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doginfo

Tracking

tracking1With a keen sense of smell – 100,000 times stronger than humans – dogs are often used to find lost people and animals, drugs, avalanche and disaster victims, and even to detect cancer.AKC Tracking is a canine sport that demonstrates a dog’s natural ability to recognize and follow a scent and is the foundation of canine search and rescue work. Unlike obedience and agility trials, where dogs respond to the owner’s< commands, in tracking a dog is completely in charge, for only he knows how to use his nose to find and follow the track.

Getting started in tracking is easy, and you won’t find a more willing participant! A puppy instinctively uses his nose – training your dog to track simply hones his natural ability. And since all dogs have a natural ability to follow a scent, any breed is capable of learning to track.

Tracking requires very little equipment.You just need a harness, a 20-to-40 foot lead, a ew flags to mark your track and an open rassy area free of obstacles such as roads, ditches or woods. There are some great reference books that provide step-by-step instruction to help ou train your dog for tracking.

Tracking 101 (or Why is Tracking So Expensive When Only 8 Dogs Compete?)

An AKC tracking test is a simulation of a search and rescue for a lost person.

Tests are outdoors in the country. At the start point, the dog is given an article owned by the “lost” person, then follows the footprints of that person to a glove at the end of the trail.  The track, depending on the test level, contains from five to seven turns, may cross obstacles, and is from 300 to 1000 yards long.  In the intermediate tests, the dog must also find two personal articles the lost person dropped on the trail, before arriving at the glove at the end.

The tracks are aged from 30 min to two hours for the TD tests and from three to five hours for the TDX tests.  After two hours of aging, the TDX tracks are crossed twice by two different cross-track layers, to further challenge the dogs.

Plotting Day - Saturday

Running a tracking test requires a large pool of workers, starting with a team of two judges. 

The tracks are walked on the ground by the two judges the day before the test (plotting day). Both judges map the tracks on AKC judging forms as they are plotted. Following the two judges cross country are a stake holder, a stake pounder, the tracklayer, and - for the intermediate (TDX) tracks - one of the pair of cross-track layers.  As the tracks are determined, they are staked by the flag carrier and pounder while the tracklayer walks along behind the judges, plotting her own map.  The tracklayer may also put in small supplemental markers along the trail in particularly complicated areas. 

The cross-track layer carries her own special cross-track flags to mark where she and a partner, walking parallel to each other, will cross the trail in two separate places to try and draw the dog off the primary scent.  For TDX tracks, the judges also flag the locations of the intermediate articles and tell the tracklayer exactly which article to drop there. 

Either before or after laying the track, the judges examine the personal articles of the TDX tracklayers and pick the two, one leather and one fabric, which will be dropped along the trail. 

The Chief Tracklayer gives all the tracklayers for both tests the start bandana and ending glove, which must be throughly scented by the next morning.  This is often done by immediately stuffing both bandana and glove in a pocket for the remainder of plotting day and storing them overnight in a hiking boot.  All articles for TD and TDX tracks are either leather or fabric. 

Once a track is completely marked, the judges pick up another tracklayer, another cross-track layer for TDX tracks, and, accompanied by the stake holder and the pounder, go on to mark the next track.

The first tracklayer then walks her track again, refining her personal map.  Some tracklayers will leave the fields and return to the Headquarters area, then come back to the track again some time later to walk it for a third time.  For this reason, clubs usually provide one tracklayer per track, for a total of 8 people.  Cross-track layers can usually work two tracks each, so only 2 pairs are required.

The next morning (test day), on a pre-determined schedule based on the time required to adequately age each track, the tracklayers walk their tracks, pulling the track flags, dropping the articles and pulling their flags, and picking up any extra markers as they go, leaving only the start flag(s) and - on TDX tracks - the cross-track flags.

The tracklayer drops a pre-scented article at the start of the TD test and a pre-scented glove at the end.  The TDX tracklayer drops a start article, two intermediate articles, and the glove on the Intermediate tracks.   Once the TDX tracks have aged for two hours, the pair of cross-track layers walk their designated routes, pulling their flags as they pass them.

All of these people are driven to and fro around the tracking site on both days to limit the amount of extraneous scent wafting around the area.

