With longer days and warmer weather around the corner, the outdoor adventurers shed their ultra-light layer of Gortex and, with their canine companion in tow, start hiking trails and visiting parks.
But alas, their enthusiasm is short-lived as they find those once quiet, rain drenched trails are now filled with crowds of tourists and a myriad of selfie-seekers more interested in the perfection of their own image than the perfection of the natural wonders around them.
With their spirits deflated the outdoor canine adventurers leash up their dogs and wander home, oddly wishing for the return of the rain, cold and gloom of a West Coast winter.
But fear not, dear canine lovers of the outdoors, for there is an activity you can do with your dog that will take you into the wilderness, away from the crowds where you can experience nature in all its glory.
What if I told you that by experiencing this activity your relationship with your dog will bloom, that this nature immersion can help a shy dog overcome their fears and that you will see your dog using its brain, genetics and wonderful nose in a way that you have never experienced before and it will blow your mind?
What if I told you it’s an addiction that can actually make both you and your dog healthier?
What is this voodoo that I speak of? Is it fake news?
No, this magical nature immersion is called tracking!
If you have been following my column over the years, you know how often I write about it and the reason that so many words are devoted to the dog sport of tracking is because I love it and so do my dogs.
In fact, not just my dogs but all dogs love it. And if you love the outdoors, you will love it too.
But for those new to this column or to dogs and dog sports, you are probably wondering what the heck tracking is.
Tracking is an outdoor dog sport. A dog puts his nose to the ground and follows the scent trail of a human. That scent trail has been placed in a predetermined pattern by the simple act of walking; no dragging of food, carcasses, or running barefoot or naked is necessary. A regular shod foot does the trick and a direction of travel is all that is required. The dog then follows that scent trail from a start point to an end point. Oh, did I mention that neither the dog nor the owner know what the pattern is? That challenge helps dog and owner learn to work together as a team with the owner following the dog’s lead as the dog reads and distinguishes the scent left on the ground by the track layer.
There is no hockey equipment, just a dog’s incredible nose. The pup wears a harness and has a 40-foot leash. Rather than a control tool, the long-line is a tool of communication between the tracking dog and their human. The human is taught how to ‘read’ a dog while tracking and the dog learns to focus all her attention on following that scent.
It is both a competitive sport sanctioned by the Canadian Kennel Club as well as a recreational sport sanctioned by tracking enthusiasts.
There is even a local social network group called the BC All Breed Tracking Club. All breeds and mixes of breeds can participate in both the competitive events and the recreation events. There is no breed bias. Isn’t that great?
So how does one get started in this activity? Well, it is best to hook up with a training course. Fortunately the North Shore has a couple of the best tracking trainers in the Lower Mainland.
So don’t toss those hiking boots in the closet, instead lace them up, grab some treats and head out for a tracking lesson or two! Neither you nor your dog will regret it!
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.