Snow track and skills checklist

Since we did a complex urban track yesterday, my goal today was to do a nice veg track for Micah. I knew snow was coming and wanted to do one TD on veg before it hit us. But, it began to fall as I was laying my track! At first I thought it would still be a nice, moist veg track, but by the time I ran it, snow was falling sideways, wind picked up and my entire track was covered.  Below is the map, video, then photos with captions as a checklist of where we are at as winter settles in.

MAP

Dec 3 snow map

450 meters, 5 turns – road cross (wouldn’t have that in a real TD) wind from the left, aged 30 minutes. Laid as snow started. Run with snow cover and no tracks visible.

This is a full TD but I broke it up with two articles. Originally I thought it would be a nice veg track. Now the goal was to help her on a short line navigate a track in about one inch of snow with a cross wind. It turned out to be very positive and she was enthusiastic from start to finish! I picked up chicken strips for her and gave her treats only at articles. I usually put some kibble down strategically, but there is no point leaving any as she won’t eat it.

I missed videotaping the beginning as my iphone accidentally filmed it upside down – so I missed capturing the first 40 m or so – the video starts 2/3 down leg one.

I love this puppy! She has such a strong work ethic and actually LOVES to work. She is the strongest pulling GSD I have had – and she is my 7th since 1985, and 10th tracking dog! I may have to learn to wear gloves while handling my line. My goal is to have a looser line and slow her down over time but when she is on a straight stretch and I let her build up a bit of speed, my hands hurt.

As a side note, she is a big female and 26″ at the shoulder. I think when all is said and done, she will be pushing 80 pounds. A very imposing dog indeed, and sometimes quite serious! Though she is social and accepting of people, which is a good thing – and she is not dog aggressive though she is dominant and territorial. She’s my first GSD from Czech lines and from Wendelin kennels. I can heartily recommend them after getting to know Micah. From day one I have enjoyed her completely and wouldn’t trade her for anything.

Here are stills from the video of moments that are worth mentioning or capturing along this track. I love to videotape – for myself! It shows me things I would miss if I had to remember track details after the track is over.

Each photo has captions – you can mouse over them or click to see the caption.

Good strong start

Good turns

Turns before curbs

Good straight lines even in cross winds (including her start, Leg 1, above)

Consistently picking up articles (we need to work on this, and her article indications may change in time – playing with retrieve for now!)

 

As winter settles in, I am very happy with Micah’s tracking progress. I can’t wait until spring! We will track as much as we can this winter, then begin making plans, God willing, to prepare for tests!

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Planning and Predicting a track

Today I laid a short but fun track for Micah! For a small group I am coaching, I did a live video as I laid the track, explaining my decisions and trying to predict what would happen when I ran it – by looking at the area, the cover, the wind and how the flow would work. In the end, I was very pleasantly surprised by how she handled the track! Some of my predictions were correct and others were off.

After Micah ran it, Judy Wallace and her Border Collie Lark ran it as well. Since Micah was pretty much dead on, it was a nicely imprinted track for Lark. Lark’s consistency and similarity to how Micah ran it shows that they are taught with the same method, and that the track delivered the kind of consistency I hope from a well-thought out track! And it was short enough to be good and not get dragged out – giving the dogs things challenges without grinding them down.

MAP

December 2 map

The wind most definitely was a large factor in how the track was run, because at each ‘crucial turn’ the wind was in the dog’s favour leading to crisp turns and fast decisions. Had this track been run the other way, there would have been at least three issues of over-shooting turns. I’ve put blue arrows at each corner to help you imagine the wind.

PHOTOS

First half of the track – veg, dirt and chain link
Here are some stills from the live track-laying video. You can read captions if you click on each photo:

I predicted that Micah would not pull onto the bike path due to the wind direction and that she would make a nice turn at the fence. All good! I was pretty sure she would stick to the chain link fence and not go down slope. Check! I expected her to go around the next chain link corner, then correct to go straight. Yup! I hoped she would retrieve the article to me, so she could have a better run at the turn, which was close – needs more work but she still made a good turn. I wondered if the wood shavings or chain link might draw her off the track but neither did – yay!

I kept a short line through this entire track as one of my goals right now is control, and I did not want a sloppy track. My goal today was to have a certain amount of control, but to give her just enough line to react to the scent without making mistakes – as she is only 8 months old! Whenever she chose well and committed you can hear me say ‘yes!’ I also spend some time teaching her that deer poop (lots of it today!) is BAD. I treated at two articles and back at the van. I didn’t put food down, as Micah does not eat it.

Second half of the track – transitions
(captions if you click on each)

I anticipated that she would be confident on hard surface, and make a nice turn with  the wind direction. In the video you can see her wind the article! I also predicted she would dismiss the veg boulevard after her sock article. I did not step up there. She goes up, checks, then comes back and commits to the fold of the curb. So happy! She sticks her nose into the rocks as I expected, the gets her article thrown off track – in an area I predicted would hold scent. The way I walked back did not influence her at all – which is also what I predicted!

All in all, I did a good job of predicting scent, and how Micah handled it!

Lark ran it very consistently. Judy gave a bit more line out than I did, and so Lark did a wider circle at the non-veg turn – but in part, I also came up too close behind making Lark smile at me. At the veg boulevard after the non-veg article, Lark sniffs the veg and dismisses it, even though Micah had been up there! She is clearly choosing human scent! This is very neat to see! And they ran the tracks in virtually the SAME time! Very cool.

Below are videos of each track – Micah, then Lark.

Micah (6 minutes 40 seconds)

 

Lark the Border Collie and Judy Wallace

 

Earlier in the morning, Judy and I both did a warm up with articles. Judy also did a short track with Lark while I laid this one. After I left, Judy continued to play on this track with her other dogs, Riley (Miniature Schnauzer) and Shiloe (BC – Brittany cross). A well used and well enjoyed track! And a fun training morning!

Dec Micah fence

Good girl Micah!

Winter Training begins!

I LOVE winter tracking! I started out tracking way back in the 80s with a Conservation Officer who had an OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) certified Bloodhound named Nero. He tracked all year ’round and I would hide as Nero’s victim in the snow. When I started CKC tracking, it made sense to me to keep tracking all winter. When I began to teach and started Spiritdance Tracking as a business in 1995 I encouraged people to come out no matter what the weather! Over the years I have accumulated a lot of anecdotal, experiential and ‘book learning’ about winter tracking! This all forms the basis of my Winter Tracking Webinars. 

Yesterday my friend and tracking partner Judy Wallace laid a short snow track for Micah in the snow. It was a great opportunity to reinforce “footstep tracking” and give her little corrections for leaving the snow tunnel of footprints. She loved it! The three cloth and leather articles were slightly hidden in snow and she was very excited to find them and picked each one up, giving it a shake.

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Yesterday was a box shape in the snow – I took this afterwards, so you see all of our tracks here

Today, I laid Micah and Lark each a parking lot track following edges. These tracks were 100% hard surface, although the snow acts like ‘veg’ on a day like today. It was 3C and the snow was soft and melting into puddles along the parking lot edges. There were great ‘berms’ to follow that would hold the scent. Here is the map. Each track was roughly 260 meters. Wind was coming from the left but was not too strong. It did blow Lark up onto her berm to start however, whereas Micah’s first leg was on the opposite side of the lot so wind was not as much of a factor.

