April 10, 1936 – the first official “Regulations and Standard for Obedience Test Field Trials” was published. The first licensed test held in accordance with these regulations took place on June 13, 1936, and appropriately enough, was held with the North Westchester Kennel Club all-breed show at Mount Kisco, New York.
Tracking was originally part of the Utility class, and a dog had to pass a separate tracking test in order to earn a UD. For roughly the first ten years, tracking received one paragraph of description in the regulations, which set out the barest basics of length and age of the track. On the day of the test, the tracklayers were to walk the tracks, deposit the article, and retrace their steps to remove all but the two starting flags. By 1938, it was added that the tracklayer could not wear rubber-soled shoes, and the dog had to be on a 30-40 foot leash and work without help from the handler. By 1943, the tracklayers were required to follow the track, deposit the article, and walk directly off the course.
In 1947, tracking was made a separate class, and more detail began to appear in the regulations: The tracklayers were required to wear leather-soled shoes until they deposited the article, whereupon they were to put on a pair of rubbers and walk off the course at a right angle. The article was to be a leather glove or wallet. Finally, the dog was permitted one additional chance to take the scent between the starting flags, provided he had not passed the second flag. It is obvious from the changes in the regulations that there must have been considerable discussion of how a track was to be properly laid by the tracklayer. Tracking and advanced tracking regulations were destined eventually to swell, from the original single paragraph of description in 1936, to forty-five pages today.
As early as 1947, and encouraged by Obedience Advisory Committees, the tracking fraternity urged AKC to approve a more advanced type of tracking test that would test a dog’s ability to track a person over a course that had aged for at least three hours and for about twice the distance required by the Tracking Test. This advanced test, called Tracking Dog Excellent, was approved by the AKC in 1979 and became effective on March 1, 1980. The first TDX dog was a Dachshund, Gretel Von Bupp Murr UD, who passed the Tracking Dog Excellent Test on March 15 of that year. This dog was owned and handled by George Richards of Sun City Center, Florida.
From the beginning of the sport, all tracking tests were held in fields and open spaces. Due to urban pressures, these are fast disappearing in many areas of the country. A new test, called Variable Surface Tracking, was designed to utilize industrial and office parks, college campuses, etc.
In 1995, Merrill Cohen laid the number one track at the first Variable Surface Tracking Test on a beautiful, clear morning in Ellicott City, Maryland. Darlene Ceretto competed on the track laid by Cohen, track one (of six). “The tracks were the epitome of what VST is all about,” said Ceretto. “Although none of us actually passed, all the dogs did a remarkable and credible job, working with determination and perseverance.”
The following weekend Ceretto became the first exhibitor to put the VST title on a dog, at an event held by the Northwest Obedience Club of Glenview, Illinois. Her female German Shepherd Dog Sealair’s Raggedy Ann UD TDX, also became the first CT – Champion Tracker – a designation awarded to dogs with all three tracking titles.