© Michael Nesbitt - Journal Pioneer
Tracking judge Louise Weaver displays the TDX track prepared for Kali, a 22-month-old German Shepherd female owned by Gino Brun of Moncton, N.B. Within about 15 minutes, Kalie sniffed out the three targets placed in two fields separated by a woodrow.
SOUTH FREETOWN – Tracking dogs are not new. They have long been used in search and rescue, police duties, and hunting.
But even more recreation possibilities were revealed here last weekend.
Cliff McCabe, past president of the Lady Slipper Kennel Club, became interested in the activity a few years ago. The club arranged for a tracking judge, Louise Weaver, to give a seminar, from which several members maintained their interest and started training their dogs.
"I was able to get a tracking title with my dog in June, at Fredericton, N.B.," McCabe revealed.
Awarding a title locally became a goal, which was realized at last weekend's event.
"Kim Currie got (a title) on her dog, Raven, today; the first of our club members to do it on P.E.I.," he announced with satisfaction.
Breezycreek's Soaring Raven, the dog's full registered name, is a female Labrador Retriever owned by Currie as well as Lori and Rod Clow, of Summerside.
There are several levels of tracking, distinguished by track length, age of track, and obstacles or distractions along the track.
Tracking tests are distinguished as tracking dog (TD), tracking dog excellent (TDX), urban tracking (UT) and its excellent upgrade (UTX).
There is no time limit for the tests: as long as the dog is judged as continuing to work it may stay on the track. Each track is a separate event, and there is no cumulative advantage to successful tests, which are simply judged as pass or fail.
"You do it for entertainment and challenge. For me, it is the most challenging dog sport that I have tried," McCabe explained, adding that everyone is pulling for success at a test event because the competition is solely for each dog's skill.
In other dog sports, the owner is directing the dog, but tracking turns the tables.
"In tracking, you have no idea where you are going; that person out in the field right now doesn't have a clue if that dog doesn't lead them. They have to be aware of the dog and do what the dog says, and that's a big transfer of power."
Currie and McCabe are the only LSKC members who train regularly, though there are a few others interested.
"We're the only fools who go out when it's raining," McCabe joked, noting that rain helps hold scent to the ground, helping it to maintain as a track indicator rather than evaporating. Now that tests are being held on P.E.I., McCabe expects more owners will become involved.
"I have numerous titles on my dogs, for a variety of different things, but this tops them all, by a ton," he exclaimed. "It's a completely different concept: I'm not telling the dog what to do; I have to watch the dog and figure out what it is telling me, and then react to that and get the dog to the right place. It takes an awful lot of work to give the dog the confidence to do what it needs to do."