This intricate ballet is coordinated by the Chief Tracklayer in the weeks before the tests.  She/he then runs the entire site on both plotting and test days.  The Chief Tracklayer combines the organizational skill of an executive secretary;  an encyclopedic knowledge of the tracking site;  and the get-it-done personality of a drill sergeant. We are extremely fortunate that GSDCA member Diana Reich recruited the Oriole Dog Training Club’s Chief Tracklayer, Nancy Skinner, to take this position for the GSDCA tests in 2013.

Meanwhile back at the Hospitality Tent, both a continental breakfast and lunch are available both days for the entire crew and also the exhibitors on test day.

Test Day - Sunday

As explained above, the Chief Tracklayer, Hospitality, the tracklayers and cross-track layers have been at the test site for many hours before the judges and exhibitors arrive.

The Novice Level (TD) tests are run first, as they do not have to be aged as long as the Intermediate (TDX tests).  Thirty minutes before the TD test begins, the Test Chair, the Test Secretary, the two judges, the tracklayer, and the exhibitors gather at the Test Headquarters.  The  Test Chair or Secretary gives a very short welcoming speech, makes administrative announcements, then introduces the Judges.  The Judges usually have a few words for the competitors, then The Draw is held.  Four identical items, numbered on the bottom, are laying on a small table in front of the judges.  In catalog order, the handlers pick (draw) an item.  The number on the bottom determines which track they will run.

The handler goes off to get the dog and the judges and tracklayer are driven to the start flag of TD Track #1.  The handler may either drive her/his vehicle to the start or be driven by one of the volunteer drivers.

At Track #1, the handler finds two flags:  the start flag with a scented bandana on the ground next to it and another flag, thirty yards out in the field.  The second flag gives the handler the direction in which the track goes off from the start.  The handler puts the dog on the track and, hopefully, the dog puts its nose down, smells the bandana, and goes off down the track.  The judges and the tracklayer follow at some distance. 

If the dog and handler make it to the end of the track and find the glove, they have passed and titled. If at any point along the track the judges determine that the dog is not “working”, or has gone completely off the track and has no hope of recovering, they will “whistle it off”.  Condolences are offered and the judges leave for Track #2.  The tracklayer stays behind and the competitor is offered the opportunity to put the dog back on the track, with the tracklayer walking behind, coaching the team through to the end.  About 75% of the handlers take advantage of this training opportunity.

When all of the TD tracks are completed and/or the first TDX track has aged for 3 hours, the TDX draw is run in a similar manner to the TD draw.  Depending on the judges’ preference, the TDX draw may happen at a scheduled time with or without the judges being present.

At the start of a TDX track, the handler will find one flag with a bandana lying next to it.  The trail can continue from the start in any direction within an 180 degree arc.

The handler must give the judges the 2nd and 3rd articles and the glove at the end of the TDX trail to qualify.  Missing one of the intermediate articles disqualifies the run, even if the dog made it all the way to the glove.

At the end of the day, once all of the tracks have been run and the judges have completed their paperwork, awards are given to any TD and TDX teams which have titled.

Rally Obedience

Fun for You and Your Dog

rallyRally Obedience is a “user friendly” form of dog obedience competition.  The dog and handler team completes a course that has been designed by the Rally judge. The team starts with a perfect score of 100, and as in traditional obedience competition, points are deducted for errors as the dog/handler team completes the course.

Perfect “heel” position and perfectly straight fronts/finishes are not penalized as severely as they would be in traditional obedience competitions. Retrying a station is allowed, for a 3 point deduction.  The only stations you may not retry are the jump(s) and the “sit/stay” at the end of the Excellent course.

leftaboutYou need to qualify 3 times (70/100 points) under at least 2 different judges, to earn each of the first 3 Rally titles (Rally Novice, Rally Advanced, Rally Excellent).  After that, you can try for the RAE (Rally Advanced Excellent) title.  This needs 10 “double Qs”.  You need to qualify at both Advanced and Excellent at the same trial, 10 times, to earn the RAE.  Each set of 10 “double Qs” will add a number after the RAE (for instance, RAE2, RAE3, etc.). 

At the Novice level, the entire course is completed on lead.  For the Advanced and Excellent levels, the course is completed off lead.  At the Excellent level, a “stay” is added on to the end of the course while the handler retrieves the leash.

haltUnlimited communication from the handler to the dog is to be encouraged and not penalized. However, if the judge deems the encouragement to be pleading, luring, or coaxing, points might be deducted.  Additionally, if the dog is barking excessively, points can be deducted.

