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The first cocker to earn a VST (variable surface tracking) title was
CH Kapewood's Con Man CD, TD, VST, OA, AXJ.
Conner owned and handled by Carolee Douglas earned this title on October 17, 2010 at the University of New Mexico campus.

Variable surface tracking tests require the dog to follow human scent while adapting to changing scenting conditions.

The dog must track on at least 3 different surfaces including 2 which are devoid of vegetation, such as asphalt, concrete, gravel, sand or mulch. The scent of the track is between 3 hours and 5 hours old. The dog must find 4 articles (one leather, one plastic, one metal and one fabric). The track must include at least 4 turns with one turn being a 90 degree turn on an area devoid of vegetation for 30 yards on either side of the turn.

The track is laid utilizing buildings and the diverse scenting conditions created by being in close proximity to such buildings. Tracks can also include other structures such as fences, breezeways, ramps, stairs, bridges, roofed parking garages and courtyards. 

The intent of the Variable Surface Tracking stresses that dogs will be able to handle the diffusion of scent created by these structures. Many VST tests are held on college campuses.

A dog that earns all three tracking titles - TD, TDX and VST will become a Champion Tracker and can use the letters CT preceding the name of the dog.


TrackingDue to their background as hunting dogs, expected to find game through their sense of smell, Cockers are naturals at the sport of tracking. In tracking, a dog must follow the path walked by the tracklayer anywhere from 30 minutes to 5 hours before, depending on the level of the track. There are 3 titles offered by AKC, in increasing order of difficulty.

  • Tracking Dog – TD
  • Tracking Dog Excellent – TDX
  • Variable Surface Tracking – VST

The length of the tracks, type of cover, obstacles and age are different for each level and a dog, which earns all 3 titles, has the right to have CT (Champion Tracker) placed before its name.

PDF fileA Beginner's Guide to Tracking is available on the AKC website.

Recommended Reading:

Tracking Book Tracking Dog, Theory & Methods. (2nd edition). Glen R. Johnson.
Published by Arner Publications, Rome, NY, c1977. ISBN 0-914124-04-8

This book is the standard for anyone interested in training dogs to track. Included in the book is the Tracking Trainers Handbook, a great reference for working in the field. Glen R. Johnson brought his many years of experience and innovation to write was has become the "bible" of trackers everywhere. His experience ranged from military dog work, to detection of toxic pipeline leaks using dogs.

Tracking Book Tracking From the Ground Up. Sandy Ganz & Susan Boyd.
Published by Show-Me Publications, St. Louis, MO, c1992.

The all-inclusive tracking program from the most elementary T.D. lessons through Sandy and Sue's highly acclaimed T.D.X. methods. Based on the authors' 40 years of combined experience as handlers and instructors. This book, a first of its kind, includes step-by-step instruction in track laying, puppy training, alternative training methods, and test preparation. The proven 8-week tracking program is easy to read and practical. Motivational techniques, problem solving, and proper handling, are stressed from the first day of tracking through single-flag starts, multiple articles, cross-tracks, and obstacles.

Tracking Book Practical Tracking for Practically Anyone. Julie Hogan & Donna Thompson,
Published by George Morgan, Charlotte, NC, c1995.

This how-to manual for trackers includes certification, what to expect at a test, scent theory, variable surface tracking, and sources of equipment. Not much on VST, but gives an idea of what it's about. "What to expect at the test" is great. Avoid those "first test" jitters.

(Shirley Hunsaker contributed Material for this page.)

ASC Flushing Spaniel Show The 2016 ASC Annual Flushing Spaniel Show

will be held January, 2016

in Knoxville, Tennessee

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