I took a half day tracking seminar to determine if Jake would like it. It was 2/3 lecture and 1/3 working. We got two tracks which he did in 30 secs and instinctively knew what to do as opposed to the other dogs. There was actually a Golden there that it took 10 minutes to get him to put his nose to the ground. After the seminar we did a full track at a local forest preserve and the trainer who rarely took on new students was impressed enough to take us on (Jake is her first Golden student). While all dogs can probably track not all are naturals or talented.
Food has NEVER been used on any of the tracks we have trained on
The only animal that has given us problems are coyotes. Rabbits, Squirrels, deer and horses don't seem to get him off track. We were 30 ft (yes 30 ft) from the glove at our first TD test and Jake went off confidently in the opposite direction. I don't think anyone could believe it. He had gotten through the entire track (with 4 turns) in extremely windy conditions in 3 minutes. When you read through the AKC reports on the reasons for failure I don't even think this failure fits any category and can't wait to see their report for 2011. He was impressive enough that the judges at our next test (which he passed and got his TD) knew about him and two local judges contacted me after the test (we had passed) to see how we did because thy had also heard about that crazy golden at the Weim test. We have since had a lot of practice in forest preserves known for coyotes and so far I think we've worked through the problem - we'll see how it goes when we start up again in 3 weeks. I hope to get into a TDX test this spring - only 40 spots over 4 states.
The hardest thing I think is handling, especially since your dog is in control and leading you. Learning to read your dog in all weather conditions and terrains takes patience. How a dog tracks in wind, rain, heat, cold etc is different. The way they track on cut grass, sand, thick brush, concrete, across streams is also different. Combining all these factors can get challenging. Jake tracks extremely fast so I've had to learn to get him to slow down for TDX tracks because the terrain is much more challenging and trying to get over a tree trunk on the ground at high speed is not advised - I've done it and my ankle wasn't happy for several days.
I only do private lessons now. Last winter I joined a group and didn't like it. It took up an entire day (Sunday) and we only did a very small track barely aged. With the privates I do regulation length tracks and it's aged appropriately. This I believe gets more important as you train for TDX and VST.
Jake LOVES tracking so I love it. Growing up in a major city didn't prepare me for all the things I do with him but tracking is closer than field stuff
If you get serious about tracking, get good waterproof boots with traction, waterproof clothing (tests are given even when it rains so training in the rain is common), good gloves to wear and a good tracking lead (I like te 40 ft one from J&J). You might also need to travel to get certified. When we were certified there were a number of folks who had come to IL from Michigan because there are not as many AKC tracking judges as one might think. Getting into TD tests is not easy and you might need to travel. Our second test which we passed was in Indiana, 300 miles each way and included a hotel stay.
I didn't realize I wrote book. I'd say go for it. No matter what I think you'll have fun.
Feel free to PM with any questions etc.