Downeast Dog News

Training Your Performance Dog

Agility, Obedience, Tracking
By Carolyn Fuhrer | Mar 01, 2021

Tracking – A Problem Solving Relationship

Tracking is a sport in which almost all dogs can be successful. Your dog’s nose is millions of times more sensitive than yours. Dogs “see” the world through scent. They determine “who’s been here and what happened here” by forming a scent picture.

Dogs not only can detect scent in very subtle amounts, but also can discriminate one scent from another and “lock on” a particular scent and follow it despite distractions, adverse weather conditions, and physical barriers. Learning to recognize your dog’s ability to lock on to a certain scent and follow it through ever changing terrain is a fascinating and rewarding activity. Learning to correctly observe your dog’s subtle body cues, such as posture, head set, tail set or movement, speed, direction, and linear or circuitous movement, helps create a very deep understanding of what your dog is trying to tell you and will, if you are open enough, overflow into your day to day relationship with your dog.

Working with your dog in tracking will also allow you to grow in your mental development. You will become a better observer of the environment and your dog and how it relates to solving scent problems. You will learn the importance of working on your mental skill of “staying in the moment” and not drifting. You will also learn to not worry about the things you cannot control such as judges, ground conditions, weather, distractions, etc., and direct your energy in a positive way to help your dog. Developing these mental skills can help you in any dog sport and can also help you in your personal life.

Tracking offers so much to learn and share with your dog and friends. It is a wonderful way to spend time with your dog, does not require a lot of equipment, and is a very portable sport. You can track in fields, woods, business parks, schools, shopping centers – if you can walk around the area safely, you can track there. Most people and establishments will not object if you ask permission. Explain what you are doing and make sure you are always respectful of the property you use.

If you really get interested in tracking, AKC (American Kennel Club) offers many levels of testing in which you and your dog can earn a title. You can go to to see the requirements of the various tests.

Before you know it, Spring will be here and tracking season will begin. A Beginners Workshop is one of the best ways to learn about tracking; not only will you learn how to begin, but you will also be in the company of other people and their dogs with a common goal of sharing some quality time with their dog outdoors.

OTAC (On Track Agility Club of Maine) is offering a wonderful beginner’s workshop on April 10. Go to their Facebook page or call Kathy at 207-691-2332 for more information.

Make this the year that you try something new with your dog!


Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 125 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. She is also an AKC Tracking Judge. You can contact her with questions, suggestions, and ideas for her column by e-mailing