Downeast Dog News

Training Your Performance Dog

Urban Tracking
By Carolyn Fuhrer | Aug 01, 2019

Most people think of tracking with their dogs as being out in a field or fields and woods. There are two tracking events that use fields and woods. A TD (Tracking Dog) test is held in a grassy field; a TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent) is held in fields and woods. Yet there is a whole other world of tracking that many people know little about – urban tracking.

AKC offers two titles in urban tracking: an introductory title, TDU (Tracking Dog Urban) and an advanced title, a VST (Variable Surface Tracker). These tests are held at college campuses, schools, business parks, and other urban areas that offer a mix of pavement, grass, buildings, and other non-vegetative surfaces such as the infield of a baseball field or bark mulch.

The thing I like best about urban tracking is that there are so many areas available to train. So, if you enjoy tracking, you can really extend your range of possible sites, to practice by doing some urban tracking. A few weeks ago, we spent a wonderful weekend teaching dogs to track in the City of Rockland, nice views, good food, and fun tracking opportunities. By including urban tracking in your training, you can still track when grass in the fields is too high and needs to be mowed or if it is not the time of the year you want to be in the woods. By teaching urban tracking, you and your dog can track almost all year long. Keep your tracking gear in your car and put out a small track when you run an errand. Opportunities are all around us.

In tracking, we are teaching the dog to follow the human scent the dog is shown at the start. In urban tests, there are no physical obstacles. The rules state “the level of physical difficulty should be such that it will permit all AKC breeds and handlers of any age to participate. Ordinary stair steps are not considered to be an obstacle.”

AKC tracking tests verify the dog’s ability to recognize and follow human scent while adapting to changing scenting conditions. The test is designed to be as practical as possible. The team of handler and dog working in tracking is a wonderful thing to watch. The dog is the only one who can detect the scent. The handler must learn to understand what the dog is communicating and trust the dog. The handler is there to understand and support the dog’s work. Few dog sports require the understanding, patience, and teamwork necessary over an extended period of time that is demonstrated by successful tracking teams.

Interested in learning about urban tracking? An Introduction to Urban Tracking workshop will be held in Augusta on September 14, 2019. For more information, e-mail or call 207-691-2332. Find out about a whole new world of scent work opportunities for your dog.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 100 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. She has recently become an AKC Tracking Judge.


Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing