Labs aren't scenthounds, but they do have a superb sense of smell. Teach your Lab to track and you'll have a dog with a useful skill, as well as a new way to enjoy the outdoors with him. Your Lab can earn an AKC tracking title by completing a single successful track.

Titles that can be earned by following a human scent trail are tracking dog (TD), tracking dog excellent (TDX), and variable surface tracking (VST). For the TD test, the track is 440 to 500 yards long, with a minimum of two right-angle turns, and must be half an hour to two hours. The person laying the track must be unfamiliar to the dog. At the end of the track, the person laying the track drops a scent article, which the dog must locate. The TDX track is longer, older (three to five hours), more complicated, and takes in varied terrain, such as ditches, streambeds, and tall grass. Its length is 800 to 1,000 yards, and it has several turns and two cross tracks. Along the way are dummy scent articles meant to lure your dog off the trail.

Whatever sport you try, always keep things fun. Use toys and treats to help motivate your Lab and keep him focused.

TD and TDX tests usually take place in rural areas, but the VST tests a dog's tracking ability in more developed locales, such as suburban neighborhoods or city streets. The length of a VST track is 600 to 800 yards, and it goes over at least three types of surfaces, such as asphalt, concrete, grass, gravel, or sand. To add to the difficulty, a portion of the track must lack vegetation, which helps hold scent. The track must be three to five hours old with four to eight turns. A dog that passes all three tests earns the title champion tracker (CT).

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