Tracking, trailing and other forms of scent work are activities that bring you to the very essence of what a dog is. Scent work is a partnership in which you are asking the dog to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. It is at once humbling and enlightening.
When you work with a dog in scent work you quickly learn that the dog knows a different world. While we are used to the idea of one scent "covering up" another that rarely applies to dogs. To us scent is something like having blurred vision. If you were to look at this text with a magnifying glass smeared with oil the text would blur. The text would be just as sharp and individual but you would not be able to perceive it. Instead the individual elements would overlap. That is how we experience scent. The dog picks out and distinguishes scent with a clarity we can't match.
For the most part sport scent work is limited to tracking or trailing, although obedience some other activities may include scent discrimination. Just about any dog can learn to track. The teaching of tracking is itself very instructive. At the novice levels the dog is started at the beginning of the track, and the dog is encouraged to sniff around to identify the scent to be followed. Because the direction is established the dog should be able to (with training) pick out the correct trail to follow. Some other interesting things I learned included scent drift. Depending upon the style being taught the dog might not actually follow the "footsteps" of the person. Instead the dog may follow the scent trail which may drift away from the actual track. My dog Oso typically tracked about six feet from the actual footsteps. At first I thought this was a bad thing, but my instructor explained what he was doing. If he had been preparing for a different style he might have been required to ignore the scent trail and focus only on the footsteps of the track layer.
For better information please explore the links. They should provide a good explanation of the activity. You might be interested in "Sniffer Dog," a little bit of a different take on the scent games.
Fun Nose Work teaches allows your dog to use and develop its natural abilities and instincts in challenging and exciting scent games. This activity is great mental exercise for your dog and helps you peer more closely into your dog's nature.
This site is great for those already involved in the sport of tracking. Since it doesn't explain what tracking is, and is not, it is not that inviting for the merely curious. At this time it includes only information on AKC tracking. I hope that in the future it will include organizations that welcome mixed breeds in performance events.
A nice descriptive article on why some people find tracking to be a fun activity to do with their dog.
Most of this information applies to almost any breed you may wish to track with.
Provides links and resources.
A description of the basic requirements for competitive tracking, and distinguishing search and rescue.
email discussion list for small dogs
general tracking dog email list
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Copyright © 1999-2009, Diane Blackman Created: February17 , 1999 Updated November 21, 2010