The tracking phase begins with a temperament test during which the judge evaluates the dog’s general temperament, including his reaction to being crowded and handled by strangers. A shy or aggressive dog is dismissed from the field, and is unable to proceed and attempt to achieve a schutzhund title at that trial. Tracks are laid at the very start of the trial, under the careful eye of the judge. In the SchH1 level, the dog’s handler lays the track, and at the SchH2 and SchH3 levels the tracks are laid by a stranger. Tracks are normally laid on a natural surface, such as dirt or grass, and the tracklayer is to walk at a normal pace. The length and difficulty of the track depends on the title level, with a SchH2 track more difficult than a SchH1, and a SchH3 more difficult than a SchH2. Likewise, the amount of time the track must age before the dog is allowed to start tracking increases at each level.
The tracking itself involves the handler following behind the dog at the end of a 10-meter line, as the dog scents and follows the track. The track includes several turns, as well as man-made articles left on the track by the tracklayer. The dog must scent out and follow the track from start to finish on his own. Help from the handler after the initial command to track at the beginning of the track and after each article indication, is faulty and results in a point deduction. The dog must be methodical and accurate in his work, remaining on the track during both turns and straights, and must indicate the articles dropped by the tracklayer, usually by lying down with the article between his front paws.
The tracking phase is designed to test the dog’s trainability and ability to scent, his mental focus and concentration, his problem solving skills, and his ability to work independently for a prolonged period of time at a very specific and detailed task without encouragement or reassurance by his handler.