There’s no earthly reason that this topic should appear on the RBC, but here it is anyway. I love dogs. I use a service dog. When I got Cormet, two years ago in April, we had a hard time adjusting to each other. A friend suggested I try an activity called nosework. I am not making this up. In nosework, dogs are taught to search for a hidden cotton swab scented with something like birch oil. We tried it and Cormet loved it. I still hide swabs for him in my house on rainy days when he’s bored, but I could not get fired up enough to make it a quest. So I got into the “sport” of AKC Tracking.
Yup, ordinary civilians and ordinary dogs can learn to track; it is not the exclusive purview of steely eyed cops and lunging Belgian Malinois. Here’s how it works. A bunch of certifiably insane people and their dogs (all different breeds) get together in a hayfield. A tracklayer walks through the field, making turns. She makes notes about where she walked, but she doesn’t mark it visually. She drops a glove at the start and the end. The track is allowed to age. Then the tracking team, person and dog, go to the start of the track. The dog (eagerly anticipating the fun) sniffs the start glove with all the enthusiasm and interest of a person snatching up a hotly anticipated book. He sets off down the track, with his person following at the end of a 30-foot lead. Dogs don’t need to be trained to recognize or follow scent; the person’s job is to learn to read the dog’s signals that indicate if he’s lost the scent or is considering taking a detour to track a rabbit instead. The first time you see your dog execute a perfect turn and realize that he is actually tracking the exact path walked by the tracklayer– well, it’s mystical, almost.
So here’s a little video of me and Cormet learning to track. Tracking It looks like nothing until you see Cormet take a 45 degree turn to the right, follow the scent, and find the glove. He had no idea the track took that turn, and we were rank beginners. And here is a picture of our friend Georgie, who earned her Tracking Dog title last weekend, together with Georgie’s person, who graciously allowed me to post her picture. Look at Georgie sniffing her prize ribbon.
Try something new. You’ll astound yourself.