Ted, the Accidental Tracker

Ted, Ted, Ted.He’s never had any formal training as a tracking dog. Over the years, I have meant to train him but was busy, and he was meant to be a stockdog. But life takes funny twists and turns. Here I am with only a UTDX to finish on Ted’s son Ben. While Ben’s tracks age, I thought I may as well see if Ted might be a candidate for TD. Today, he surprised me! I may even try for UTD as long as 11 year old Ted stays healthy and agile. He is in great shape, so who knows! He did a sort of ‘freestyle’ track but my goal was just to see where we are at. I loved watching him over the course of the track. Good boy!

ted-400-m-oct-22Today I laid this 400 m UTD style track on a college lawn (very short grass) . The wind was blowing fairly steady from the left so Ted had a tailwind to start, and two legs with good cross winds. It did not take him long to find some confidence and fix his own problems. The track was aged 30 minutes exactly as I wanted a ‘baseline’ track for a training plan for Ted. In video 3 below, the parking lot turn is at a cut in the curb. I let him off lead here, but he comes to that cut and does a body snap to it! Very cool to watch him.

VIDEOS – If you really want a flavour of how he pulls it together, please watch Part 2. Part 1 is really rough except for the end turn and article. In Part 3 he does a wonderful start and turn, but I let him run offlead in the parking lot!

Each of these videos is about 2 minutes long. My goal was to guage where we are at and what kind of training plan he needs over the winter. He sure surprised me! I did a “little” manipulation of the line or my body language here and there but over this track you can see him build up confidence!

Part 1 (click here) 
I am very close to start, but over the 2 minutes or so, he begins to get out ahead. I love the end where I stay neutral and he picks up his turn then finds a cloth glove! His legs were – start: tailwind, leg 2: xwind, leg 3: tailwind.

Part 2 (click here)
Nails his turn, then a long cross wind leg where he overshoots the next turn but fixes it to head into the wind on leg 4, a bit of quartering into the wind, then a very nice decisive turn left to leg 5 and a light switch plate! He passes it (what’s that? he said) but when I tell him it is special he easily agrees. After this article we stopped and played fetch with his boomerang squeaky.

After reaching this light switch and showing interest in it, I pitched a toy for Ted before carrying on

Part 3 (click here) 
By this point, Ted takes over very confidently. I am feeling blown away. He overshoots near a tree in the cross wind, but fixes it himself. I had planned to let the line go in the parking lot because he LOVES to do wide outruns and find gloves! It is his joy. I’ve left gloves for him for many years to find for fun.

In the past, I have started Ted in spurts.When he was a young, started stockdog he seemed to detest tracking and even refused to budge once when he was in harness – he literally lay down in a field and glared at me. I think he saw himself as a sheep dog only. I was so busy with River and Jet in UTDX, and Caden as a young started tracking dog, that I said, “OK Ted, you win!” This was after I tried him in a TD test to miserable fails (sigh).

The pictures below show Ted doing what he loves, and was trained to do. Ted is Ben’s sire and a son of Scott Glen’s Pleat. His mama was a cattle farm Border Collie in Big Valley. I got Ted at age two as a “started dog” from Scott Glen back when I lived in Thunder Bay and had a small hobby farm with my own sheep.

After moving to Alberta, it was hard to stay in shape without regular practice. However despite that, Ted and I managed a 3rd place in one of our only Novice Trials (Wildrose STD). I try not to feel bad about the turn of events taking us away from sheep herding because there was nothing I could really do about it, and the dogs have been very happy – and they don’t dwell on these things. Tracking has been our focus.

Ted at a Calvin Jones (Wales) clinic
Wildrose Stockdog Trial – 3rd place Novice Run
Ted at Lee Lumb’s in BC
Ted at Leanne Huber’s in Airdrie, practicing

A year ago I made a brief attempt to start Ted in tracking (again). However, working on Ben’s and Caden’s tracking at the time left little time for poor Ted! He did well then too, but we ended up moving to Medicine Hat in January and that put an end to Project Ted at the time. I am really happy to start training him – again! And this time, I have the time to stick with it. Good boy Ted, that’ll do!

