The schutzhund track tests a dog’s mental and physical capabilities. Tracking is the area I find the most challenging but is also the area I enjoy the most. I will be writing a series of articles on schutzhund tracking. Before discussing how I teach tracking to puppies, I am going to discuss the rules as it will shed light on what is expected from both the dog and the handler.
In schutzhund, the dog must track evenly and intensively with a deep nose. This is what the dog is scored on. It does not matter if the dog tracks quickly, or slowly, the dog must track the track at the same pace, including corners, for the entire track to get full points.
A handler has three choices in deciding what equipment to use for tracking.
- An acceptable trial collar such as a fur saver. The tracking line is attached to the dead ring.
- A tracking harness. The tracking line is attached to the harness ring.
- The dog may be free tracked. No line is used.
I do not use a harness in training, as I trial my dogs with a fur saver. I want to train with the same equipment I use in the trial. I use a fur saver for training tracking with the older dogs. Younger dogs are tracked with a flat buckle collar.
The tracking line is 10 meters long (or 33 feet). The handler must always be at the end of the tracking line, and the tracking line must be kept at a steady tension. In training, of course, it takes you quite awhile before you are tracking at the end of the line. But in a trial, you are penalized severely if you do not stay at the end.
Acceptable articles are leather, vinyl, fabric or wood. Be prepared to come across other materials. When trialing my female as a SchH 2 at the USRC National Schutzhund Championships, one of the articles was a metal cylander, the size of a lipstick tube. It is also not uncommon for plastic to be used as an article. The articles must not stand out from the color of the terrain and may not exceed the size of a billfold. For a SchH I track, handlers may use their own articles, usually a leather article and either a wooden or fabric article.
Laying the Track:
The start of the track must be one meter to the right of the starting peg or flag . For this reason, when teaching tracking, never start the track immediately beside the starting peg. Make sure the track is started one meter from the starting peg. The only level of schutzhund that allows the handler to lay the track is the SchH I track. In all other levels, the track is laid by a stranger and the handler is not permitted to see where the track has been laid. I’ll discuss the SchH I track. The handler is allowed to remain on the starting point for several minutes and is allowed to step lightly. The track must be laid in a normal walk. Heavy walking is not permitted. The handler must not change pace when making the corners or dropping the articles (the judge will blow a whistle when he wants the handler to make a corner or put down an article. The track is 400 paces (about 1,200 feet) long with two 90 degree corners and two articles. The first article may be placed on either the first or the second leg and the second article at the end of the track. The track is aged for 20 minutes.
Reporting In at the Start of the Track:
The dog and handler report to the judge in basic position (heel position) for a temperament test with the dog on a loose leash. The dog is walked through a group of people to ensure that it is stable. The handler reports in by heeling his dog up to the judge, sitting the dog in heel position, and stating something like, “Jane and Echo reporting for SchH III tracking,” and the judge inspects the dog’s tattoo. The handler then says something like, “My dog will indicate the article.” The dog is allowed to either indicate (by sitting, downing, or standing at the article) or to retrieve the article (formal retrieve with sit in front). Since more points can be lost for a sloppy retrieve than for a slow indication, almost all handlers teach their dog to indicate instead of retrieving the article. If the handler fails to say what the dog will do at the articles, the judge will ask him. Do not say specifically HOW your dog will indicate. If you say your dog will down at an article and he sits, points will be deducted from the score.
Tracking the Track:
The dog is heeled to the starting point and told to track. The handler does not move position until at the end of the tracking line. The handler then follows the dog down the track and points are deducted for any tracking errors made by the dog or by the handler. When the dog indicates the first article, the handler drops the line and walks to the dog, picks up the article and holds it up for the judge to see. The judge acknowledges this and the handler tells the dog to resume tracking. The same procedure is followed with the last article, except instead of resuming tracking, the handler and dog report to the judge. The handler is allowed to praise the dog after picking up each article.
The handler and dog go to the judge and halt with the dog in the basic position. The handler hands the judge the articles and says “Jane and Echo finished SchH III tracking” and the dog is then heeled away.
The dog needs 70 points to pass tracking. On the SchH I track, the point structure is as follows:
- 10 points for the start
- 26 points for the first leg
- 17 points for the second leg
- 10 points for the first article (which is usually placed in the 2nd leg)
- 27 points for the third leg
- 10 points for the indicating of the last article
- 100 points total
Points are deducted for crooked indication of articles change in pace not tracking with a deep nose handler error (such as failing to follow a judge’s instruction to follow the dog) handler help (such as trying the guide the dog by tightening the line) failing to indicate articles overshooting a corner.
The dog fails if it:
- Goes more than one line-length off the track
- Dog fails whether there was a cross track there or not if wild game appears and the dog goes into hunting drive and fails to resume tacking when told to do so
- Quits working
In all judging and scoring, consideration is given to the overall picture of the dog and handler during the track, and any factors that might nfluence the outcome of the track, such as weather, difficult terrain, etc. he dog is not faulted for slight imperfections in the track when conditions are difficult.
Submitted by: Jane Mitchelmore
Pictured above with CH Schosshund’s Boom Bustin Echo, BST, SchH 2, BH, AD, CD, Ztp at the 2002 USRC Schutzhund National Championships with ADRK Judge Roland Seibel & track layer Marty Leggett