Picture this with snow! I blocked the turns in all of the curbs in yellow so you can see how we used them for starts and turns, following the curbs. At the top end, they each had little parking nooks to follow around. Articles 1 and 2 were both hidden around corners in spots I felt would reward them.

Micah Lark parking lot Nov 12 270 m

Micah’s track is in blue, and Larks is in yellow. Because the wind was coming from the left, Lark was more affected, leaping on and off of the snow to find the scent. Micah’s was less affected, and she only leaped up whenever she was going more into the wind or at open corners. Interesting to note for the future, but with both girls you could see how hard they worked to figure this out – and it was FUN! 

Both Micah and Lark were allowed to problem solve, so that they realized the track truly was NOT in the snow. They explored scent puzzles and figured out that the scent was on the parking lot! Each of them did very well!

I tried to separate the tracks using the snow edges and berms so that the track scent did not flow across the flat parking lots. Lark ended up with more cars to work around as her track started just when a kid’s event was obviously occurring, with lots of moms and kids scurrying by.

Leg one

The start was on the parking lot but I used snow and stomped it down (see the next photo)

start

Scent pad

Before we started tracking, I spent about 15 minutes sitting on my van, waiting for Micah to have a calm mind. She loves to track and is only 8 months old. I want good habits and do not like any dog pulling and rushing at the start. It took longer to sit here, than it did to run the whole track! But is a very important part of training.

I do just love this puppy. She has a clear head, and just loves to work!

Sit

 

Video

Micah start to article 1

Micah is only 8 months old, so obviously I am very proud of her desire to track and her determination to problem solve. She is a great worker. I have also started to tell her ‘ah-ah’ when she is overdoing (in my humble opinion) leaving the track. I try to be careful, but do not want her spending energy or leaking energy needlessly.

Micah from article one, around the little parking lot, and across the road to article 2

Here Micah is going into the wind. She passes a sidewalk (scent flows that way) – I think I will do sidewalks tomorrow! At the turn left, she is very concerned about scent and it clearly pools in a depression under a big snow lump. I am hobbling along (I can’t walk that well right now, surgery coming up in January on my hip) and my line handling is suffering.

End of winter track

Part three goes from article two to the end, shown here – wind from the right

Micah article two, to parking lot cross and end

I was so excited as I could see her settle in here. Along this berm she had the same issue as Lark did, with the wind blowing the scent up onto the berm and the snow. I kicked out snow at the parking lot cross. This was an exciting moment. You can see my footprints! The glove was in a tire track where I hoped it would create a scent cone.

This track was aged about 30 minutes.

IMG_8207 (002)

Leather glove making a scent cone! 

After tracking, PLAY! We played for longer than we tracked!

 

Lark’s end

I tried to video more, but cars and people were so in the way, that we don’t see a lot of Lark working her way along. Then of course, my phone gave me a low battery signal – that is one of the frustrating things about the cold and iPhones!

Here Lark tried to find the scent up on the berm, I believe due to wind, and she lies down to try to please Judy as she is a bit confused but trying hard.

Lark 1

Then, she gets it!

Lark 2

Emerging from behind all of the cars that were not there when I laid this!

Lark 3

Here is a short clip of Lark starting up a wrong path, then correcting to the track!

Video

Lark corrects off a path and finds article 1

Lark – parking lot cross to end

 

When Lark found the turnaway from the berm, I encouraged Judy to take two steps to give Lark permission to keep going and this is how the end looked! Lark is an excellent tracker. This side of the berm was much better for her. The start, with wind blowing the scent up and over the berm, was a tough start, in hindsight.

WE HAD SO MUCH FUN TODAY! You can truly introduce new skills, sharpen skills and maintain skills in the winter!

 

Video

Tracking Champion Ben Cleans up!

Here Ben is finding a kong toy I left buried in the snow for him:

Ben wasn’t left out! I left two gloves, a mitten and two kong toys for him to find. He was thrilled to come out of the van and “clean up!” Article games are also great training. Ben has his Tracking Championship but is still in training.

Ben

 

At the end of the training session, the dogs were happy and tired, and we went to Starbucks for our reward!

crate and bag

Articles set out to dry on the shade cloth over top of Micah’s crate (don’t need it in the winter but it works well for this purpose)

Tired

And, as I sat with Micah for awhile waiting for Judy, she decided to nap! Tracking does make a dog tired!

 

Thanks for reading! I will likely save some of these videos and photos for the next Winter Tracking Webinar. I took  selfie, so people can see how glamourous I look on days like this!

OK, two funny stories to end. A student went by as I was playing with Ben. Ben is quirky about them so I asked him to lie down and gave him treats. After the student went by, I threw the kong for Ben and he pranced around with his big tail up. I squealed “ARE YOU THE FANCY BUM MAN?” Well yes, sigh, the guy turned and looked back, and I am sure I saw him speed up….. ack.

And of course, I removed my hat and went grocery shopping, which would be when I ran into one of the TOP managers (a Commissioner) with the City… I babbled about being out dog training and showed him photos on my iphone. It was all good – but why can’t I run into people when my hair is nicely combed and I am wearing makeup! Seriously, he is so nice and I think he and his wife were intrigued by how I spent my day. When we have passion and are happy, it is infectious!

HAPPY TRACKING EVERYONE!

Donna

NEW! Group Coaching – What is it and how does it work?

Are you interested in Online Coaching? New Tracking Mastery Coaching Drop-in Sessions – read more!

Spiritdance Tracking Community Online

This winter, I am very excited to offer something new to Spiritdance Coaching! Every second week, I’m hosting an ‘open house’ online that I call Tracking Mastery: Group Coaching. Group Coaching is becoming popular in coaching circles because it offers the benefits of working with a Professional Coach at an affordable price by sharing the time with others focused on the same goals and themes. I always keep my webinars small because they are LIVE and offer interaction and the ability to explore solutions to your questions.

One of the benefits of Small Group Coaching is to maximize the energy, experience, and wisdom of participants, which in turn helps others to learn and develop ideas to achieve their goals.

Group Coaching is slated to start November 9 pending registrations, then every two weeks following! It’s a new idea and another way I hope to encourage people on their tracking…

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Planning ahead and making great use of training tracks

When you plan your weekend tracking training, you should put a lot of thought into your tracks, locations, and goals. Once the track is plotted and laid, make good use of it! There is nothing I love more than using a track more than once. I might run it again with the same dog or one of my other dogs either as a hot track, or after it has re-aged. I might also figure out a schedule so friend’s dogs can benefit. I’ll even go back and re-run the track another day to see how it ‘works’ in different conditions. Don’t let a good track go to waste!