270At the Novice level, handlers are permitted to talk, praise, encourage, clap their hands, pat their legs, or use any verbal means of encouragement. Multiple commands and/or signals using one or both arms and hands are allowed; the handler's arms need not be maintained in any particular position at any time. The handler may not touch the dog or make physical corrections, except to “stand” the dog at the Novice and Advanced levels. At any time during the performance, loud or harsh commands or intimidating signals will be penalized.  Food and/or toys are not allowed in the ring.  As you move on to the Advanced and Excellent levels, hand claps and leg taps are penalized.  Hands held as if food is in it will also be penalized.

Rally Obedience Changes (2017)

The AKC approved new changes to Rally that go into effect on November 1 2017.  All licensed Rally Judges will automatically be allowed to judge the two new classes.

The AKC created two additional Rally classes:

  • Intermediate class
  • Master class

In terms of difficulty, the Intermediate class is between the current Novice and Advanced classes. The Master class will be more difficult than the Excellent class. There will be titles associated with these new classes.

In addition, a Rally Championship prefix title (RACH) is recommended for dogs that achieve a given number of triple Qs (qualify in the Advanced, Excellent and Master class at the same trial) plus earn a given number of points from the Master class.

Clubs may start to apply for events with these new classes on August 1, 2017 for events held on or after November 1, 2017. A licensed or member rally trial need not include all the regular rally classes, but a club will not be approved to hold the Intermediate class unless it also holds Novice classes. Likewise, it will not be approved to hold Advanced classes unless it also holds Novice and Intermediate classes. Nor will it be approved to hold Excellent classes unless it also holds Novice, Intermediate and Advanced classes; and it will not be approved to hold the Masters class unless it also holds Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Excellent classes.

To facilitate a more efficient trial, it is strongly recommended that clubs assign the A and B classes of the same title level to the same judge. The order in which the classes are scheduled each day may vary, e.g. Master, Excellent, Advanced, Intermediate, then Novice; or Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Excellent, then Master.

After entries have closed, any club holding a licensed or member rally trial must prepare a program. The judging program must list the start time for each class scheduled to start before 12:00 noon. The listed start time for each class is the time of the walkthrough and judging of the class will follow. An additional 10 minutes must be added into the first hour of judging for the first walkthrough.

Classes scheduled to start at, or after 12:00 noon will be listed to start “after noon” and must be judged in the order and ring listed in the judging program. If the published judge and ring are available prior to the listed start time and all exhibitors have checked-in and agree, the judge may start a class earlier than the class time listed in the judging program.

Triple Qualifying Score
The dog receiving the highest combined score in Advanced B, Excellent B and Master class will be awarded the ribbon and any prizes offered for this placement after the Advanced B, Excellent B and Master classes have been judged and after the announcement of those final scores. The superintendent or show or trial secretary will mark the catalog with an "HTQ" to identify the dog receiving this award. In the case of tied scores between dogs eligible for the above award, the dog completing the three courses in the least amount of combined time will receive the award. In the event that both the score and time are the same, each dog will be tested again, individually, by performing a course as chosen by the judge.

The original scores will not be changed, but a plus (+) will be added after the score of the dog winning the runoff. The judge for a run-off will be designated by the club from among the judges of the rally trial. When a run-off has been completed, the judge will record the results on a special sheet that identifies the dogs taking part in the run-off by catalog number, class and breed. When the judge has marked and signed the sheet, it will be turned over to the superintendent or show or trial secretary who will mark the catalog accordingly and forward the sheet to the AKC as part of the records of the trial. If a club chooses to allow dogs listed with AKC Canine Partners to enter their trial, such dogs are eligible for the Highest Triple Qualifying Score in the Advanced B, Excellent B and Master classes

Rally Intermediate Class
To be eligible for this class dogs must have won the Rally Novice (RN) title but have not earned a qualifying score in a Rally Advanced. All dogs are judged on leash.   Rally Intermediate must have between 12 to 17 signs (Start and Finished not included) with a minimum of three and a maximum of  seven stationary signs. Intermediate courses will have a minimum of three Advanced level signs. There are no jumps in this class. The letters RI may be added after the name of each dog that has been certified by at least two different judges to have received qualifying scores in Intermediate class at three licensed or member rally trials. That dog will receive a Rally Intermediate certificate from the AKC.