Today, he showed me that he is capable of pulling it together on a TD track. Good heavens, I think I will aim for UTD! I may have father and son in tests next year. While I age UTDX tracks for Ben I decided I’d train Ted for a TD next year. This track was to see where we are at and what i need to do. Hmmmm. Maybe, just let Ted be Ted and have fun.

Ted in Red Deer when I was planning to start him, but ended up moving to Medicine Hat!

Ben’s demo UTDX training track

It’s only a pine cone! Or is it? Read on…

Yesterday I did a very interesting track with Ben as part of the lesson day at my Mini-Tracking Camp at Olds College. It was 950 m and 5 hours old. I laid it at 7:30 am in fog and on wet veg. I ran it at 12:35 noon in strong wind, on dry veg. It is a wandering, meandering track that goes past scent draws and has articles in strange places, to create what I hoped were some teachable moments. My plan was to talk about how I handled him through issues and to give him enough loose line that he was doing the track, and to support him the best I could without doing any manipulating (as if I had no idea where it went!)

So as you watch, these are some his challenges:
  • a loop around the end of a fence
  • past a stair well into a low library entrance
  • past a corridor between buildings where there is a chain link fence
  • past a loading dock that goes downhill
  • past an abbatoir with a stinky waste container and livestock chute
  • over a road to a turn on gravel that is on the wrong side of a fence
  • along a long boulevard where an article is tossed off track
  • and finally to his parking lot turn where I deliberately mishandle his turn
  • Add in age, complexity, wind, dry and wandering students!

This is never a track I would lay for someone else, or for a test! It starts at the top and ends to the left (quite near the start!). The articles (red circles) in order were: wood, cloth sock, metal on a sliver of grass in a huge non-veg area – EEK! – leather – hidden between a row of concrete curbs, leather – tossed off track between two curbs on a long easy straight stretch that he could have trotted by, plastic light switch and finally a leather work glove hidden beside a metal box, BEHIND two waste bins.

Map of Ben’s training track at Olds College

Something I love about tracking is the mystery of it all. What will happen? Will he do it? Will he be really confused? What will be the hardest parts? How will I do? Can we get to the end?

This is the link to the video

Ben is UTDX ready, so I felt confident he could do it, but hoped we would have some good times along the way talking about each of these problems and how I handled him. You can’t hear a lot, and we talked more about the track afterwards, but you will see me do things like lengthen or shorten my line, stay put – or – go with him, let him circle, encourage him verbally, have a rest break, or simply follow along as he looks good on track, staying out of his way.

Overall, I am just thrilled with how he did. This track took him just over 20 minutes to complete – steady work the entire way. I have a hip injury, so I am more worn out than Ben as I hobbled along. It was also cold all morning, but now I was hot with two hoodies under my rain pullover. I think I fared worse than Ben!

Hitting the parking lot turn at the end of a track like this is tough when a dog has been working hard and the handler is also tired. In this case, at the 20 minute mark, Ben hits it and immediately turns the correct way (right). As you can see, I keep my body squared neutrally to face the direction we were going. He sniffs a pine cone, and I “pretend” here that I just think that’s all it is – ONLY A PINE CONE!

Well, that pine cone could have made the difference between a nice turn and a difficult one, or even a pass/fail in a sensitive, tired dog. I have no doubt that Caden my TCH German Shepherd would have towed me to the right no matter what I did. But because I don’t honour Ben’s turn right, he comes back to look around. In part, this is because in my training, I always honour a direction a dog shows me. Plus – we know that the first inclination of most dogs is usually correct.

When Ben goes straight, I follow. He does not want to go between the chain link opening into an enclosed area and we turn around. He comes back and tries the other way (left) but stops at the road. At this point you will hear me say – “This could be me in a test!” I could definitely hold my ground here now, thinking we have exhausted straight and left, and hope for another try at the right turn and back to that pine cone. It may now be occurring to me that Ben was not sniffing the pine cone as much as he was telling me, I think it is this way, and now I am checking out evidence.

Had I turned my body there, when he went right to the pine cone, he may well have continued on for a very smooth non-veg turn.