Last weekend I was able to do just this. After a training – practice track on Saturday, I laid a wonderful track on Sunday that was run by THREE dogs in a row. One ran it blind at two hours old, one ran it after it was aged 30 minutes, and my own pup Micah ran it hot at the end of our training session. Each track offered new things to consider and it was a real learning experience to see how age and scent affected each dog.

The opportunity was created when a friend came to visit, and of course, to track! Peggy drove for 6 hours from Edmonton to Medicine Hat Alberta. She has been here before and we’ve tracked at the college, so I wanted to choose different locations for a new experience and help her prepare for future urban tests. For Saturday I decided to direct Peggy and let her lay her own track for her 10-year old Airedale Reggie TDX. It was a track I’ve done many ways, many times, so I know the area well. I suggested where to put articles, and we drove around the perimeter of the track so I could point out where to turn, end, and walk back.

Peggy and Rowan

Peggy McCallum and young Rowan a Welsh Terrier, taken after Reggie ran her track

Saturday’s Practice Track
For Saturday’s track, my goal as a coach was to have Peggy think about the track, potential issues, plan ahead for handling in certain areas, and think about spatial awareness. Since it was a new location for Peggy, I wanted her to use this opportunity to hone mental sharpness required for a blind urban track; to watch her dog Reggie’s body language and comment on what she was telling her and commit it to memory; and to obeserve wind, traffic, people and things around her as she followed her dog.

This was a practice track where I could observe the team as well, so I could decide on a plan for Sunday.  Here is the map. This track is 380 meters.

Sat Strathcona Park track

Flag indicates the start. Blue circles indicate the tricky turns where spatial awareness, taking your time and observing your dog at a slower pace help navigate the track. The black dotted line shows Reggie’s path. She was very confident and Peggy followed her beautifully.

On Saturday’s track, Reggie had 3 “open” turns that I’d call Moment of Truth turns because she could conceivable go in any direction to fail. Reggie gave some beautiful body language, and Peggy followed at a great speed behind, not rushing and not hesitating, but finding that sweet spot to let Reggie show that she was in charge, then follow willingly and quickly behind once Reggie made decisions at her turns. I was really happy because the success on this track meant I could lay a challenging blind track for this team on Sunday!

Links to Saturday’s UTD training track

Video Part one to article one
Video Part two to end

Sunday’s Blind Track – run three times!

On Saturday night, I hardly slept! I heard the wind pick up around 3 a.m. and started to revise my track every time I woke up. By morning, I was pretty sure of my plan. I was going to lay a UTDX length track around my church, that would incorporate some legs sheltered by wind, some open legs and a variety of surface.

I drove around my church about three times to firm up my plan. In the end, I had a nice veg start, an interesting gravel leg where I used trailers to hold scent and place article one. These two pictures of Judy re-running the track with her Border Collie Lark show the start and first turn.

The next turn was tricky, as there was a big parking lot ahead that would beckon to an urban tracker. It crossed where the gravel and asphalt meet, to go to some beautiful lush green grass and follow the church walls around two sides, passing the main doors. When I laid the track, church was about to start so the sidewalk and doorway was busy with a bus idling by the doors and people walking up and into the church. These photos of Micah show this portion of the track. You can click to see each thumbnail as a larger image:

Micah before trailers

Crossing opening to trailers

Micah trailer

Following trailer edge

Micah retrieve wood

Wood article along trailer

Gravel crossing

Gravel crossing before big lot

Veg edge

Meander to veg edge

Gravel to grass

Crossing to lush green grass

 

Map of the track:
Blue circles show the areas I thought were tough turns.

Sun Hillcrest Church track

When this was laid the wind was coming from the right – into my face on the second leg and at my back on the boulevards beside the road. When we ran it at 1 pm, the wind was 60 kph crosswind. The blue circles are what I believed would be difficult turns. Reggie was pretty much dead on so there is no black line showing her path here. On turn one, she crossed the road and came back. Articles were wood beside the trailer, sock after the main doors and glove in the gravel (not visible! Another tricky thing i threw at them- – I didn’t arrange for the wind though!

The next difficult turn was AWAY from the warm brick and shelter of the church to go to a windy boulevard beside the roadway. By the time the team got to the parking lot, the hard surface turn would be the easiest turn of the track! In total it was 580 meters. Here are more thumbnails of Micah showing these parts of the track:

Building edge

Along the building edge

Turnaway from building

Turn away from the building

Boulevard

Boulevard in a cross wind

Micah parking lot

Parking lot turn

Peggy and Reggie are working on UTD but are ready for UTDX, and I designed a track to challenge Peggy’s ability to read Reggie’s body language, and that would give Reggie a variety of experiences and transitions to help her along. I have tracked around my church a lot, and this was a new pattern. I LOVE plotting and thinking about what will happen on a track once it’s put in.

Plotting well is a skill all trackers should learn. You can learn what works when you design your own tracks and then see if your dog tells you if things worked. When you lay your own tracks, you can see how things work out compared to what you thought might happen. It is a never-ending lesson, and will help you a lot when you enter tests as it teaches you to be more aware of you surroundings and to be more aware of the environment you are tracking in.

Peggy and Reggie’s Blind Track


I am NOT a fan of blind tracks because they can mess a team up badly. I prefer to have others lay tracks for me (and I watch or direct them), so my dogs learn to follow other scent than mine. Or, I will lay blind tracks for students, and follow behind so the situation is under control and I can coach them through to keep them calm and make sure they do not get into trouble that will affect their mental game – or their dog’s trust in them!

Below are videos of Peggy’s track with my comments. When I laid it, the wind was coming AT me, as I walked up the long gravel leg, and at my back as I came down the other side of the church. After church (so handy, I just had to pop inside for the service!), the wind had shifted. When we ran the track it was two hours old, and the wind was a crosswind from the right for the first half of the track, and a crosswind from the left for the other half! It was gusting at 60 km per hour and overcast.

Video One to article one

Comments: Reggie took a minute to settle into the first leg. It turned before the road, but Peggy wisely allowed Reggie to check the other side – and Reggie clearly had no interest in the veg there, coming back to nail her left turn. Once we got into the shelter of the church and trailers, Reggie was dead on, coming to article one.

Video Two to article two

Comments: Reggie continues nicely making the ‘meander’ that I took to follow the edge of the vegetation, to give her a reminder of the scent she was following because a tough decision was coming up. As they approached the huge parking lot, Reggie began to lean right, then took a few steps towards the parking lot – BUT – she stopped in her tracks! Perhaps the shift in wind helped as the crosswind brought the scent along the upper edge of the building to Reggie. I deliberately aimed for some thick green grass. As Reggie got closer to it, she began to pull. For a blind track, this was very clear and easy to follow.

This was the area full of people who had parked and walked up the sidewalk to go into the main doors. Reggie did pause at the doors. This is an obstacle in urban tracking! My scent went in and out of the three big doorways as I walked by. People kept holding doors open for me, and I would thank them and keep walking. As a reward for getting past the doors, I planted a sock around the corner. I asked Peggy to hold her ground to make sure Reggie got the sock. In a test, you need to really be cautious about not passing articles. Judges try to put them in spots like this, but I had tucked it against the wall because of the wind. Reggie actually picked it up to show it to Peggy!

