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By Dennis Helm

Schutzhund 3 and the AKC TRACKING DOG (TD) tracks are similar in length and difficulty. For Schutzhund 1, the handler gets to lay his own track, which is then aged for 20 minutes. The Schutzhund track is graded on a 1 to 100 point scale. Participating in a graded system causes the trainer to stress very accurate tracking. Air scenting dogs are not seen in Schutzhund trials where they seem to be predominating in AKC tracking tests. The TD dog must find only one article where the Schutzhund 3 dog must find three articles and negotiate a cross track. The rules for Schutzhund tracking state that all Schutzhund tracking can be done off lead so long as the distance between the dog and handler is maintained at 30 feet.

In Schutzhund, the starting flag, with the exception of Schutzhund FH 2 where the tracker must find the starting article, is always placed six inches from the track layer's left foot. This is not true in AKC tracking. For those of us who began our tracking experience in Schutzhund, the start of an AKC test track can be confusing.


This is a comparison of tracking titles and the levels of difficulty.

SCHUTZHUND 1 or T1: This is the starting track for the Schutzhund competitor. The track is 400 to 500 yards in length with two turns and two articles. The tracks are aged for 20 minutes. This is the only track that is put down by the handler. There is no cross track.

Schutzhund 1, 2, 3 tracks follow rather ridged patterns without a lot of change of terrain. Corners are always 90° angles. The placement of articles on the Schutzhund track is fairly predictable, as is the location of the cross track for the Schutzhund III.

SCHUTZHUND 2 or T2: This track is about 600 yards long with two turns. The track is aged for at least 30 minutes.

SCHUTZHUND 3, T3 or AKC TRACKING DOG: The Schutzhund track has at least five legs and the length is 800 yards. There is a cross track used at this level of Schutzhund tracking. This track is very structured. The TD track is the first of the AKC tracking titles. This track is 440 to 500 yards long and is very free flowing in design. There is only one article located at the end of the track. The TD test track is equal to a Schutzhund 3 track in difficulty.

SCHUTZHUND FH 1 and AKC TRACKING DOG EXCELLENT: The TDX is 800 to 1,000 yards in length and goes through terrain changes and over or through challenging obstacles. There are four articles in the track. The FH 1 tracks length is 1,400 yards and has seven right angle turns and four articles on the track. Changes of terrain are part of the track. These tracks have cross tracks and are aged for at least three hours. While the TDX track is shorter that the FH 1 track the TDX track is freer in its design.

SCHUTZHUND FH 2 and AKC VARIABLE SURFACE TRACKING (VST): This is the level where tracking becomes interesting. As of July 1997, there have been fifteen or so dogs to have earned the VST title and about the same number of dogs have earned the FH 2 title in America. The FH 2 and VST titles have been in existence for about two years. To date my Panda is the only Doberman to have earned the title in this country.

A VST track shall be at least 600 yards and not more than 800 yards in length. The track shall have a minimum of three different surfaces, which shall include vegetation and two areas devoid of vegetation, such as concrete, asphalt, gravel, hard pan or mulch. The areas devoid of vegetation shall comprise at least one-third to one-half of the total length of the track.

The scent on the track shall be not less than three hours or more than five hours old. There is no cross track. (This information was obtained from the AKC TRACKING REGULATIONS effective September 1,1995.)

The FH 2 tracks difficulty, in part, comes from its 2,000 to 3,000 yard length. Like the VST track there is to be a variety of terrain changes. One of the most difficult parts if the FH 2 track is the lack of a defined starting point. The dog must find the starting article within the three-minute time limit to qualify for running the rest of the track. This track has a total of eight articles, two 30° angle turns, and a tight half-circle. There is a cross track but unlike those used for the other tracks this one is laid down 30 minutes before the track is run. Perhaps the most difficult part of the FH 2 track is its great length. This track is at least 2 1/2 times the length of a VST track.

For the tracking enthusiast all of the other tracks lead up to the FH 2 and the VST experience. These two titles are at the top of the tracking community's list of achievements. With lots of work they are obtainable. At this point in time the number of dogs passing for either title are about the same. Seven have passed the VST title and six for the FH 2.

Having had dogs pass both FH 2 and TDX titles I find the mental pressure the handler undergoes is essentially the same. No one wants to hear the judges whistle in an AKC test or not successfully finish a Schutzhund trial track.

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