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The Fascinating World of IFH Tracking Interview with Anthony Hartelaub

In the realm of competitive dog sports, tracking holds a unique allure for enthusiasts like Anthony Hartelaub. We had the opportunity of sitting down with him and get a taste what motivates him and his dog Aggi. And how did they experience the 2022 FCI FH World Championship, as first Canadian team ever?

Anthony’s first tracking experience goes back to 2003, with a Rottweiler called Neo. Anthony reminisced: “I took Neo to the IGP1 level but failed IGP 2 tracking twice; my approach to training Neo was just not good enough.”

Despite this early setback, Anthony’s journey into the IGP sport has been nothing but remarkable. He soon found himself immersed in helper work, participating in championships across Canada and France. He is the current President of the Canadian Working Dog Federation (CWDF), a Director of the Canadian Working Belgium Shepherd Association (CWBSA), and co-owner of the working dog kennel, Expat Malinois.

For Anthony, tracking stands out from other IGP disciplines as a different approach is required compared to training obedience and protection. Whereas in the latter a trainer with good timing can be successful, Anthony finds tracking particularly appealing in the sense that the tracking trainer is more like a coach/mentor for their dog than an active partner. He is also impressed by nose work in general. “We cannot relate to the information that dogs get through their olfactory system,” he noted. “This special skill for law enforcement, military, search and rescue, and other uses, is what guarantees that our working dogs will not be replaced by technology anytime soon.”

Anthony readily shared his profound appreciation for FH tracking. It’s not easy to teach a dog to track reliably with varying tracklayers, terrains and weather-conditions. But, with decent training and enough repetitions, the majority of dogs can get a passing score at IGP1 to 3. However, at the IFH1, IFH2, and IGP-FH levels, their skillset needs to be much greater. The dog has to be physically and mentally fit and understand the task at hand.

Anthony explains that he likes to track as often as he can with young dogs. In preparation for competing at IFH level with his female Aggi (8 years old), he limits his training frequency to once or twice a week, being “strategic about what I would like to get out of each track in training.”

A successful tracking practice requires intricate planning ahead of time. The handler has to anticipate how the dog will respond to challenges that the track poses before it is even laid: where should rewards be placed? where may the track present more difficult challenges?; and, where are the easier parts? “You can no longer trick dogs into thinking they will always get rewards on the track within a certain distance, the dog really has to enjoy tracking.”

It is of the utmost importance to Anthony that Aggi is mentally and physically prepared for competition. “I try not to track at least a week before the trial because I know that’s when she will be at her best,” he shared. In addition, he works on her stamina on a treadmill at least every other day, swims with her often, and the pair go on long walks once or twice a week. Aggi also gets a monthly treatment at the chiropractor.

The 2022 FCI FH World Championship: An Unforgettable Experience

Having only heard about the event from fellow trainers in Europe, Anthony had high expectations for the event. He had never been to this championship even as a spectator and the camaraderie among participants stood out. The event atmosphere felt easygoing, with less stress and tensions between competitors compared to what he had experienced in IGP World Championships.

Anthony drew a fascinating comparison between the IFH World Championship and the earlier days of IGP competitions: “From what I was told, the atmosphere at the Tracking World Championship is closer to what IGP World Championships were several decades ago, before the sport became highly competitive and professional trainers became more common.”

The championship was an opportunity to meet top trainers who talked about tracking at a depth that he rarely experienced before. These trainers start to prepare their dogs from puppyhood, aiming to the achieve multiple IGP-FH titles later on. Intriguingly, Anthony partly attributed the camaraderie felt amongst these trainers to their shared experiences of failure: “… even the best tracking trainers experience failures regularly, which keeps people humble.”

The Future of FH Tracking in Canada

When asked about the state of IFH tracking in Canada, Anthony expressed optimism. “Advanced tracking in Canada is not very popular, although I think that it is growing in the last few years,” he explained. “We will have more dogs with IFH 1, IFH 2, and IGP-IFH titles in the near future, and we may send full teams to the FCI IGP-FH World Championship going forward.” As our conversation with him drew to a close, it was evident that Anthony’s journey from a novice handler to an international IFH competitor is a testament to the enduring appeal of working dogs and the unique world of tracking.


K9Force (2023, October). The Fascinating World of IFH Tracking Interview with Anthony Hartelaub.

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