Video Three to end

Comments: I felt that the turn before the big parking lot would be tricky, and Reggie nailed it. I also felt that the next turn in this part would be hard – as it was a turn away from the nice warm brick. I chose to turn at a covered gutter, hoping it would hold some scent, and followed a crack across the road. Reggie showed a wonderful negative here and nailed her turn! As I followed, I constantly coached Peggy to watch, to slow down, and to watch for what was coming.

Extra tips and thoughts about handling: On a turn like this, it is crucial to follow your dog to build its confidence! I never like to see a dog struggle on a track or on a difficult turn. If I am tracking by myself, I will “pretend” it is blind which takes a lot of acting and I will observe my dog as it works out the turn. If it begins to struggle, I step in immediately. This helps maintain the dog’s belief that the scent is always somewhere around ME so that they always circle back towards me if they feel lost.

I like to see my dogs use the tools I’ve taught them, and when the find the turn, I am able to follow immediately as a reward, which maintains their confidence. If you are working with someone who lays blind tracks for you – don’t do too many! And make sure they always tell you when your dog is right IMMEDIATELY so you can follow with confidence. Tracking is a mental game for a dog too, and your following is very important to maintaining their good behaviour. 

More comments: Reggie corrects herself to the primary track in the strong crosswind from the left. At a road cross, she hesitates to go to the other side, and I coach Peggy to move in closer and follow her onto the road. Stepping down onto the hard surface with your dog will help them move forward. The crosswind here created a “river” of scent on that roadway. Once Reggie got to the other side, she took off nicely!

Now we were parallel to another parking lot! I always tell people to never pass a good parking lot, but on this track, I ignored the first big one, and on this one, I didn’t enter it until well down the boulevard. This is a nerve wracking twist as the team knows they need to get in there. I coach Peggy to watch Reggie, and to remember that she is at the UTD level so we don’t need the big lot, just a corner or small piece of it! Since the parking lot had been full, I wanted to leave the last article well beyond the edge, so it would stay put and not attract attention or be picked up. I also told Peggy to think like a judge and look for a “window of opportunity” (a landmark, and opening) that might attract a judge’s attention. Reggie nicely found the path in, at a tree stump.

This was a tricky turn in, as it required a 90 degree turn beside the parking lot. I would consider this more of a UTDX entrance to the lot, and for UTD I usually try to approach the parking lot straight on, so the beginner urban team can transition straight into the parking lot. Reggie finds the transition, and I coach Peggy to get out there with her asap! Once your dog gets onto the hard surface, get out with them, to encourage them to begin moving.

If Reggie goes back to sniff the veg, I advised Peggy – do not give up your hard surface position. SUPPOSE the track did continue along the boulevard to the next parking lot (at an adjacent church)… you can give line and follow along on the hard surface, and observe. If your dog tells you it keeps going, you can fall in behind. But if you need to be in that lot, your dog has given you permission once to get out there – do not give it up! t

When Reggie comes out and begins to move into the parking lot, I encourage Peggy to take baby steps and follow slowly. Never rush a dog heading out before the turn. Reggie amazingly finds the turn. When I laid the track, the parking lot was full of cars and people! Our dogs are so amazing! And she makes it to the end!

On the two-hour old track, Reggie is steady and the scent has settled into the edges as I had planned. It helps her to be sure of what she is following, so that when the track moves out to open areas, she can make good decisions. If the entire track had followed edges, we would never know how she would do ‘in the real world’ out in the open. If it had been all out in the open, she would have struggled the entire way, never having opportunities to feel super-confident and feel good. We want our dogs to feel good!

Running the track AGAIN! A lesson about fresh vs. aged scent

By this time Judy showed up and joined us. I suggested she come a bit late, so that it would be a blind track for her Border Collie Lark. We waited until it was 30 minutes old. Peggy had left the articles in place for Judy. I asked Peggy to follow Judy and “practice helping a fellow tracker” on a blind track. I thought that it would be a good experience for Peggy to watch another dog run it, and think more about what Reggie had done (all part of the learning experience!). Plus it gave me a chance to rest with Micah.

Judy start

Judy and Lark – start

Judy turn

Judy and Lark – first turn

Judy end of track

Lark made her turn…

Judy Lark down

Lark has a nice down indication

The wind was still gusting, and Lark had a LOT more scent in the sheltered areas. We observed later that Reggie had an advantage with the older track, because scent had settled. Lark definitely worked through the challenge of swirling winds along the trailers, as the crosswind blew over the roof of the church into the corridor. Lark also had more trouble approaching the first big parking lot – as a result of the harder start with swirling scent. Once she got that turn, she zipped through the legs along the building! Now she had the confidence and had locked onto the scent. She made the turn away from the building after really investigating some potted plants near the second doorway. Her parking lot turn was great, though a bit early, again due to MORE scent around the turn from Peggy running it and me following it.

It was an interesting lesson! Fresher scent is not always better. Sometimes AGED tracks are an advantage, especially on windy days! Lark doesn’t even have a TD yet and is doing amazing urban tracking work. It was good for her to work on the 30 minute mark despite the wind, as we want to be sure she works in the type of scent she will get for a TD. She is an amazing tracking dog!

Judy does do a lot of aged tracks for her too, but we will make sure that Lark continues to work well in the fresher scent with more residual. Is 30 minutes old really easier? On the field yes. In urban, no!

Micah’s turn – hot track

Micah sit

Micah at age 7.5 months old – she is maturing into a beautiful dog

As soon as Judy and Lark were done, I ran Micah. In this case, it was a HOT track and Micah loves Judy and Lark!

Both Reggie and Lark had been on the track without a lot of deviation, so it was still a nice clean track for Micah to follow.  Micah did her first non-veg turn when she was 3 months old (left) and is so confident on hard surfaces!

This track was pure motivation for Micah. She was so sure of herself, handling every turn beautifully. I love to do this with my own dogs or with students who are learning new skills. When the dog runs a track like this, we are able to practice our line handling, and can really study our dogs’ body language.

So proud of my 7 month old pup!

For the dog – it is a wonderful tracking opportunity to find flow, feel good and experience the kind of tracking the future will hold!

Videos

Micah START to Wood article (which she retrieved!)

Micah mid track from wood to article two after church doors

Micah along building, road cross to parking lot turn and end

As Micah is only 7 months old, I was very proud of how she did, despite the fact that it was a hot track. She is going to be a fun dog when she grows up! She loves tracking! I will also be able to do better behind her after I have a hip replacement (yes, I am struggling and in pain, which is why I rested while Judy ran the track with Lark!)

Three dogs on the same track – lessons learned

There were a lot of great lessons to learn after watching each dog on the track. Lessons about the age, the effects of wind, watching dogs sort out turns and figure out tricky turns.

If you are tracking with friends, why not make good use of a track by re-running it? If you are training two dogs, you can also switch up who gets the fresh track and who follows after.

