I thought I would share some dog tracking tips based on some amusing, and some not so amusing, adventures on the tracking field.
Since our team doesn’t discuss searches we have gone on, many of them have to do with trainings and AKC tests. Here are some of the lessons I have learned the hard way:
Dog Tracking Tips
- Stay on your feet. It is much easier to track while walking or running than by being dragged on your stomach. On one of my dog’s AKC Tracking Dog tests, somewhere not long after the start, my foot got caught on a vine along the ground and down I fell on my stomach. All I could think of was, “Don’t let go of that line, no matter what.” I didn’t, but by the time my dog had stopped and he’d realized I wasn’t running behind him, I was about six feet tall. He came back and gave me a look that plainly said, “Why are you just lying there?” as I climbed to my feet. He took off at a run and found the glove—and then decided to follow the tracklayer out and dumped me back on the ground for the second time.
- Watch for tree branches (and vines) hanging above your head. Once, my dog was racing through tall grass and I felt something around my neck. Yes, a vine from the tree caught me in a noose. I stopped the dog much faster that time.
- Watch for wildlife. Once, my dog was following a track along a gravel road and then he darted into the tall grass on the roadside. Three deer jumped up and ran. My dog came back onto the road and continued tracking for maybe 50 yards when he jumped into the tall grass again. One more deer jumped out. Back onto the road, he finished the track and the runner said, “I thought you were near when all the deer came rushing past.” Even worse are the skunks. On one search, the dog flushed a skunk that sprayed him straight in the face. None of the humans were sprayed, but my poor teammate had to drive her dog home in the middle of the night and wash him.
- Always wear gloves. They protect your hands from rope burns, but they also help when you have to go through thorn bushes or untangle your dog or yourself from thorn bushes. (I bet you can guess how I learned that.)
- Treasure your dog and take the time to appreciate what he or she is doing. My Spirit’s indication is a down. At one training, the runner at the end was sitting on the curb with her head bowed. She must have looked very sad to Spirit because when Spirit alerted, she downed next to her and put her head in the runner’s lap. Everyone went, “Awwww.” Usually, Spirit will do her alert and whine in delight while her tail thumps away.
- No matter how prepared you might be, weather can change in an instant. Once, some friends laid a long training track. When I’d started, I wore sunglasses and a light shirt. Not too far down the track, it began to rain. Then it began to rain very, very hard. Then it began to hail and thunder. Spirit kept going down a trail, then through thick underbrush, and then across a road until she found the runner. I have never been so thoroughly wet in my entire life.
- Watch out for burs (burdocks), those pesky little things that stick on everything, especially on a double-coated dog like an Otterhound. At a trailing seminar, Spirit had to track the runner through two fields thick with brush and burs. She worked and worked, and finally found her runner despite the fact that the burs had her ears stuck to her head and her eyes were stuck closed. I was so proud of her and very proud of the way she let three of us comb and pull out the burs. Days later, I still found them scattered in her coat.
I love to track with my dogs. Their noses and persistence amaze me every day, and every track is an adventure; whether it is a training track or a test or search. The old saying, “Be Prepared,” sounds good, but I have learned there is no way to be prepared for half of what you will encounter. And the unknown adds to the excitement of the chase.
Tracking Adventures – Dog Tracking Tips by Eibhlin Glennon