My First Tracking Experience

by Ben Hoyle


It was in April, 2015, that I first attended the Tracking Education Day sponsored by our club. I had always wanted to learn about tracking, had bought a highly-recommended book, but felt I needed something more to get me going. I had trained my dogs, Golden Retrievers and Clumber Spaniels, for Obedience, Rally, Therapy, and Conformation, but learning the nuances of tracking had until that point eluded me. My tracking dog was to be Janie, GCHB Nexus Roundhay Anticipation, my homebred Clumber who loved to work and seemed to have an excellent nose for this.

The two days spent at TED got me inspired, and I set a goal to have Janie qualified and ready to try for her TD title at the Clumber National in 2016. I spent that spring and summer training her, and she was doing very well. We attempted the TD Certification test in September of that year, but it was a long shot and we did not pass. So, we kept at it. Throughout the fall and going into 2016 we got progressively better as a team. Friends and family would help by laying tracks for me, and Janie soon got the idea and was loving it.

The Clumber National was set for April, 2016, and days before entries closed, weather was interfering with my certification test. Twice I had to reschedule it due to poor weather. Finally with only 2 days to go before entries closed, we went for it. It was a very cold and very windy early April day. Conditions were not ideal, but it was either now or never. Janie set off from the start flag and went to work. She stayed right on the track and made her turns. She overshot the last turn, but we backed up and she immediately found the track and finished by finding the glove.

I quickly submitted by entry, and we continued to practice. Janie just enjoyed these sessions. Just saying to her, “let’s go tracking,” and she would start to dance around until I opened the front door of the house and she would bolt to the car. She was ready to go.

As our test date approached a good friend who had experience tracking told me not to practice the day or so before the test. This seemed counter to what I would have thought, but I followed through with this suggestion. The test was held at the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Delaware. The early morning start gave us clear skies, no wind, and a thick grassy cover laden with dew. Perfect conditions. We drew the third track, and after the first two dogs passed, it was our turn. Janie started strong and immediately found the track and stuck to it. Before I knew it, there was the glove. I was very winded, but Janie clearly was excited by this finish, as was I. Now we would like to set our sights on earning the TDX title. More work ahead, but we are enjoying it.


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