If you train one dog, here are some ideas for you:

  • If your dog has trouble with one part of the track (note how I break tracks into zones) go back and re-lay that zone, put down some treats, scuff, or trench the turns. Re-run that part on a short line with encouragement and have fun!
  • If your dog is advanced and working on UTDX or TDX, leave the articles and go back the next morning to run it AGAIN when it is 12 or more hours old! You will be amazed at how your dog does on a super-aged morning track! Even just leave one article and re-run one section that is this age.
  • Go back and lay the exact track in other conditions or at different times of day. The EXACT track. See how your dog reacts to the track in new conditions to learn more about scent in urban areas!

Judy went back to re-lay and run this track on Tuesday, two days later. She ran all of her dogs on it, running the track three times again! Kudos to Judy for doing this! It was a really neat pattern. In different winds and at a different time of day, this was a neat thing to do and each of her dogs reportedly amazed her on the tricky turns.

Blind track today! 

Today, Judy laid a blind track for Micah! It was Micah’s first blind track. Judy ‘coached’ me from behind to make sure I followed Micah and could observe her body language. I am not a blind track fan, but doing them from time to time with a trusted friend is a high, and tells us where we are at. Micah did a great job today and I am still feeling very happy about her performance. After Micah was finished, Judy ran the same track with Lark! After the challenging tracks of last weekend, today’s training was simpler and the dogs were allowed to shine.

Last weekend we invested 4 hours into running the track three times. Today we were done in 30 minutes and had time to enjoy the beautiful day. Dogs were happy and so were we!

If you have found some good training tips in this post, please let me know! And please let me know if you have any questions by emailing me through my website – spiritdancetrackingcommunityonline.wordpress.com. Go to the LEARN MORE link to use the contact form if you don’t have my email address.

We can’t always meet, but through online coaching I offer the same kind of coaching using Google Earth maps and video to comment on tracks and come up with new homework. 

Thank you Peggy for coming down and thanks Judy for joining us! It was a great weekend and I hope others will learn and benefit from our fun tracks and fun time together. 

Donna and Micah!

 

 

 

Learning to read my new pup – Micah’s 3 hour old UTDX track!

Today (Oct 7) Micah turns 7 months old! I have been training her since June 10 and have introduced her to all surfaces and ages, but due to the extreme heat this summer, did not do a full 3 hour old track with her.

Today we did a 640 meter full UTDX track with four articles (plastic, wood, sock and leather). It was 6 C and windy when we ran it. There was NO FOOD on the track as she won’t touch it, but she gets a treat at every article.

The wind was blowing from the bottom of this map, UP. So leg one was in a cross wind, and so were both parking lots. The portion behind the building was in shelter from the wind. 

Map

The videos and slideshows below line up with the parts of the track shown below.

In the slideshows below, I chose stills of the videos to show what I watch for when I follow my dog on a track I laid. I don’t like blind tracks – I learn a lot more about my dog’s behaviour when I know where the track goes, and I study their body language.

In the slideshows I put captions of the things in the videos and when running the track that I memorize and learn about Micah’s tracking behaviours. Some are her own, like ears up for articles. Others I have taught, such as a nice heads up negative and circle back.

Every dog is so interesting – many have unique behaviours but I also instill and shape the ones I want to be in place for our teamwork. For example, I learned how to teach a self-initiated negative and circle back from an RCMP mentor. Micah is the 3rd dog I have trained this to now. You can see this below. I am so proud she did this consistently! If you click on the photos here, they are a slideshow as well… showing her negative / circle back.

 

 

 

I am so proud of Micah for doing this track at this age! She definitely slowed down and really had to think – she showed some stress at times. But I encouraged her and she carried on – which is a part of our teamwork too!

Here are the videos and slideshows. I hope you enjoy them! Please let me know if you find them useful.

VIDEO – Park one. Opens in a new window. 3 minutes.
Start to first article

Slideshow of things I pay attention to below:

 

 

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VIDEO of Part Two: Opens in a new window
1 min 50 seconds
Part 2 – first parking lot crossing to wood article

Slideshow of things I pay attention to below:

 

 

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VIDEO of Part 3: Opens in a new window
Almost 4 minutes
Long stretch here from wood article to sock (see map above)

Slideshow of things I pay attention to:

 

 

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VIDEO Part 4. Opens in a new window.
2 minutes and 26 seconds
From the sock to the big parking lot turn

Slideshow of things I pay attention to:

 

 

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Micah is only 7 months old and she is a wonderful tracker. I have worked hard to train her but also I believe a great deal of her talent is genetic and comes from her beautiful pedigree, with many wonderful IPO and police / security dogs from Germany and Czech behind her, including (way back) Caden’s lines too, which are very special to me.

Thank you to Wendelin German Shepherds (link in the sidebar) for this pup! She is what they said she would be – calm in manner, but wonderful drive to work and very strong desire to be obedient and to learn. I look forward to a partnership with Micah for many years to come.

74

Happy retrieve!

End

Micah’s pose at the end. What an amazing girl. She is big but she is a puppy!

 

Happy 6-month Birthday Micah!

Happy Birthday to Gem von Wendelin!

Micah birthday

Micah, you are truly a gem. You picked me out through pictures as a wee baby with your beautiful deep gaze. You’ve helped to heal my heart and spirit after losing your great uncle Caden (pictured below) to cancer last fall at only 8 years old.

Caden tracking

Tracking Champion Caden von der  KleinenWiese

I love your joyful side and your serious side. In 4 months I feel like I’ve always known you.

 

Thank you to the Kaisers and Wendelin Kennels for giving me the choice from this beautiful litter and for their care to breed such lovely and true German Shepherds. I can’t imagine being without one.

Micah and BCs

And the Border Collie family has adopted her too!

 

Looking forward to what the future brings. Thank you God for all of life’s blessings!

 

 

My little pup, my new friend and partner, Micah. You are so welcome into this world.

Building Blocks

One of the things about starting with a new pup is the opportunity to put ideas into practice and test your own training methods. Micah is now finished her 6 month orientation to tracking and we wrapped it up yesterday with a tough track in a new place! 500 meters, one glove at the end, heat, distractions and still getting used to the new harness… locking my own training method down and feeling very happy with it!

The feature image for this post is my favourite moment of the track – where she crosses a road, then leaps to the left as she smells the track on the boulevard! This moment is etched in my mind as proof she really knows what she is doing and taking charge! These stills from the video (below) show that moment. She is looking at a car when she catches the scent and LEAPS to the left! This is her 10th week of tracking, having started at age 12 weeks.

I have been very blessed with great mentors so when I say ‘my methods’ I must qualify that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. This is a 12th century expression that originally meant “discovering truth by building on previous discoveries” coined by Bernard de Chartres, a French philosopher.

I always tell people I am like a bird, building a nest, when it comes to tracking. I’ve been at it since 1989 with my own dogs, instructing since 1995, and coaching since 2013. I have reached a point where I can define my ideas and methods very clearly now, but each one has roots somewhere, with someone who has helped me along the way and I am always careful to give credit to the people who’ve been generous in sharing their knowledge – not only tracking enthusiasts but also people in other dog sports and people sports including athletic pursuits like running!

