Why do we train our dogs for tracking?
Tracking is a great activity for both dog and owner. It's exciting
and demanding - not to mention the importance of having good tracking
dogs in the hunting season. When we started tracking with our dogs
in 1993 it was mainly a coincidence. Many of our dogs have attended
the yearly moose hunt through the years, but they haven't been used
in real search parties yet.
Anya was the first dog we tried tracking with, and she soon
figured out what to do. But when the tracks got more difficult,
she started to decide the length of the tracks herself. We got much
advice on how to get rid of that behaviour, someone told us to give
her a lecture if she stopped. We tried that once - and I can't imagine
a dog being more insulted than Anya was then! Obviously that was
not the proper way to train a toller!! We were inexperienced in
tracking at the time, so we never quite found out how to make Anya
a good tracking dog. She could do some excellent tracking for several
hundred metres, and then suddenly change her mind and give in. We
attended several tracking tests with her, but we stopped after achieving
a 3rd prize.
When Anya finally received her 3rd prize, we were already training
her daughter, Kazita. And what a difference! Kazita was a completely
different dog to train, she was incredibly eager and it wasn't always
easy to know what she was doing. Sometimes just managing to hold
the leash was difficult enough, if we lost it she would be at the
end of the track before we knew it. So with Kazita we encountered
the opposite problem, and those who say that all dogs are good tracking
dogs can't have much practical experience! It takes a lot of work
and patience to get a good tracking dog, because there will always
be dogs like Anya and Kazita. But there are also dogs that are totally
ignorant to tracking, and those are almost impossible to train.
Kazita was the exact opposite of that - she was a little too eager
at times. What we needed to learn was how to control that eagerness
and most importantly - how to benefit from it. What we had to do
was to train, train and train some more. Kazita was given tracks
of varying length and with numerous difficulties. We also stopped
making the tracks our self, and in that way we were forced to trust
the dog completely.
Shortly after that the prizes started to come, and Kazita got her
Tracking Championship (NVCH) in 1998. After that we started to train
for the Swedish Tracking Championship, and Kazita became Swedish
Tracking Champion (SVCH) in September 1998.
We started training tracking with Zamantha autumn 2000. Since she's
also being field trained, tracking has come second at times. But
Zamantha showed a lot of promise from the very start - she had a
perfect speed and was extremely thorough. Because of her thoroughness,
she's very easy to read. She's also very persevering, and she will
not give up until she's completed her task. Though she wasn't trained
as much as the others, she made great progress. Of all our dogs,
she's been the easiest to train, and we haven't encountered any
larger problems. She got 1st prizes on all three of her first tests,
so she soon became champion. We also competed in Sweden, and she
got a 1st prize with an honour prize on her first attempt, so now
she's even Swedish Champion.
In addition to these three girls, we've also trained tracking with
Karo, Janis and Picasso, but we never got to compete with them.
We've also attended courses in tracking for tollers and other retrievers,
and we see many differences between the dogs, but they are not breed-related.
We've seen labradors, flat coats, goldens and tollers that are great
trackers, but we've also seen the opposite in all of the breeds.
To train a dog to be a good tracker isn't done in a week, but it's
a great activity even if you don't compete. The dogs get to use
their brains, and the owners get some exercise, too! No matter what
the goals are, the road leading up to the goal is often very rewarding.
Tracking humans 2001
After training tracking for many years, we attended a course in
tracking humans in 2001. What would Zamantha think of tracking when
there were no blood and only human scent? We started with some rather
easy tracks, and put Zamantha's favourite toy at the end of the
track to motivate her. When tracking humans the dog shall almost
pull the owner through the track - the leash shall be straight at
all times. This was a huge difference from tracking game, so in
the beginning we had to be aware of the leash all the time. But
Zamantha soon figured out what to do, as always, and she thought
it was great fun. Since Zamantha is to attend more tracking tests,
we've stopped tracking humans with her for a while. But we've tried
this type of tracking with Kazita, just for the fun of it. And she
was really excited as usual.