of Canada's No.1 High in Trial Herding German Shepherds
are several different styles of tracking and they are often used
for different reasons. The two most popular styles that you will
hear people talk about are Footstep Tracking (FST)
and Tracking Through Drive, often referred to as TTD.
Another tracking that is becoming more popular is not a ‘style’
of tracking but more related to the tracking surface. This tracking
is Variable Surface Tracking (VST).
Footstep tracking is the style of tracking used
in Schutzhund. This training is done using food that
is dropped along a 400 to 800 yard track. There is often a ball
left at the end of the track that's used as an additional motivator.
The dog is expected to track at a slow walk and stay within a
couple of feet of the actual footsteps of the tracklayer. This
is a very precise and slow form of tracking. Dogs trained in FST
have a very ‘low’ actual ‘suspect’ find.
FST tracking dogs simply cannot track fast enough to
make up enough distance to catch someone that keeps moving.
Through Drive (TTD)
TTD was developed by the R.C.M.P. here in Canada.
TTD is the only training method the RCMP use
with their dogs. In addition, TTD is also used in training
Search and Rescue dogs. This style of tracking takes
an exceptional dog. These dogs not only require good defensive
drive (which can be difficult to spot at a young age), they also
have to have a really strong prey drive, the kind of
prey drive that is also needed for explosive and narcotics
dogs. I took a TTD workshop with Gary Murray (former
RCMP dog handler) several years ago with my male Aiko. Out of
the 12 dogs entered, Gary felt that only 3 would be truly successful
and a candidate for this type of tracking. Aiko was one of them.
Aiko doing a track in TTD
TTD you are working with and building on their drives.
The motivator for TTD is from the very first day of
training there is always a person at the end of the track.
For RCMP dogs that usually means when he gets into his
harness he knows there will be someone at the end of the track
and that usually means a ‘bite’. For a dog trained
in Search and Rescue (SAR) the motivator is
also a person at the end of the track but their reward is a game
of ball. I should also note here that the RCMP believes very much
in ‘equipment’ training as well. Thus a dog knows
when a harness comes out, EXACTLY what they are going to be doing.
The only time Aiko wears a harness is for tracking and his nose
is on the ground immediately after putting the harness on…..he
KNOWS what his job is!!
TTD the dog is allowed to follow its natural instincts
and run along a track. For the most part he is not asked to slow
down and the dog is not required to have a ‘deep nose’.
The handler runs behind on leash. The tracking line also
becomes a very important tool and the handler needs to
learn to use it effectively. Another important note here is that
the handler who chooses to train and work their dog in TTD
needs to be physically fit!!
As the name suggests, VST track is plotted or laid on
variable surfaces. With the continued reduction of available
space to hold tracking events, this new test involves
the use of urban areas such as colleges, industrial parks, business
areas and other typical non-tracking sites. In VST the
track is often 3-4 hours old, has cross tracks on it and covers
many different surfaces. I also took a seminar with Ed
Presnall on VST with my male Aiko a couple of summers
ago. It was a great experience and Aiko was awesome.
It was held on the Campus at UBC (University of British Columbia).
I must admit I was very surprised at how well some dogs did and
how dedicated they were to their job in spite of all the distractions
and age of the track. It is very rewarding to see your
dog work this kind of a track and also very practical.
is doing a Variable Surface Track at University of British Columbia
as a puppy doing a variable surface track.
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