Stand Sept 4

Micah – Gem von Wendelin aged 6 months old on September 7. 

One thing I knew I wanted to do with Micah, is allow her to be joyful and confident in her critical first months with me. We will have a lifetime together to finesse her behaviours and skills. I know many stockdog trainers who let their young Border Collies be pups until they are mentally mature for training. As puppies they are introduced to sheep and work alongside experienced and trained dogs. Their confidence and instincts are allowed to bloom. At some point, their serious training begins on this building block.

I have applied this idea to training Micah. I’ve also had her natural drive and curiousity to work with, knowing she is well-bred and comes from a long line of accomplished IPO, police and security working German Shepherds. The stills below (from the video) show me her strong desire to work and her courage and focus at age 6 months – climbing onto a metal bench and tracking by tennis players batting balls and yelling to each other.

S41S4benchS3tennis

My goal has been to introduce her to all of the things we will encounter in our tracking career without putting any stress on her. Every time we go out, it has been fun, gentle and encouraging. She has been allowed to ‘be herself’ with no pressure to adopt a precise style.

At the same time I have enough experience to manipulate these training sessions to ensure her success, through the design of the outing, to how I handle her line or where I place rewards. No – I have not been willy-nilly about it – but I have worked HARD at shaping her behaviour by bringing out her wonderful qualities and locking them in.

I could not be more excited about how she has demonstrated a clear idea of what tracking is, her job, and expressed her sheer joy to track on any surface, at any time, and for any distance without reserve. She throws herself into her work with abandon and despite being an awkward youth – I see in her the glimmer of the dog she will be. It makes me so happy!

Yesterday’s track was 550 m track in a new area – one where Micah has never worked before, with distractions of people and families out on Labour Day.

There were children and families in the parking lot on bicycles, two greyhounds in a baseball diamond running free beside her start, and tennis games happening at the tennis courts. Part of the track along the top went down a backlane past peoples’ homes. We also passed dugouts (scent traps) beside the ball diamonds, and a man lying on a blanket reading on our way to the end. For surfaces we had grass, gravel, pavement, concrete, and a road cross that leaped over to veg with no actual transition (in the video you will see her LEAP to the veg!).

September 4 500 m Lions Park

I aged this track 45 minutes then put on her new harness and took off. I admit I was a little nervous because we have mainly worked at our “home base” building skills. This was the day I would take her to a new place and see how well she could do.

So after seeing the stills that catch my attention – here is the video!

VIDEO – 500 m track in a new place
*7 minutes

 

Comments

Micah barked at the greyhounds (she has a new, deep GSD bark now), then saw the flag and took off beautifully! I actually jogged a little behind her. She was ahead the entire way, completely in charge. She stopped at a metal bench to check scent and her awkward puppiness showed as she lost her balance climbing on it – so I made sure she felt secure and she carried on unphased. She watched a bit of tennis, then made her transition from the boulevard to the road with the slightest encouragement.

There was only one glove at the end – because in previous tracks she has not had interest in articles. They will be taught separately. She just wants to track – so I gave her what she wanted! One glove marked the end! Here are some stills from the hard surface leg along the road into the parking lot! Nose down and lovely posture. Is that my puppy? Yup, her orientation is over – she is a tracking dog!

S4roadnose downS4turnS4glove

Other stuff

I’ve also been introducing her to other things she will need for a good life, including a strong recall. Being a German Shepherd, she wants to be with me and the hard part is finding somewhere to let her wander off… after tracking yesterday I used a fenced in area to keep working on her whistle recall. You can see what a baby she still is here. She was very tired from tracking too!

VIDEO – WHISTLE RECALL

 

We also revisited the dugouts, to make sure she had courage to go into them.

Now the serious training begins, as I continue on this journey with Micah – Gem von Wendelin!

Stay tuned!

What a difference a harness makes!

On September 7 Micah will be 6 months old! Today I completed her 6 month orientation to articles, age, shapes, surfaces and obstacles. Of course there will always be more to learn but my goal has been to expose her puppy brain to as much as possible – and the timing is perfect because she is BIG AND STRONG suddenly! Her joy is also a handling issue. Now that I know she loves tracking and has all the confidence she needs, I will be going back to foundations and will add in some discipline and manners. Today on a new harness I felt a lack of control and unbridled enthusiasm that underscored the need to reintroduce her to tracking with some style and precision.

On today’s track she wore her new Redline K9 harness that is used by law enforcement. It has a padded breastplate and a style that ‘hugs’ her body more comfortably. It made such a difference as she leaned in and pulled very hard today! I think in addition to the harness, it is her age – she has a ton of confidence and is getting a tad independent (and she weighs 60 pounds!).

By the way, it was a bittersweet decision to get her a new harness, because my faithful old leather harness is 27 years old. Caden is the last of my previous 6  GSDs to wear it. My Border Collies track on nylon harnesses. My old faithful harness will be displayed somehow. It has seen 5 TDs, 4 TDXs, 3 UTDs, 1 UTDX and one Tracking Champion. It is amazing how a piece of equipment can be charged with so many memories and emotions…

Today’s track

610 m map

610 meters long, 45 minutes old, wet veg from sprinklers, puddles on non veg from sprinklers. 6 types of articles – in order: sock, metal canning ring, wood, cloth glove, plastic pill bottle, leather glove at the end. Cooler morning, low 20s C, slight wind

All I knew when I started this track was that I wanted her to go down stairs! I did a live video on Facebook as I laid the track, describing my decisions and giving some plotting tips – which can be seen HERE

I love to videotape, and when I ran the track, filmed Micah from article to article. I do this, because I need to take time to reward and it breaks the videos up into smaller chunks. Below are the videos of the track. If you watch the track laying video first, you can then see how Micah and I handled this track – ON THE NEW HARNESS! Remember to be kind, because she really felt her oats (oh and have I mentioned I am lame and need a hip replacement?? It’s true! And it’s a great excuse on days like today!)

Start to article 1 – sock

 

 

Above are some stills from the video. I study my videos to see how my dog is doing in terms of nose down and precision, and to better understand body language as there are so many things we can miss when we follow them on a track.

I am always surprised by what I see! In this case, I felt very flustered by the end of this “charging track!” But when I see the stills I see many lovely moments. I strongly encourage you to do the same. We tend to be hard on ourselves. Remember that there are always good things to celebrate – and I even celebrate the messes in training – because then I can learn and work on them!

Videos – Start to article 2

See the map above to orient yourself!

START

CURB AND STAIRS TO ARTICLE 1 SOCK

ART LAWN TO CANNING LID

 

Middle Section – Building to playground

If you look at the map again, you will see how I have broken this track up. It is pretty much UTDX length. I always think of tracks in 3 parts – start, middle and end. For me, the above START was all one natural section, joined together.

The MIDDLE section has some obstacles, a building, tennis court and play area. Below, the END section is back out in the open and has the final requirements for a complete track. And by the way, this is a good way to think of a track in a test too! However, remember that a parking lot, and non-veg turn, can be in any zone. At the last test I judged I put the big parking lot turns ALL at the beginning of each track because I worried about hot weather and dogs burning out by the end.

