There are three levels of AKC tracking: TD, TDX and VST. Once a dog earns a TD title, it may then go on to compete in either TDX or VST tests. When the tracking team has passed all three levels it is awarded with a Champion Tracker (CT) title.
Tracking Dog A (TD)
This track is the basic level of tracking, with tracks a length of 440 to 500 yards, 3 to 5 turns, and aged between 1/2 hour to 2 hours. The team approaches the starting flag, where an article has been placed. A second flag is placed 30 yards away and indicates the direction of the first leg of the track. The team is successful when the dog follows the tracklayer's scent and indicates a glove or wallet at the end of the track.
Tracking Dog Urban (TDU)
The fundamental features of the Tracking Dog Urban (TDU) test are the dog’s ability to follow a track laid by a person under a variety of scenting conditions in an urban environment and to find the articles dropped by that person. This is an optional titling event. Clubs are not required to offer this test and dogs are not required to earn the title to enter a TD, TDX, or VST tracking test.
Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)
At this more advanced level, the TDX track is aged between 3 to 5 hours, is between 800 to 1000 yards long, with 5 to 7 turns on the track. There is one start flag and once at the flag, the dog must discern which way the scent goes. Along the way the dog must find 4 articles, including an article at the starting flag. The articles are placed on the track by the tracklayer and are of a personal nature, such as a sock, scarf, or a small piece of clothing. There are additional challenges, such as 2 cross-tracks which test the dog's scent discrimination, as well as 2 scenting obstacles which could consist of changes of cover, such as through swamps, over hills, roads, or gullies. At the end of the track is a glove or wallet and upon finding this, the team earns their TDX title.
Variable Surface Tracking (VST)
VST is considered the most difficult level of tracking. The dog must track over at least 3 different types of surfaces: a vegetated surface such as grass, and 1/3 to 1/2 of the track must be over at least two non-vegetated surfaces such as concrete, gravel, sand, etc. The track is 600 to 800 yards long, is aged 3 to 5 hours and contains 4 to 8 turns, one of which is a "moment of truth" turn on a non vegetated surface. As in TDX, there is one start flag where the dog must discern the direction of the track. There are 4 articles made of fabric, leather, plastic, and metal that the dog must find on the track. At least one of the articles must be placed on a non- vegetated surface. VST tracks are laid in populated areas, approach buildings, go across roads and parking lots, follow sidewalks, and create a completely different scenting challenge for the dog.
Champion Tracker (CT)
A dog that has successfully completed all three tracking titles (TD, TDX and VST) earns the prestigious title of Champion Tracker.
Dogs have an amazing sense of smell - about 100,000 times stronger than humans. That strong sense of smell is why dogs are well-suited for tracking. Get your dog involved in tracking where he can sniff and smell to his heart’s content and demonstrate his natural ability to recognize and follow a scent.