Tracking is a wonderful sport to do with your Clumber Spaniel. If you can walk behind a dog, you can do tracking! Many people who begin tracking soon discover they enjoy this sport more than conformation, obedience, agility or rally. Clumbers are natural trackers.
The majority of training lies with the handler. Trusting a dog’s instinct is key for the handler. It is remarkable to watch a dog work and know when he has picked up the scent and is running with it. To watch a dog check cross tracks (tracks made by someone other than the tracklayer), and know which is the correct scent, is a sight to see. Over time and with experience, the bond between handler and dog can become so tight that the dog can be misled on the track by the handler’s body language. Many handlers learn during a tracking test how easily their simple gestures can stop a dog from going in the right direction.
Tracking Dog (TD) is the first level of tracking. The track is 440 to 500 yards long with three to five turns. The tracklayer walks the track dropping an article at the start and at the end. Two flags are placed 30 yards apart indicating the direction of the first leg. The track is aged 30 minutes to two hours before the dog begins scenting. When the judges signal the start, the dog sets out on a 20 to 40 foot leash with the handler following behind. To successfully complete the tracking test the dog must stay on track and complete the course. There is no time limit, as long as the dog is working and considered to be on the track.
Tracking Dog Urban (TDU) is new to the tracking world as of 2014. It is also considered the first level of tracking when compared to the Variable Surface Tracking mentioned below. The track is 400 to 500 yards long with one start flag and is aged 30 minutes to two hours with three articles (sock, glove, etc. with scent of tracklayer) on the track. The track has a minimum of two different surfaces, vegetated and non-vegetated. Ten percent to 30% of the track must be plotted on non-vegetated surfaces. A track may be plotted on paved sidewalks, lightly traveled roads, baseball diamonds, parking lots and other non-vegetated surfaces and may be laid in the vicinity of buildings and other structures such as fences, breezeways, ramps, stairs, bridges, shelters, roofed parking garages, courtyards, and buildings with two or more openings.
There are two advanced levels of tracking - Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) and Variable Surface Tracking (VST). Dogs may advance to either of these after passing the TD or TDU level.
The TDX is 800 to 1,000 yards long and is aged three to five hours. There is one flag at the start, 4 articles placed, and five to seven turns. In addition approximately one and a half hours after the track has been laid, 2 people walk across the track in two places in order to challenge the dog with additional scents. To successfully complete the track, a dog must stay on track and locate all articles. There is no time limit, as long as the dog is working and considered to be on the track.
In VST the track is 600 to 800 yards long, aged three to five hours with 4 articles, and one flag at the start. The track must have a minimum of three surfaces, with two of those having no vegetation. Over one third of the track must be non-vegetated surfaces. VST tracks are laid in urban areas where dogs find their way around buildings, through breezeways, up and down stairs, on streets and the like. TDU is the new entry level added for the variable surface tracking test, equivalent to the first level of tracking (TD.)
A dog who has successfully completed three of these events (TD or TDU, TDX and VST) will earn the title of Champion Tracker (CT).
For those who enjoy being outdoors with their Clumber Spaniel, Tracking is a great sport. Get out there and give it a try!