In the below stills, you can see some moments I loved about the middle section, plus something that made me startle! When I laid this, there was a bunny in the area. Is it hiding in that hole? Is it a rattlesnake? Or just a buggy little branch? Cigarette butts? Whatever was there, Micah leaped back. I respect that. It can save them, and I just stayed calm on track even though I wondered what was there! Calm is important to keep going. She made a nice turn on dead grass, and committed. Before the play area, she saw a dog being walked on the bike path, but went back to work so nicely!

 

 

 

Video – Building, tennis courts, play area

BUILDING

PLAY AREA

 

END Section – Soccer Field and road cross to parking lot, non veg end

Here is the end! Micah was visibly hot and tired. I think in part it was because she pulled harder in this new harness! We need our dogs to be under control not just to read them and succeed, but also to prevent them from expending unnecessary energy! If this was a UTDX she would be very tired and dry by now.

I try to work my dogs as far as they can go with NO water, as I think it breaks up the flow, and I would prefer they rest at articles. I do water if I have to however (it is something she needs to learn too). In this case, she is so close to the end, but has a few laps in the puddles.

I love along here how she overshot the turn a bit, but does sniff the hard surface, and corrects to the right line – along the puddles! The glove is tossed off track due to potential traffic. She has no trouble with that! At the end of the track, Judy Wallace my friend and tracking partner, and Dan Vas, Alberta’s SAR member with Canadian Search Dog Association greet her!

In the videos below, you can see she is finally settling down. Yes, complexity and heat can do that. So can expending energy. I will work on having her be this settled from the start however. She is now 6 months old and we will start the “serious” training!

 

 

Videos – soccer field, parking lot and non veg turn

SOCCER FIELD

THE END! PARKING LOT TURN!

 

Thank you for reading this blog post. This is my way of journalling, and I also try to share tips to help you on your tracking journey. I would love to hear if these posts are useful to you and if you enjoy them.

THREE HOURS after Micah ran the track, Ben ran it! He is my own Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben TDX UTDX. He finished his Tracking Championship last May!

This is the link to Ben’s 3 hour old track today! 

Between September 2015 and May 2017, Ben passed his TD, UTD and TDX all in a row on his first attempts. He passed his UTDX on his second try! I am so, so proud of him, and thank God for this quirky, happy boy, son of my Tracking Champion Alta-Pete Jet.

Ben is my third CKC Tracking Champion. Jet was my first (2012) and in 2015 TCH Caden von der KlienenWiese TDX UTDX finished his title. Caden is pictured below. He passed his TDX and UTDX back to back, same day – 45 minutes between tracks. He was a great friend, great dog, great partner, great teacher and had a great heart. Cancer took him at age 8. It still breaks my heart.

Thank God too, for that, as he became very ill in 2016 and died last November… bringing Micah into my life. She is related to him and tracks on his red line. I miss him every day and always will.

 

 

 

Micah was also out on a SAR play night earlier this week. Stay tuned for that post!

Donna

Building up experiences for a lifetime of tracking together

After a busy few weeks of seminars and judging, I am back out with my own pup Micah. My goal has been to expose her young mind to everything she will encounter in her tracking career by the time she is 6 months old. This will last with her for a lifetime of tracking together and make sure she has the big picture, and is filled with joy whenever we go out together. Once she is more mentally and physically mature, I plan to back up and begin working on precision and technical things I’d like to be in place.

Micah Aug 26 bridge

Micah is “Gem von Wendelin” born March 7. Her sire and dam (Goran and Hannah) are both beautiful IPO dogs, and Micah’s pedigree goes back to my dear TCH Caden who died last fall from cander. She is related through 2X Worlds winner Orry vom Haus Antwerpa – a ways back in the pedigree but enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy that I was able to find a GSD that carries a piece of Caden who was an amazing partner and friend, and who was gone too soon. Here she is at the end of her serpentine track yesterday. August 26. She is a striking black sable.

First of all, I feel very blessed to have this pup! She is a natural tracker and a clear-headed girl with loads of confidence and great drive to track! Every time I am out with her, I thank God for placing her into my life. While I have followed a plan and work to set her up for success, she has met me half way with an obvious heritage of working lines and a genetic desire to work, to learn, to please me and to be my partner. Thank you to Wendelin Farms and Christina Kaiser for the honour of owning this special girl.

Importance of having a vision and setting goals

I always encourage tracking students to set goals, then break them down with timelines and specifics. In Micah’s case, of course I am aiming for her CKC Tracking Championship. Perhaps I will also aim for AKC tracking titles – something I have never done before. Being an experienced tracker and trainer with 3 Tracking Champions and many dogs whose pawprints have gone before Micah’s, I have a list of things to check off while she is still a pup and we are doing well!

These are all of the things I am happy to say we have accomplished! 

  • Happy, confident puppy
  • Social with people and dogs
  • Know I am her partner and trust me; respond to line handling – taut, loose, ‘easy’
  • Recognize a stake or cone at the start of a track
  • Start confidently and carry on down leg one
  • Show a loss of scent (negative) in a way I can read her body language
  • Be track faithful on serpentines and in all weather conditions (we haven’t had rain or snow yet)
  • Turn smoothly and not second guess; multiple turns
  • Track around buildings and fences, and turn away from them to follow scent
  • Be exposed to all articles – leather, cloth, wood, plastic and metal of all sizes, and
  • Love her articles! Begin some kind of pause and indication; happy restarts
  • All surfaces – grass in all conditions, dirt, gravel, rocks, pavement, concrete, mulch
  • Step on and off curbs and medians and confidently handle transitions
  • Nose down on hard surface – not just trotting across it
  • Be allowed to sort out small problems with my support
  • Consistent speed
  • Stay calm and focused even when there are people or dogs and other distractions
  • Track for random rewards with less food on track, less food at articles, lots of praise
  • Understand that she is rewarded at the car
  • Know when she is at the end

Yesterday I did a large veg/non-veg serpentine with Micah. It started on veg, then crossed multiple surfaces with transitions. This was the first time I have combined so many in one track. Below is the map. I used a variety of articles to stop motion in each area, and ended in a nice veg dip so that her last memory was an easy veg leg.

Aug 26 veg-non veg serpentine

I had a long walk to the start, which was marked with a survey flag. As we got closer, she saw the flag and pulled to her start. CHECK! She sniffed here, then took off on a nice straight line down leg one, stopping at the first article and picking it up. CHECK! She caught her turn, and put her nose on the lightswitch. CHECK! From here, the hard stuff began, but it was a very good positive start leading up to the middle portion of the track.

Here are some stills of the middle portion showing things she tracked through in quick succession – nothing was long enough to belabour over; it was done and we moved on quickly with happy praise. In order – a leg down a row of curbs, a turn from here to a sock, down a narrow boulevard and an open angle across concrete, an article in rocks, pine mulch, and on the final veg leg – LEAVES! Nights are getting cool now! I realized she has never seen leaves on the grass before. So precious!

