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IFH - Tracking in Alberta: A Challenging Discipline



Tracking is a discipline that demands precision, patience, and intense focus of our loyal canines. In Alberta, where the weather can be as unpredictable as it is harsh, teaching a dog to track is no small feat. While spring may offer a few good months, the dry summers and snowy winters create unique challenges for tracking enthusiasts. One specific tracking discipline that stands out is IFH, or “Internationale Fährtenhundeprüfung” which translates to “International Tracking Dog Test”. In this article, we delve into the world of IFH tracking, a discipline that requires not only dedication but also a deep understanding between handler and dog.


IFH tracking is not for the faint of heart. The difficulty of the three advanced IFH tracking levels far exceeds that of IGP3. Here are the main differences:

IGP3: 600 steps, matured for 60 minutes, with four corners and three articles.

IFH1: 1200 steps, matured for 120 minutes, with six corners and four articles.

IFH2: 1800 steps, matured for 180 minutes, with seven corners (including two acute and one arc) and seven articles.


IGP-FH (championship level): Two FH tracks on two different days, each needing to score at least 70 out of 100 points. The highest combined score wins.

An additional challenge in IFH tracking are the two cross tracks which are laid just 30 minutes before the dog starts the challenge. All IFH levels feature additional complexities for the dog’s olfactory senses, such as changes in surface: e.g. road crossings, both grass and dirt areas.


In Europe IFH is a well-established and popular discipline on its own. In comparison North America often sees IFH titles as a one-time achievement for a successful IGP dog nearing retirement. Over the last 25 years, an annual average of just five dogs earned IFH1 titles in Canada. Since 1975 only four Canadian dogs have achieved IGP-FH. But times are changing.


The principles for assessing IFH tracks closely mirror those for IGP tracks. Judges take into account factors such as the condition of the surface (sand, surface changes, dirt, short/tall grass) and weather conditions (heat, cold, snow, rain). The score reflects the quality of the dog’s work, its ability to handle the range of challenges, and any assistance provided by the handler.


One of the unique aspects of IFH tracking is that older dogs can also participate. The 2022 FCI IFH World Champion was nine years old at the time of the competition. This discipline doesn’t require high physical activity from the dog; rather, it demands focus, perseverance, and, most importantly, exceptional olfactory qualities.


Training for IFH tracking offers more than just the thrill of competition. It provides an opportunity for a deep bond between handler and dog, filled with moments of pleasure, tranquility, and partnership. Picture the scene: you’re out early in the morning, greeted by the first rays of sunlight and the sweet melodies of field birds.



Occasionally, you might also encounter the antics of magpies attempting to pilfer food from your freshly laid track. The satisfaction of seeing your dog finding its way, navigating the challenges, and to revel in their success far outweighs any long drive to a tracking field and the patience required as you wait for the track to mature.


 

K9Force (2023, October). IFH - Tracking in Alberta: A Challenging Discipline. https://publuu.com/flip-book/199364/621487/page/10


© K9Force WDC 2023. For permission to reproduce any article in this blog, contact info@k9force.ca

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