I decided to show how we can also go back to recheck our entry into the parking lot, if it is that close (in this instance it was) but this can be hard if the judge has come this close. Most judges would not be this close to you however. Ben circles the veg, comes back and neatly makes a right turn. Since he had an article after a non-veg turn earlier in the track, I opt to put this one on veg behind waste containers. Ben does look like he is gamely looking for an article but finds his final one to end after a job well done!

This was a hard track – and NOT a blind track. I believe I can learn more about my dogs when I lay their tracks, and learn how they move and what they are telling me. I am very grateful to Cindy Thomas who videotaped this! I didn’t ask for it. If I had, I would have combed my hair and taken off at least one layer from under the rain jacket!!

It is so neat to see Ben work. He is a game worker with a lot of heart. His mother is my TCH Jet and his sire is my Ted. They are Maid and Pleat kids respectively, from their well-known breeders Scott and Jenny Glen, Alta-Pete Stockdogs. Ben may not be working sheep, but he certainly shows his working heritage on track.

Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben TD UTD

I enjoyed the three-day Mini-Camp so much! Day one was beginners and field, Day two was urban and Day three (the day of this video) was spent giving individual lessons. If you are interested in tracking, seminars, and online individual coaching support please visit my website > My Dogs tab for information and contact me. This is my passion and I love to help others on their tracking journey too.

You be the judge

Urban Plotting exercise. On Sunday I decided to lay a track for Ben. There were so many options and I wanted something different. Along the way I thought about all of the ways I could make this track different – not better or worse (I hope).

Urban mysteries – why do some tracks just fail? Are there such things as traps, dead zones, flow, black holes? To get the best outcome, plot the best you can, and learn to cope with the rest. Scent moves in urban environments. We may not always understand it.

Plotting 3 ways in the same area. Learn by observation. Plot some bad tracks and run them. Learn how to handle your way out of it. See what your dog can do.

Exercise: What I was thinking when I laid this for Ben; at key intersections, what could have been different.

Things to think about –

Start / Turn locations and number of turns / Length of legs / Article placement and type/ Transitions / Bait / Terrain and buildings / Obstacles / Areas to avoid / Linear or double back / Ratio of veg to non veg / End / Total length / Walkout / Age / and when running it – wind if any and weather conditions.

Here is the map, from my TomTom Runner’s watch. Start is at the right (green dot) and it is linear.

TomTom watch

Google Earth image. 650 m / 200 is non veg

UTDX 1 - 650 m

START – my track is in blue

Other colours are options and possibilities

Side view

Start and option

Looking back – the start is at the top (photo taken from the road)

Start and turn 1 and options

Turn One and options – blue track is the one I did (the little bridge)

Turn 1 and options


Location of the track and optional leg to article one – metal


Turn 1 option to article 1

Crossing the road – options

soccer field turn 1 start options

Blue track and view of soccer field options

Leg 2 road cross and option

Notice the ‘meander’ here in the blue line

soccer field bleachers

How did Ben do? – Start to article one – metal


Turn two

Turn 2

View of options from the soccer field – blue is the track I did. I’ve done all of these going both ways. They all have pros and cons.

soccer field view

Article two is half way along the fence – wood

soccer field sheds area options

Tennis court area options – go around either way or turn away from it and cross to the parking lots

Note – there is a children’s playground and bike path at the upper end (yellow line) but lots of green space to pass by

around tennis court options

tennis court by blue building options

How did Ben do? – Article one to article two – wood

In front of or behind the blue building?

row of trees area

A look at the front of the daycare building (little white portable)

front of daycare

Article 3 sock is just past the chain link and gap between buildings

art side of building

The path I did today and article 3 – sock

Where did I walk? On the sidewalk? On the grass?

sidewalk lawn leg

How did Ben do? – Article two wood, to article 3 sock

Towards the non-veg turn

Daycare to the left


Gravel lot to the right mostly enclosed – one small opening to the bike path

enclosed area

NV Turn

NV turn

Alt nv turn

Article 4 was leather but it was only at 500 m roughly

NV turn second leg

How did Ben do? – from the sock to the end of the non – veg turn

Crossing the road – options – another look at the front of the daycare building

front of daycare

To the end – wow what to do? I am 100 m short (at least)

last turn options

Alt end

This is what I did

last leg view

How did Ben do? –  from the NV turn article to the end

The end and walkout

last leg

The walkout – is this ok? Blue line shows the track which is all across the road after the red X


Maps – original and alternates. All non veg is roughly 200 – 230 m (between 1/3 and 1/2)

What do you like and why? Article placement?

