The Best Dog Breeds for Tracking Sports
Among the many dog sports, tracking sports stand out as one of the most popular worldwide. Tracking requires a unique blend of traits from the dog, including a keen sense of smell, stamina, mental aptitude, and the drive to work independently.
Dogs perceive the world in an entirely different way than humans do. Their noses are endowed with more than 200 million scent receptors, compared to the comparatively pitiful 50 million we humans have. This means that dogs are highly adept at tracking scents, and some breeds are more skilled than others for this task.
Tracking dogs (also known as scenthounds) are used for many different purposes today. Law enforcement officials look to them as valuable tools in missing persons cases. Some breeds are even used for illicit drug detection. But, tracking is not just useful in helping humans - dogs enjoy it, too! Tracking is a stimulating activity that helps dogs of all breeds to use their brains and get the exercise they need.
If you're interested in becoming involved in tracking sports with your dog, or if you want to know which breeds best suit police work involving scent detection, read on to learn about the best breeds for these activities.
The Most Popular Tracking Breeds
Some dogs are born with a talent for hunting or other activities that involve scenting. These breeds are among the best choices to get involved in tracking sports, though any dog can be trained to hunt scents. If you're looking for a breed that excels in tracking, keep in mind the intensity of the work and your dog's natural abilities.
The following is a list of some breeds that have been known to work well in the field of tracking.
Top Dog: Bloodhound - Bloodhounds are the best tracking dogs for miles around. They have an incredible sense of smell and stamina that can't be beaten. Their hunting instinct is strong, so obedience training at a young age is vital to keep them from taking off in search of prey.
American Foxhound - American Foxhounds are known for their high energy level and their keen noses. These dogs will work long days in the field, hunting down scents with speed and precision.
Basenji - Basenjis are weaselly dogs with extremely high energy levels and an insatiable desire to hunt scents. They are a rare breed that has a unique ability to make a 'yodeling' sound.
Basset Hound - Bassets are low-energy dogs that work well in the field, but also make great family pets. Their floppy ears and sense of smell allow them to hone in on trails with ease.
Beagle - Beagles are one of the best breeds for tracking sports, as they have an excellent sense of smell and tremendous stamina. They love to be out on a scent track, and will often track over long distances if their owners do not call them back. Once at the site where the scent was caught, Beagles tend to follow their noses rather than needing guidance, so they might be harder to control in some situations.
Belgian Malinois - Belgian Malinois dogs are highly intelligent and naturally driven to work. Their short coats make them well-suited for most climates, and their speed and agility allow them to work off the beaten path. Obedience training is a must with these breeds, as they can be stubborn at times.
English Springer Spaniel - English Springer Spaniels train easily and are one of the most agile breeds. They excel at hunting small game, but their sense of smell is good enough to help with finding missing persons or luggage as well.
German Shepherd - German Shepherds are hardworking, intelligent dogs that can adapt to many situations. They work well in the field but must be trained with firm boundaries.
German Shorthaired Pointer - German Shorthaired Pointers (GSPs) are known for their intelligence, working nature, and endurance. They are extremely loyal dogs that work well with handlers, and can quickly adapt to different working environments.
Labrador Retriever - Labrador Retrievers are a common family pet because of their even temperament and intelligence. They make excellent tracking partners due to their strong sense of smell and ability to learn new tasks quickly. This breed excels in many different types of jobs.
Majestic Tree Hound - Majestic Tree Hounds are a rare breed that lives and breathes to hunt and track. They love the outdoors and work well in all weather conditions. Their sense of smell is especially acute, allowing them to find even the smallest trails.
Mountain Cur - Mountain Curs are good-natured, gentle dogs that are known for their sound sense of smell and speed. They are an active breed that can also be trained to work as hunting companions or family pets.
Redbone Coonhound - These breeds tend to have an uncanny sense of smell, and their brawny builds are well suited for running through the woods in search of prey or missing persons. They are also loyal family dogs that make great pets for children. The only downside is that they tend to shed a lot.
Saint Bernard - Saint Bernards are huge, gentle family dogs with droopy eyes and signature coats of their breed. They adapt well to harsh conditions, including cold winters or hot summers. Their coats make them poor candidates for tracking in the heat due to overheating risks.
Treeing Walker Coonhound (Tennessee Lead) - Treeing Walker Coonhounds are descendants of the English and American Foxhounds. They have a strong prey drive and love to track scents in the woods. They are also known for their affectionate personalities, so they do well both as hunting companions and family pets.
Complete List of Scenthound Breeds
While the breeds mentioned above are the most popular breeds, there are actually dozens of scenthounds. Most of these breeds work well for tracking, so if none of the above are available, there are other options. A quick look at Wikipedia's list of Scenthound Breeds will give pet owners an idea of the many breeds available to track different scents.
- Alpine Dachsbracke
- American Leopard Hound
- Anglo-French hounds
- Anglo-Français de Petite Vénerie
- Grand Anglo-Français Blanc et Noir
- Grand Anglo-Français Blanc et Orange
- Grand Anglo-Français Tricolore
- Artois Hound
- Austrian Black and Tan Hound
- Basset Artésien Normand
- Basset Bleu de Gascogne
- Basset Fauve de Bretagne
- Basset Hound
- Bavarian Mountain Hound
- Black Mouth Cur
- Blue Lacy
- Bosnian Broken-haired Hound
- Briquet Griffon Vendéen
- Catahoula Leopard Dog
- Black and Tan Coonhound
- Bluetick Coonhound
- English Coonhound (a.k.a. American English Coonhound and Redtick Coonhound)
- Redbone Coonhound
- Treeing Walker Coonhound
- Cretan Hound
- Deutsche Bracke
- Drever (Swedish Dachsbracke)
- Dunker (Norwegian Hound)
- Estonian Hound
- Finnish Hound
- American Foxhound
- English Foxhound
- Welsh Foxhound
- French hounds
- Chien Français Blanc et Noir
- Chien Français Blanc et Orange
- Chien Français Tricolore
- Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen
- Grand Bleu de Gascogne
- Grand Gascon Saintongeois
- Grand Griffon Vendéen
- Greek Harehound
- Griffon Bleu de Gascogne
- Griffon Fauve de Bretagne
- Hanover Hound
- Istrian Coarse-haired Hound
- Istrian Shorthaired Hound
- Kerry Beagle
- Montenegrin Mountain Hound
- Mountain Cur
- Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
- Petit Bleu de Gascogne
- Petit Gascon Saintongeois
- Plott Hound
- Polish Hound
- Polish Hunting Dog
- Posavac Hound
- Sabueso Español (Spanish Scenthound)
- Sabueso fino Colombiano
- Segugio dell'Appennino
- Segugio Italiano a pelo forte
- Segugio Italiano a pelo raso
- Segugio Maremmano
- Serbian Hound
- Serbian Tricolour Hound
- Schweizer Laufhund
- Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund
- Slovenský Kopov (Slovakian Hound)
- Stephens Cur
- Styrian Coarse-haired Hound
- Transylvanian Hound
- Treeing Cur
- Treeing Tennessee Brindle
- Trigg Hound
- Tyrolean Hound
- Westphalian Dachsbracke