Rally Master Class
To be eligible for this class a dog must have won t he Rally Excellent (RE) title.  All dogs are judged off leash.  The Master class must have between 15 to 20 signs (Start and Finish not included) with a minimum of three and a maximum of seven stationary signs.  Courses will have a minimum of three Advanced level signs, three Excellent level signs, four Master level signs plus the one required jump sign  There are no retries for any of the signs on the Rally Master course.  Unlike in the Rally Novice, Intermediate and Advanced classes, in the Rally Master class handlers are not allowed to pat their legs or clap their hands to encourage the dog. Verbal encouragement, multiple commands and/or inaudible signals using one or both arms and hands are allowed; the handler’s arms need not be maintained in any particular position at any time. Handlers may not touch their dog or make any physical corrections. The letters RM may be added after the name of each dog that has been certified by at least two different judges to have received qualifying scores in the Master class at ten licensed or member rally trials. That dog will receive a Rally Master certificate from the AKC. The letters RM will be followed by a numeric designation indicating the number of times a dog has met the requirements of the RM title as defined in these regulations. (RM2 for 20 qualifying scores, RM3 for 30qualifying scores, RM4 for 40 qualifying scores, etc.)

A dog is required to jump once in the Advanced class, twice in the Excellent class and once in the Master class.

Rally Championship points will be recorded for dogs after they have earned the Rally Master title. When a dog earns the Rally Champion title, it may continue to compete and earn points. A dog must earn a total of 300 points. Additionally, the dog must have received qualifying scores in Advanced B, Excellent B and the Master class, on the same day at the same trial at 20 separate licensed or member rally trials.

MASTER CLASS SCORE POINTS

SCORE POINTS
100 5
 99 4
 98 3
 97 2
91-96 1


The AKC will issue a Rally Champion certificate and will permit the use of the letters RACH preceding t he name of each dog that meets the requirements.  The  letters RACH will be followed by a numeric designation indicating the number of times a dog has met the requirements of the RACH ti tle as defined in these regulations. (RACH2 for 40 triple qualifying scores and 600 points, RACH3 for 60 triple qualifying scores and 900 points, etc.)

Click HERE For New Signs

Obedience

The Top 10 Ranked Obedience Dogs for 2015 (Dog of the Year)

RANK Points Dog Name Primary Owner

 1

255

 Von Sontausen Holy Grail UDX3 OM4 BN GN RE

Regina Steiner

2

238

OTCH Heka Shining Brightly Vom Mika-Ashmead UDX6 OM9 GN GO VER TD

Kristin Jones

3

229

Nocturne's Gabriel II VCD2 UDX2 OM2 AJP

Timothy Muldowney

4

151

 Vanderville's Sarah Von Owens UD BN GN CGC

Anne Vandiver

5

143

 Nocturne's Timo CDX GO NA NAJ

Richard Hood

6

142

 Miriamm Z Eurosportu UDX3 OM4

Shannon Canard

7

123

 Zanys Jerny To Kodiak UDX4 OM1 RE AXP AJP

Larry Reese

8

122

 Performax Special Agent CD

Shannon Canard

9

106

 Genesis Trudi Trueheart UD 

Susan Holland

10

88

Ashmead's Broadcast News UDX OM2 BN  

Angela Bauman

CLICK TO VIEW/SAVE ALL THE 2015 TOP OBEDIENCE RANKINGS BY CLASS

NEW OBEDIENCE REGULATIONS IN EFFECT ON DECEMBER 2, 2015
(view/download/print)

Obedience TrainingObedience training is many things to different people – teaching their dogs to do a specific job (guide dogs, herding dogs, service dogs, K9 partners, etc.); teaching their dogs manners so they are better companions; teaching their dogs obedience in order to compete in many performance events (obedience trials, agility trials, rally trials, herding trials, tracking trials, water trials, lure coursing, earth dog trials, hunting trials, etc.).  And just like the beat, the list goes on and on and on.

The wonderful thing about obedience is there is a level for everyone…you can train at many levels, it is all up to you and your dog and your level of commitment.  To compete in any of the above events, you and your dog can go for broke and aim for the highest scores or awards, or just compete at a level comfortable for you both.

Novice obedience as seen in AKC obedience trials is the basis for all future work with your dog.  Once through novice obedience, you can continue on to unlimited levels of work in many venues or performance events with your dog, or be happy with a dog that minds and is a joy to have around…in short, a great companion.