Original – 650 m 7 turns veg end

UTDX 1 - 650 m

UTDX 2 605 m 6 turns – if there were soccer players on the field?…..

UTDX 2 - 605 m

UTDX 3 625 m 6 turns – altered start from above map

UTDX 3 - 625 m

UTDX 4 640 m 7 turns

UTDX 4 - 640 m

UTDX 5 630 m 7 turns – different non veg turn

UTDX 5 - 630 m

UTDX 6 – 610 m 6 turns – changes to turn one and below bleachers

UTDX 6 610 m

UTDX 7 615 m 7 turns – above bleachers and back towards road

UTDX 7 615 m

UTDX 8 605 m 5 turns – is this easier?

UTDX 8 605 m

Find the errors and what makes these BAD tracks!

They look similar to the tracks above, but……

UTDX 9 620 m 6 turns

UTDX 620 m 6 turns

UTDX 10 640 8 turns

UTDX 640 m 8 turns

A new journey begins… training plans and goals

Jet sunset
How did it happen that Jet has become my ‘old retired girl?’ It seems like yesterday that I was tracking with her constantly, dreaming of future titles. When you love tracking, it can be like a circle of beginnings and endings.

Tonight as I was out tracking, I thought a lot about how a journey seems to close with one dog, and a new one begins with another. It was a bittersweet feeling. I am excited to track with Ben now, but after working so hard with Caden, I find it hard to let go of working with him… I don’t want that journey to end! I gave a lot of thought to what’s next. Here is a description of the evening and my goals for the coming year.

Tracking Champion Caden von der Kleinen Wiese

Caden end of track
Caden at the end of the track tonight – he re-ran Ben’s track! It was fun.

I wanted Caden to finish his advanced titles so badly! He did it, and I am so glad. He’s going to be 8, and Ben needs more attention. But… today, I had time to take Ben out to do an urban track, and I felt like a traitor not doing anything with Caden. I think I will keep Caden’s skills strong, so that I can enter him in tests to support tests that don’t fill. He is such a joy to follow on a track. After I ran Ben, I took Caden out and let him re-run the track to the final glove, which we left for him. He ran it with such intensity. He has no idea about training or tests. He just loves to work.

Here is a link to Caden’s 2 minute rerun of Ben’s track!

Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben TD – son of Jet and Ted

Ben end of track
Ben indicates his final article tonight after a wonderful non-veg turn!

In 2013-14 I regularly did urban tracks with Ben. This year, I decided to just focus on his field tracking and footstep work, offering him all kinds of scenarios to ensure he was solid. Now I can do urban again and he has not forgotten it at all! I believe the confidence on the field carries over to urban tracking. Tonight he did a 45 minute old track that was about 250 metres, with 3 leather articles. He did this so well!

His turn is on a crack with weeds which I crushed under my runners – and it helped him to make a very confident non-veg turn. I think we will be ready for UTD next spring. Ben has come a long way from his start, at 4 months old (below). I’m so proud of him!

P1030531[1] P1030541[1]

TED – Ted is a son of Scott Glen’s well-known Pleat, and looks so much like Pleat
Ted is a TD hopeful!

Ted tracksI have tried to train Ted before. He is Ben’s father and was trained to herd sheep by Scott Glen. I bought him as a ‘started dog’ from Scott in 2007. Ted was two and had all of his basic commands. We moved to Alberta the next year, and have not had luck pursuing herding, hence a focus on tracking.

When he was younger, Ted clearly detested tracking. I’ve tried twice to start him and even entered him into a test for his TD (fail). His heart just has not been in it. Now that he is 10, he is still very athletic and so bright. It seems like he should have more attention and a little job.

