Bitty tracking

Bitty finds what she has been tracking - hotdogs


When first hearing the term ‘search and rescue’, one tends to picture a search and rescue team as seen on TV, usually featuring a large breed dog. The ‘search’ part has been developed into the sport of Tracking, which can involve a dog of any size as all breeds of canine have exceptionally good smelling abilities.

The Westie is a good candidate for this sport. He is very sturdy for his size, and was bred to function in the countryside following the scent of various species of small mammal to their den. Add to this the Westie’s own sense of capability for this task, and a definite determination to go the distance. The Westie’s coat, if kept stripped to maintain the harshness typical of the breed, will be an asset in that it won’t collect many twigs or burrs or get the dog stuck in the thistle patch.

Training for the Westie should be on an ‘all reward-no correction’ basis. Westies, like most terriers, don’t respond well to endless repetitions of exercises, or insistence that things always be done exactly the same way every time. Continual corrections will dampen their enthusiasm and it’s that natural enthusiasm and feeling that they are doing this because they want to that is the key to a good tracker. Those trainers who are going to use the formal retrieve exercise to bring found articles to the handler should seriously consider using the ‘clicker’ method. The dog then thinks retrieves are his own idea and does them effortlessly.

The hard part for a Westie beginning tracking is to separate the following of scent from the urge to go into small mammal holes after prey. He is bred to use these two talents together. Therefore, in beginning training, keep the food reward for finding an article very exciting. A good training book for Westies is Enthusiastic Tracking by William (Sil) Saunders. This book has an advantage for Westie people because the author trained at least two Westies to their TDX before writing the book.

For more information see our book page.

Author: Anne Matheson.