And best of all, once your dog has a great foundation, it stays with him for life.  Your dog will never forget what he’s been taught – as well as never forget what he learned he could get away with – so be on your toes with your basic training; that will set the tone for your relationship with your dog, or any further training you decide to advance to.

Each community usually has obedience classes taught by professionals and amateurs alike.  Many dog clubs also offer obedience classes.  Visit their classes to see if you like their approach to training.  Once you find one you like, sign up for their next class and you’re on your way to owning a dog that not only you enjoy, but all your friends and family will enjoy as well. 

If you can’t find an instructor in your area, there are many books and videos on the subject you can buy or check out from your local library that will get you started.  Keep in mind, however, that anyone can write a book.  So as in visiting local obedience classes, be discriminating on which book or video you decide to follow…if it doesn’t sound right or make sense to you, keep looking for one that does.

Most dog shows offer obedience trial competition; a visit to them may also give you some insight on local trainers; talk to exhibitors you enjoy watching and find out where they train.

Obedience can open a whole new world for you and your canine companion(s), a world that may even become a way of life for you.

_____

Dalene McIntire has been involved in training German Shepherd Dogs since 1960 and is an AKC obedience judge as well as an AKC breed judge for German Shepherd Dogs.

Interested in Herding?

kestral-puppies

GSDs in Herding

Unlike agility or obedience, it can be challenging to locate a herding instructor in your area. 
The most common working stock dogs are Border Collies, so chances are, if the there is herding in your area, it's being done with Border Collies rather than German Shepherd Dogs.

While both BCs & GSDs are sheep-herding breeds, the similarities pretty much end there. Border Collies are small, agile dogs, built for quick bursts of speed and sudden stops. German Shepherd Dogs are larger animals, built to trot. BCs are an 'eye breed', which refers to the characteristic stalking posture displayed working. Australian Kelpies & some Australian Shepherds also display 'eye'.  Most herding breeds, including GSDs, are referred to as 'upstanding', meaning they don't crouch or slink.  Upstanding dogs don't seem to 'feel' the stocks' flight zone the way eye breeds do.

Herding & Tending

Herding is the catch-all term for working stock. You can herd without a dog or from horseback (with or without dogs). Here herding is defined as the practical, farm dog, chore work: gathering, moving & sorting sheep. There are two approaches to herding: fetching & driving.  In simple terms, fetching sheep brings them to the handler, driving sheep pushes them away. A dog sent into a field to gather (round up) the stock and bring them to the handler by the gate: fetching. A dog pushing dairy cattle out of the milking barn to their pasture: driving. In AKC's herding program fetching or driving dogs are entered on A or B course.

Tending is different. Tending dogs are used to move, feed and protect the flock. It's a livestock management type of herding historically done by GSDs (Belgians & Briards). Before the industrial revolution, shepherding was a full time job, moving the sheep from place to place daily to graze them in harvested or vacant fields, government land, roadsides, where ever grass grew. There weren't fences to contain the sheep, that was the dog's job. The dog protected the sheep from predators, by patrolling a border (natural or man made) and prevented the sheep from eating or trespassing in other areas.   At the end of the day, the dogs gathered the sheep out of the pasture and following the shepherd, lead the flock home for the night. Tending dogs compete on C Course.

The big consideration in locating a herding trainer in your area, what constitutes 'your' area? It might be that you're a lucky one who has a commute of less than an hour to the farm. Many people drive hours, one way, to work with an instructor. I believe your area is more mindset than miles. If you really want to herd, a drive won't stop you! Local tending instruction might be the most challenging to find, as it's not as common (Border Collies don't do it). Fortunately, it's almost insanely easy to teach once you figure out how.

With my first GSD, I trained & trialled on A Course, in which 3-5 sheep are moved around an obstacle course in a specific order. That was the type of herding training available in my area. (I was lucky, it was just a twenty minute drive to the farm!  Of course nothing's perfect, there weren't any AKC trials held in my state or the states adjacent to me.)  Now I have my own sheep and train & trial on C Course, but some things never change, there still aren't any trials in my state or any adjacent state!
---------
Diane Wright lives in Battle Creek, Michigan. She has trained & trialled two GSDs to their Herding Championships. HC Pa-Gair's Kaiserin Chelsea CD, HX earned all her championship points from A course on sheep. Current dog Jack, HC Windy Acres' Quintessential HX, is a C Course dog.    Questions? Comments? Email Diane at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Photo courtesy of Dania Karloff, Lanalee Law, and Julie Degan.