking.  She brings a lifetime of knowledge and passion for the sport.  She has been a tracking judge since 1993.  Carol believes that tracking captures the comradery that is inherent in dog activities and she looks forward to supporting the sport. She can be reached at