What is Tracking? Tracking demonstrates the dog's willingness and motivation to follow a human scent in moderate to difficult conditions as described for each level of tracking. Tracking simulates search and rescue skills, which can be of benefit to the community. There are three levels of AKC tracking: TD, TDX and VST. Once a dog earns a TD title, it may then go on to compete in either TDX or VST tests. When the tracking team has passed all three levels it is awarded with a Champion Tracker (CT) title.
TD - Tracking Dog A TD track is the basic level of tracking, with tracks a length of 440 to 500 yards, 3 to 5 turns, and aged between 1/2 hour to 2 hours. The team approaches the starting flag, where an article has been placed. A second flag is placed 30 yards away and indicates the direction of the first leg of the track. The team is successful when the dog follows the tracklayer's scent and indicates a glove or wallet at the end of the track.
TDX - Tracking Dog Excellent At this more advanced level, the TDX track is aged between 3 to 5 hours, is between 800 to 1000 yards long, with 5 to 7 turns on the track. There is one start flag and once at the flag, the dog must discern which way the scent goes. Along the way the dog must find 4 articles, including an article at the starting flag. The articles are placed on the track by the tracklayer and are of a personal nature, such as a sock, scarf, or a small piece of clothing. There are additional challenges, such as 2 cross-tracks which test the dog's scent discrimination, as well as 2 scenting obstacles which could consist of changes of cover, such as through swamps, over hills, roads, or gullies. At the end of the track is a glove or wallet and upon finding this, the team earns their TDX title.
VST - Variable Surface Tracking VST is considered the most difficult level of tracking. The dog must track over at least 3 different types of surfaces: a vegetated surface such as grass, and 1/3 to 1/2 of the track must be over at least two non-vegetated surfaces such as concrete, gravel, sand, etc. The track is 600 to 800 yards long, is aged 3 to 5 hours and contains 4 to 8 turns, one of which is a "moment of truth" turn on a non vegetated surface. As in TDX, there is one start flag where the dog must discern the direction of the track. There are 4 articles made of fabric, leather, plastic, and metal that the dog must find on the track. At least one of the articles must be placed on a non- vegetated surface. VST tracks are laid in populated areas, approach buildings, go across roads and parking lots, follow sidewalks, and create a completely different scenting challenge for the dog.