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Building a Great Track

Tracking for success begins with a great track. There are lots of opinions on size- height, length and width as well as fencing materials and best type of dirt or sand.

Having tracked on lots of different tracks across the US, it is our opinion that a 70X30 track is good size to accomplish great results as well as functional to work dogs. It allows sheep/goats to stretch out and run while preventing the dogs from gaining to much momentum. This keeps the dog focused and stops their brain from "flipping into overdrive" causing dog to stop listening.

The size of the alley the animals run around should be around 4 ft. on straight always opening up to six ft. on corners. Anything larger than this makes it hard for a dog to keep animals from turning back. Think about running full blast and trying to block three football players. This is a great example of a track dog chasing sheep.

The height of the outside fence should be determined by what you are tracking. Our track is 7 ft. tall on the outside. Since we track finewools (pretty specific to Texas and New Mexico), our track is taller to keep them from jumping out of the track. Breeds such as Southdown's and most goats can probably get by with a 5 ft. tall fence. The inside fence should be considerably shorter. Ours is roughly 3 ft. This enables person tracking to work dog more efficiently as well as get to a wreck with an animal, if necessary, much easier.

There are several other sources on the internet that discuss tracks and sizes. Texas A&M recommends a 100 ft. long track. Personally, this is a little difficult for me to work however it does allow animals to get a great sprint. Click here for their article.

As far as materials that work for building your track, we really enjoy the safety factor of chain link since it does not have any sharp edges like twisted wire and is very flexible. However, many materials can work very effectively. The main things to consider is placement of corner pipes that are concreted where animals could hit. The best way to check this is to stand in a straight away and see what is at the very end. This is definitely not where you want a strong structure to protect animals from getting hurt.

Looking at the surface or dirt in the track should be free of large rocks but can be made up of many different types of material depending on your climate and access to materials. We use beach sand in our pens and when changing it out at the end of the season, most the sand to the track focusing much of it on the corners which tend to take the most pressure from the animals and begins to erode. In areas with lots of rain, we have tracked on tiny gravel that seems to work well, helping animals not bog down in mud or slide around with lots of rain. Main importance is to keep track clear of obstacles, weeds and tall grass.

Lastly, the track should be built away from the pens or at least have a solid wall if connecting to the pens. The sheep/goats naturally want to return to their comfort zone, their pens, so if they can see animals and their pen it will cause challenges in the track. An alley system that leads from the animals pens to the track is a great way to move them back in forth. Otherwise it will require walking the animals to the track to begin tracking.

If you have questions about building your track, please give a call. We love discussing options that will help get you started, "Tracking for Success."


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