I especially love the picture below. It shows that she is really a thinking dog. At the hard surface turn – she went off to the veg (a natural inclination), then stopped to face the turn and thought before heading out onto the parking lot. I was THRILLED with this moment! When you watch the video you can see her pause again to sniff the air, then see her get wind of the sock! This all tells me that she will not be a dog to blunder over hard surface or rush down legs – and more importantly – this is mine to keep or ruin as we go forward. That is a huge responsibility!

Aug 26 still 1

VIDEO

Here is the video of the second half of her multiple surface transitions:

 

As of this weekend we have a few things still to add to her list:

  • Stairs, hills and obstacles such as a gazebo or covered roof
  • Age (she’s done an hour old on a dewey morning)
  • Distance (she has done a 600 m track but on a very wet lawn in nice conditions)
  • Heavy rain
  • Strong wind
  • Snow
  • Difficult terrain such as long stretches of sand, rough veg, soggy ground

Clearly some of the items on the second list can’t be added until she is ready and more experienced in basic tracks.

I was tempted to head out and do some stairs today, but had to follow my own Spiritdance system and “walk the talk” – after a hard track, always do an easy one! We can’t ever let our dogs be stressed or burned out in tracking and it is so important to keep up their confidence!

As well, I have another practice which I have maintained for many years: I always do hard tracks on Saturdays for three reasons.

  1. Generally this helps us to peak for tests in the same way that runners do their long runs on Saturdays, because that gets the body used to the cycle where they will demand more on race day.
  2.  If my dog and I have little issues, I can fix them. I make sure that on Sunday, I can enjoy an easier track, and fix those issues. Then I don’t lose sleep over them all week!
  3. Sunday is the Sabbath and a day of rest! For many years I have made it a practice to combine tracking with going to church. I will track before church and give thanks for my dogs, the day, the hobby, nature and my health. I will also let tracks age, then go run them after church. My Christian beliefs are a big part of my training system and I believe God loves it when we are at peace and loving our dogs, plus being kind to others. If I commit my hobby to him and give thanks, he will bless this time! It’s true! I’ve always felt close to God when I track and am so grateful for this hobby.

Yesterday I did push things a bit. I have been encouraging Micah to play the article game with her mentor, Tracking Champion Ben who is her best friend. I wanted her to do it without him for the first time. She did well but the day heated up and she was tired. At the end of the ‘game’ she was clearly dragged out. I need to remember that she is only 5 months old! She still gave it a lot of effort though 🙂

VIDEO

Article games:

First of all, Ben did the article game while Micah watched. I hoped this would build up her drive to get out and do it on her own!

She was happy at first… First article – towel – and joyful enthusiasm!

Second article – happy but line gets caught. I am leery of not having a line as this is an open area where people pass by on bikes or with dogs…

We did a few more (too many!) and at the end, she showed me that she wanted to try, but was way too tired for this. This was one of those sleepless nights! Even if I did use the opportunity to get down and sit indications, incidentally!

She did have a fun play with Ben later, so that we ended on a happy note…

But of course, in my own enthusiasm, I gave her too many. Ben makes it look very easy and business-like. I should have only put out three for her (if indeed I did it at all, after that hard track!)

Sunday: Veg track and recalls!

Today, I did a lovely mostly veg track at the college residence in an area where she always does well. The corridors between the buildings, and the grass along the buildings hold scent and allow her to really flow and make good decisions. I couldn’t be more happy with her track today.

Aug 27 Residence

Today’s track – with only 3 leather gloves. Yesterday I think I burned her out on articles and sometimes “less is more!”

Things I see: Start enthusiasm and recognition; good turns; small problems solved and clear negatives with decision making; article enthusiasm; consistent speed and focus with motivation for the entire track. And she is only 5 months old!

Below are some stills from the video of the things I loved about today: lovely nose down, and out ahead the entire way taking charge. I often find my tracking girls to be more independent, and she is convincing me that my observations are true. She is so proud and happy at the end – and we WANT this in tracking! Our dogs must feel confident. She is also very happy that Judy Wallace was with us – our friend and tracking partner. Judy followed so that Micah had another experience – a “judge” walking behind us! You can see Micah turn to look for Judy as she poses for her traditional end of track photo.

VIDEO

Micah running the track this morning. Just makes me so thankful! I went to church afterwards and truly thanked God for so many good things in my life.

 

I wasn’t going to make the same mistake today as I did yesterday. I decided to let her cool off by having a ‘free run’ (on a long line) and playing around with whistle recalls. Dan Vas (Canadian Search Dog Association SAR guru and friend) uses a whistle to have his dogs turn in searches. Micah knows to come to a whistle because I use the stockdog ‘that’ll do’ whistle for my Border Collies, and they have taught her to whirl and run for it. For fun, I tried the Fox whistle and she took to it very naturally! It was a fun and happy end to our training morning!

After this, Judy and I went to Starbucks after tracking. By the way, Judy does not get lessons from me – we are training partners! She has been tracking for years, and is making wonderful progress with the amazing Border Collie Lark. I am so grateful to have someone to train with. Judy does her own thing – she knows what she needs, and we help each other. It is really nice (even when she tells me straight when she has suggestions for my training!) Today Lark and Riley the Mini Schnauzer both did nice tracks! Ben re-ran Lark’s track for fun.

IMG_4550

Riley greets me after his track! Terriers are so appealing! 

 

And then I was off to my church, Hillcrest Evangelical Church.The message today was all about loving without limits – and putting it into practice. It was a good message for those of us in dogs who get frustrated sometimes, and sensitive to the words and actions of others. It is easy to love people who are nice to you, but God calls us to love everyone, and see them through his eyes, with kindness and compassion. The pastor talked about how we need to follow God’s laws to keep our society civil, as so much hate seems to be in the news lately. I love these messages and I do try to bring them into my training:

  • Don’t be self centred – keep your eyes on Jesus to stay focused on what is important
  • Radical love – even for people who hurt us or who we don’t know or are unlovable. We all love dogs – but we need to look at the people at the end of the line!
  • Do not respond to insults! Place value on friendships and relationships first – and be proactive with a kind spirit, rather than fall into the trap of self pity or revenge.
  • Freely do more than is required – offer more, don’t just do enough or give ‘enough’ and do it out of the spirit of honouring God and reflecting Jesus’ love for others, to shine that light
  • Serve others freely – be giving, go the extra mile! Jesus said to do this!

These lessons can all be found in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 – around verses 38-43. They are all direct words from Jesus. The sermon fit so well into my frame of mind, after a busy and emotional few weeks. I love tracking, training, judging and being with my dogs. But people are who count, and God comes first. I try to have these all in order, every day. And when I do, I feel at peace and find even more joy in my training.

And I wish you the same! Micah enjoyed a nap in front of the air conditioner when we got home!

PS We are succeeding at letting Micah be a bratty, happy puppy too. Yesterday morning she pestered her “Grandma Jet” my 12 year old Tracking Champion Border Collie. I love how they get along. Micah irritated Jet into giving up a toy! Great strategy… I am sharing these to make sure you know, she is still a puppy too, despite some pretty strong tracking training going on!