This article is from the American Kennel Club FAQ, by Cindy Tittle Moore firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
Tracking tests are actually considered an obedience test rather than a
performance test. This is because tracking was originally part of the
Utility exercises. Any AKC registered dog six months or older and
having passed a qualifying test are eligible to compete. Actual entry
into a test is determined by lottery, where the limit is drawn, plus
several alternates. Because tracking tests are labor intensive
(requiring two judges, several track layers, plenty of land, and a
great deal of work), few clubs put on more than one test a year, and
few tests accomodate more than about ten dogs at a time.
For tracking tests in general, the tracking leash is between 20 and 40
feet in length, and is visibly marked at a point 20 feet from the dog;
the handler is to follow the dog at no less than 20 feet.
Guiding (behavior by the handler which influences or determines the
dog's direction) isi prohibited. Handlers may give verbal commands and
encouragement to the dog. However, commands, signals or body motions
to indicate the specific location or track direction is prohibited.
Motivational items (food, balls, toys, etc) are not to be used or
carried within 75 yards of a track.
Becasue there are so manymore dogs trying for the tracking titles than
there are competitions available, dogs must first pass a qualifying
test. This test is equivalent to a regular test track, but only one
AKC licenced tracking judge is needed for the evaluation, which can be
scheduled at a time convenient to the handler and the judge. If the
dog completes the track, the handler recieves four letters of
certification, which are good for one year. If the dog fails four
tests in that time, or does not enter any tests in that time, they
become invalid, and the dog must recertify.
TD: Tracking Dog
To enter a TD test, dogs must be at least 6 months old and be
certified. The trail is 440 to 500 yards in length and may be between
30 minutes to two hours old.
Three to five turns are present, at least 2 of which are 90 degree
turns. Each leg of the track is at least 50 yards in length, and the
first turn is more than 30 yards from the second of two starting flags
(which are themselves 30 yards apart).
TDX: Tracking Dog Excellent
The purpose of the TDX test is to "show that the dog unquestionably
that the dog has the ability to discriminate scent and possesses the
stamina, perserverance, and courage to do so under a wide variety of
conditions. ... It [the track] can lead anywhere a person might go."
A TDX test track is 800 to 1000 yards long, and three to five hours
old. It has five to seven turns, and the first turn is open. The start
consists of one flag (you and your dog get to figure out which way it
goes). There are at least two obstacles (roads, streams, fences,
changes in terrain, changes in vegetation, etc.), and there are two
pairs of cross tracks that are approximately 1 1/2 hours fresher than
the primary track. There are also four articles, all of which must be
found -- one at the start, two along the way, and one at the end.
VST: Variable Surface Tracking
The VST Test was introduced in 1995 and is open to any dog that has
earned its TD or TDX title.
The track is between 600 and 800 yards long. There are to be a minimum
of three different surfaces including vegetation and two non-vegetated
areas such as asphalt, concrete, gravel, hard pan, mulch, or sand.
There are no physical obstactles as there may be in the TDX track..
The scent is between 3 and 6 hours old, and there weill be between 4
and 8 turns on the track, including both right and left turns. Tracks
may be laid along the sides of buildings and fences but may not enter
closed buildings. Traffic may cross the traffic (pedestrians, animals,
cars) and should be ignored by the dog and handler. Four articles are
to be distributed along the track and found by the dog.
A dog that collects all three titles can be designated a Tracking
Champion (TCH). Such a championship cannot make up part of a Dual
Champion title, however, since the title is not earned competitively.
But becuase so few dogs earn Tracking titles, they are highly prized.
In addition, dogs with both a UD and tracking titles are entitled to
special combinations of the titles. For example a UD plus TD becomes a
UDT; a UD plus TDX becomes a UDTX and a VST plus UD is a UDVST. (No
combinations of tracking titles and the UDX title have been