My First Tracking Test, My First TD

by Christine Spiniello


A friend who was also competing in the tracking test, stayed at my house the night before the long-awaited event. In the morning, she asked if I was nervous. I said, “no." Neither one of us could believe that I was calm. My friend admitted that she was nervous, and asked why I wasn’t. I gave that question quite a bit of thought.

I ended up telling her that if we didn’t pass this time, we could always try again. What was important was not the passing but the experience that Bogey and I shared in the process. Since he and I had only been tracking for 6 months, I honestly didn’t feel that we were ready... but then again, I never feel I’m ready for anything. Bogey really likes tracking. I figured .... why not give it a go?

After many early mornings of training, the big moment arrived. It was a sunny, cold and windy day. I drew the alternate track, which was Track 10 and the last track of the day. Three teams passed before it was our turn. That meant that six did not pass. Hummm... were the odds against us? 

One of the things I noticed when getting to each field that day was the type and condition of the cover. My friend got one of the “brown” fields that looked basically dead and as if it wouldn’t hold the scent as well as a green field. I felt bad for her. Well, when I saw “my” field, I felt even worse! It was even more brown and dead than hers. I told myself to try my best not to be nervous. I ate some mints so Bogey wouldn’t notice my growing anxiety.

Admittedly, I don’t have much experience doing blind tracks. My dog and I are both novices. Typically, I like to know where the track is so I can guide him (or at least not steer him wrong). Needless to say, going out into the big TEST field and not knowing where I was going was a bit daunting. “Trust your dog,” I’ve been told. A friend did that earlier in the day and HER dog lied to her :-)

Unfortunately, my dog likes deer poop. There was a lot of deer poop in the field! Should I trust that Bogey would stick to the tracklayer’s track, or worry that he might focus on the deer poop? Bogey is used to eating on the track while training. He’s usually snacking on treats that I put down for him and well, okay, sometimes deer poop too. Now we were out on the “real” track with no treats and only deer poop and some old foot steps. Can you feel my apprehension?

After what felt like an eternity of waiting for the last track, I put on his tracking clothes. When we got near the flag, I started to let the line out. Bogey took the line and headed directly to the first flag with confidence. I think he was disappointed to find an old sock at the flag instead of some hot dogs, so for the next thirty yards I had to coax him to get going. Onward we went! Basically Bogey did follow the track, with a few stops for deer poop tidbits and a bit of cheerleading from me.

At one point Bogey got distracted. I panicked when I could not get his attention. I knew we were on the home stretch, and I was really sweating it out. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I used a word that I usually use only in agility to rev him up. I put energy in my voice and said, “ready, ready, ready!” Well, Bogey looked up at me and took off, nearly pulling me off my feet! He was on the track, and he went directly to the glove. I was so excited! I was cheering him, but then remembered that some judges don’t look kindly on that, so I continued praising him in a quieter tone. I grabbed the glove and held it up to show everyone we found it. The crowd cheered! Bogey was excited too.

At that point I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to do with the article on an AKC track, but I knew what was required in Schutzhund tracking, so I triumphantly held up the glove. It was very exciting. I was so proud of Bogey. I felt grateful to the people who helped me on this journey and certainly for the support on the sidelines. It was intense. It was gratifying. It was successful!

I’ve been involved with Dobermans since the mid-1970s, and bred my first litter under the “Blue Chip” kennel name in 2000. Blue Chip Dobermans have many breed and working titles to their credit, but Bogey is the first to get the TD! I’m very proud to be his breeder, owner and handler.

A big "thank you" to all the club members and to the people who worked so hard to host this event. Everyone was very helpful and supportive, and the food was fantastic!

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