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The Sport of Tracking

Tracking is one of those sports that are a natural choice for your Beagle. His nose is keen and tracking game like rabbits is what has been bred to do for centuries. For those interested in pursuing titles, there are several different titles available for dogs to achieve through the American Kennel Club (AKC) however many also enjoy tracking for the fun of it. It’s a good test of your dog’s nose and a fun way to spend an afternoon.

The canine nose is much more sensitive than a human nose. People have about 5 million scent receptors. The Dachshund has 125 million, the Bloodhound has 300 million, and the Beagle has 225 million which is the same number as the German Shepherd who is more than twice his size. Even dogs with a poor sense of smell have a much better chance at detecting odors than a person does, never mind a breed like the Beagle that has one of the best noses out there.

The sport of tracking is an offshoot of man’s long use of dogs to locate people, whether they are lost, abducted, or fugitives, and items they may have dropped while en route, dogs are well known for their ability to locate people and objects. Formal obedience also makes use of a dog’s nose at the higher levels by asking him to discriminate between an object touched by a stranger and one that has been handled by his owner.

Tracking Tests & Trials

When a Beagle tracks, he follows the same trail that was laid earlier for him. Initially it may be only a few minutes old but as you progress it can become several hours old. Often an item is dragged a short distance and hidden when training your Beagle for tracking. You can train your dog yourself or join a club that offers tracking classes. It’s a fun sport enjoyed by people with a wide variety of breeds, not just scent hounds. Tracking tests require a single pass to earn a title.

A basic level tracking test (Tracking Dog (TD) title) is 440 – 500 yards long. The person laying the track will change directions three to five times. The track is aged a minimum of thirty minutes but no more than two hours. It gets progressively more difficult from there. The next level up includes diversionary tracks that your Beagle must ignore, a track that is 800 – 1000 yards long with 5 – 7 direction changes and laid at least three, but no more than five, hours earlier. Passing this level earns your dog the Tracking Excellent (TDX) title. Tracking Dog Urban (TDU) expands the basic YD out of the field and into areas that may have no vegetation like parking lots, baseball diamonds, and sidewalks. Both the TDX and TDU tests have multiple items that need to be found along the way. The pinnacle of tests is the Variable Surface Tracking (VST). This test uses a trail that is 600 – 800 yards long with four to eight turns and aged three to five hours. It must use at least three different surface types at least one of which cannot be vegetative. There are four different items to find and they are made of four different materials (leather, cloth, plastic, and metal). Dogs who achieve a TD, TDX, and VST title are awarded the CT (Champion Tracker) title.

Equipment

One of the best things about tracking is that you need very little in the way of equipment. A good harness, a leash that is 20 – 40 feet long, and a few flags to mark your track for training purposes. The hardest part can be finding places to lay a track, particularly as you get into longer, more complicated trails.
This is a sport that is just perfect for making use of your Beagle’s nose.

Photo credit: Pietro Izzo/Flickr

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).