Tracking in IGP refers to the dog using a 'deep nose' to follow a scent trail made with the footsteps of either their handler or a tracklayer. Articles covered in the scent of the tracklayer are placed along the track, and the dog is expected to clearly identify them for their handler to retrieve along the track.
It is never too early or too late to start your puppy or dog tracking. The best tip is to start with a hungry dog. Tracking treats may consist of their soaked daily rations of kibble, small pieces of hotdog or string cheese, a chub type food (Pet Deli, Happy Howies, Natural Balance), grilled chicken or chopped steak, or even Bil-Jac. If you are in an area with fire ants or other pests as we are in Texas, be very mindful of the length of time your food is on the track to prevent it from being covered in ants that would sting your dog and undermine your training efforts. Keep the pieces small enough so that the dog is able to maintain focus on the track versus stopping to chew each piece of food they pick up. The importance of using food is to find a high value reward for your dog to ensure intensity on the track.
Once you have a hungry and willing puppy or dog, you'll need to gather a few pieces of equipment. What you use may depend upon the age of your dog and the method you are using to train them to track. To get started:
1 or 2 leashes or light weight lines
A fur saver collar or flat collar (for puppies)
As you progress in your training and prepare for competition, you'll want to invest in:
Flags, easily purchased at your local home improvement store
Tracking Line, 33 feet in length for competition
Tracking Articles, you can make your own or purchase them from a number of vendors
Tracking line types are a very personal preference and vary greatly based on the material used. You'll want a line that doesn't slip or burn your hands as you progress in your tracking. Lines come in many materials like biothane, super grip line, climbing line, nylon and others. If you are a member of a club, try borrowing different lines until you find one that you enjoy. Some handlers make their own by sourcing line and snaps.
There are a number of methods and theories out about how to begin tracking, so we'll leave that to the professionals or to your local club. Just remember that experience, repetition, terrain, weather, age of the track, distance, number of legs, articles, the tracklayer, and your chosen method all impact how quickly your dog will take to tracking and progress. Build a tracking plan before you set out to lay your track. Don't stick to a pattern, vary your distances and degree of difficulty, and always train in differing conditions.