When most people think of
tracking, they think of bloodhounds or German shepherds, not of
Shelties. The community of tracking enthusiasts is a small
one, and that of Sheltie tracking enthusiasts is tiny. But
Shelties are just as capable of tracking as any other breed, and do
very well in tracking tests.
Tracking is a sport in which a dog
follows the scent of a person who has earlier walked through the
area. The dog must find and indicate various articles that the
person has dropped. The track is laid out in patterns of
straight lines and corners, not because the dog would have trouble
following a meandering walker, but because the judges must be
certain where the track is located. The track is thirty
two hours old
for the Tracking Dog test, and three to five hours old for the
Tracking Dog Excellent and Variable Surface Tracking Tests.
The first dog I trained to track was Ch. Sea Isle
Clancey of Sagebrush, UD. Clancey was a great tracker, but I
was mostly training by myself. No one was available to teach
me about reading and handling a tracking dog. As a result of
my ignorance, she never earned her TD. But she was the Sheltie
whose photos illustrate tracking for the book,
Sheltie Talk, with a much younger me handling her.
We took the pictures in Laramie, Wyoming, in about 1975, at the
request of author, Barbara Rieseberg.
Click here to
see the entire set of Clancey's tracking photos.
This chart of Britches' successful TD track
shows the tracklayer's route as a solid line and the dog's
path as a dotted line.
The first of my Shelties to earn a
tracking title was Sagebrush Little Britches, UD TDX. Britches
was an indifferent obedience dog, but an excellent tracker. We
started tracking when she was nine years old, and she earned her TD
at age eleven. She then went on to her TDX at age 12, on a
very difficult track that took her an hour to complete.
Britches was a distractable dog,
but very reliable when on the scent. She once tracked right
under the nose of a curious horse, without giving any indication
that she realized the horse was there. She tended to follow
the edge of the scent, a habit called "fringing", which makes it
harder to interpret the dog's actions, but she never missed an
article on that account.
Britches is pictured above the day
she earned her TDX, only the 28th Sheltie to earn that title.
Raven was my third tracking dog.
She was a challenge to train, because at first she was afraid of the
glove! We finally got her to follow a track with the aid of
hard boiled egg, which is very messy to handle. She proved to
be an extremely reliable tracker, although I never knew until I got
to the start flag whether she would track that day or not.
Her successful TDX track was
memorable because of the small rattlesnake basking in the sun on the
downed tree trunk that was one of her obstacles. We had to
detour around the snake, with me carrying her.
Here, she searches for the scent in a muddy creek
CT Sagebrush Molly Brown, UD HS AX
OAJ HTD-IIs HRD-IIIs VCD2 was the first Sheltie in the country to
earn the AKC Champion Tracker title. She started tracking at
the age of eight, earned her TD at nine and her VST title at age
ten. Six months later, she passed her TDX test to become the
first Champion Tracker Sheltie.
Kerry was a slow starter in
tracking, in part because of her distractability. Like Molly,
she tends to overshoot corners, but has learned to work her way
The dogs who were started in
tracking after Molly all started variable surface tracking as
puppies. Thus they learn from the very beginning that a
track can be followed on hard surfaces. Ceili, who earned
her TD in February 2007, worked out a transition from
mowed lawn to asphalt pavement at a 2005 advanced tracking