The Sport of Trailing and Finding

Dogs have incredible noses. Nature has endowed them with the ability to absorb even the faintest smells that we as humans cannot even recognize. And it’s no wonder they have this ability. Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, while humans only have 6 million.

Every dog ​​can take part in dragging and finding. Race – or racial mix – does not matter. As long as you have a dog that likes to follow its nose and find “prey”, you can participate.

This is how tracking and finding work

The study’s course manager places a scent over an outdoor area that ranges from 1,000 to 40,000 square feet, depending on the class. In most cases, the scent is created by dragging the rat odor (sometimes with a dripping bag of “rat tea,” a mixture of water, rat droppings, and bedding) or by moving a commercial wildlife odor through the trial area. The trail that is laid eventually leads to two rats or other small rodents hidden and safely secured in a small cage.

The goal is for the dog to use its nose to find the caged rodents within 1 to 4 minutes depending on the class. (Rodents are not injured in this sport. The rules state that rodents must be treated in a humane and caring manner throughout their natural life.)

Dogs between 6 and 9 months of age begin the Trailing and Locating Puppy Aptitude Test. The first stage of dragging and locating for dogs over 9 months is Stage I (TL-I). In Level I, dogs work on a course of 7,500 to 10,000 square feet. On a long leash (30 feet or less), the dog begins on a “scent pad” – a flat pad that’s about 1 meter wide at the start of the search area. The pad is sprayed or pulled with scent for at least 15 seconds and marks the beginning of the track that the dog will follow.

Your dog doesn’t need any special training
participate in trailing and locating.

The clock starts when the dog and handler cross the starting line. The handler knows where the quarry is hidden, but is not allowed to lead the dog in that direction. While the handler is keeping the dog on a loose leash, the dog should begin tracking the smell either on the ground or in the air. The dog has two minutes to find the quarry without any guidance from the handler.

Dogs that successfully find the quarry within two minutes will receive a qualifying score. A perfect score is 25 points. However, it is difficult to get this number when you first start. The judge deducts points for mistakes, e.g. B. When the dog is kept on a tight leash, the dog is touched, or treats are dropped onto the course. Dogs that receive qualifying points at an event can qualify for a placement as long as at least three dogs compete at the same level. The placements are based on the number of points scored, with the dog and handler with the highest number of points receiving a ribbon with first place.

When the nose knows

The great thing about trailing and locating is that your dog doesn’t need special training to participate. He has to show the ability to track down living beings with his nose. With no desire to follow a scent trail to its source, your dog will wander aimlessly through the search area without knowing why he is there.

If you see your dog sniffing for squirrels in the back yard or chasing rabbits into their burrows, he’s likely a candidate for hauling and locating. Attend an event as a spectator to get a feel for what these competitions are like and if it might be something your dog would like.

For more information on upcoming Trailing and Locating events in your area and how to get involved in this exciting sport, visit the North American Sport Dog Association website at or on Facebook @nasdadog.

Award-winning author and editor Audrey Pavia is a former senior editor of Dog Fancy magazine and former senior editor of the AKC Gazette. As the author of the Labrador Retriever Handbook, she has written extensively on horses and other pets. She shares her home with Pittie Mixes Mookie and Winnie.

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