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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
After tracking, PLAY! We played for longer than we tracked!
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.
Then, she gets it!
Emerging from behind all of the cars that were not there when I laid this!
Here is a short clip of Lark starting up a wrong path, then correcting to the track!
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!
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.
At the end of the training session, the dogs were happy and tired, and we went to Starbucks for our reward!
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!