Downeast Dog News

Training Your Performance Dog

Agility, Obedience, Tracking
By Carolyn Fuhrer | Apr 01, 2022

Tracking – What Makes a Good Tracking Instructor?

Most people begin tracking by reading about it or getting their basic information online. Most of this elementary, introductory information will tell you what a great nose your dog has and that your dog will love tracking because he will be in charge and take you on the track. This basic explanation has a lot of truth to it, but without understanding and communication as well as a supportive training plan, you are probably not going to have a lot of success and will have difficulty solving learning problems as they occur.

This is where a good instructor is invaluable and can turn frustration into success. But what makes a good tracking instructor? Someone who has put a high title on their dog? Maybe, but that person also could have had a really talented dog. Someone who has lots of tracking titles? Maybe, but that does not mean he will be able to help you and your dog. He may be an excellent trainer, but not a good teacher. Some of our finest Olympic coaches were not athletes themselves.

A good teacher is able to put you and your dog together as a team, working with the strengths and weaknesses of both you and your dog to help you achieve your goal.

A good teacher will help you set realistic goals and will be honest with you regarding your abilities. Teaching requires knowledge and experience, but it is also an art of finding the right balance for a team; knowing when to push and when to back off, knowing when to let a student struggle and when to step in and help. A skilled teacher will have a broad range of solutions – not “my way or the highway”- and will also be able to realize a certain method is not working for you and your dog and will have a range of alternative solutions and help you find one that fits your needs.

A good instructor can help you devise a sensible plan and help you set goals as to when you might be ready to certify and when you should consider entering a test and what test sites and judges might be best for you. All judges and test sites are not created equal and some may be a much better fit for you.

Good instructors also should be able to give you many references of students who would be happy to talk with you. A good instructor should have an exceptionally high pass rate of satisfied students. You are going to spend a lot of time and effort pursuing a new sport with your dog, and you want someone who has the expertise and reputation for successful students to guide you on your new adventure.

On Track Agility Club of Maine (OTAC) is having two upcoming tracking events: April 16 and May 14. There will be many tracking enthusiasts there. Come and talk to these trackers and find out more about instructors near and afar and who might be right for you.


Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 125 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 3 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