Tonight I did a track with 5 articles, including three leather gloves. Ted LOVES to play and I always let him play with gloves after the other dogs have tracked. I did a track for him that followed a chain link fence. He did well along here – happy and wagging.

At each glove, we stopped to play. I may have asked too much – I turned away from the fence to go over a little berm and double back. With help, he figured it out – and he took the third turn on his own, to track with no fenceline and less bait – to his last glove. I was just elated!

At one point, I was trying to pick up an article on the fly and he got way ahead of me looking so motivated! Ted is actually very smart, but can act goofy, and he is a character. Tonight I can see that he remembers and understands tracking. I’ve decided I will train Ted while Ben’s tracks are aging.

Ben lie down ball
It seems so weird to talk about Ben doing more advanced tracking now! I still see him as a baby puppy, but he is now four years old.

And then, there is JET
Tracking Champion Alta-Pete Jet. She is a daughter of Diane Pagel (Scott Glen’s) Open dog Maid

Jet follows Ted 1
Here is Jet following Ted’s track and finding left over treats tonight!

Jet finished her TCH in 2012 right after my father died. She is the only Border Collie to date to become a Tracking Champion, and she has been such a great partner. Sadly, Jet is always a bit sore and has a bad back and sore hip. Tonight, after everyone else worked – I took her out and we cleaned up treats left by Ted, then played ball.

She is younger than Ted but seems years older. It is so hard to see her age. She and I had a wonderful journey together. With my dear River gone. Jet is my only girl, in a house full of boys!

How I treasure her. It seemed like a nice way to cool down after serious training. Thanks Jet!

Goals for next year

  • BEN – UTD then get working on TDX and UTDX
  • TED – TD (and have fun!)
  • CADEN – enter UTDX to support tests, if it is feasible, keep up his training. Caden will also become a walking and hopefully, running dog. At age 7.5 he is slowing down, a bit!
  • JET – love that little Peanut and enjoy every moment with her, walking and keeping her in shape
TCH Alta-Pete Jet, the first (and so far, only) Border Collie to earn this title. She has been a wonderful partner.
75 Riverfacekiss
I miss you River. You are my special heart dog. Lindau’s Uncharted Course TDX UTD You taught me everything, and shared my life journey.

Central Alberta Tracking Society’s first CKC Tracking Test – Results and photos

Debbie Kona sign
Debbie Whitesell is a C.A.T.S. member. She passed TD both days with her GSD Kona.

*to view larger versions of the photos, click on the photo, then use the back arrow to return to the post.

This weekend I had the pleasure of judging the first CKC tracking test hosted by a new club in Alberta known as the Central Alberta Tracking Society or C.A.T.S. It was a successful weekend with 5 new TDs and 1 new TDX over two days. Working with me was Shirley Klatt of Grand Prairie Alberta. Shirley is completing the requirements to become a CKC tracking test judge for TD and TDX. She plotted or assisted with the final TDs and TDXs required over the weekend.

Saturday October 24 – 5 TDs and 1 TDX
A cool morning at 2C and a wet field of short cut hay made for nice conditions for the dogs. All TDs had 4 corners, with an open angle to the article, on average 420 metres and a blind track, aged 30-45 minutes.


Dan me Shirley rosette
Dan Wing and Wriley the Black Russian Terrier passed TD #1 on Saturday

Black Russian Terrier, 4 year old male – Midnight Solo Wriley TD. Wriley is handled by his owner Dan Wing, from St. Albert Alberta (near Edmonton). Wriley footstep tracked the entire track with small checks at each turn and a platz at the glove to become the first TD for this new club.

This is Dan’s first tracking test and we believe this may be the first BRT TD. Tracklayer was Michael Craig, who laid three TDs on Saturday.

Dan and Wriley on the way to the article
Dan Wriley Michael
Dan Wing with tracklayer Michael Craig

TD #2
This Boxer made it to the final turn which was an open angle. She made a 90 degree turn and continued too far to recover.


Kona day 1
Debbie and Kona on leg 4. Also pictured at the top of this post.

GSD, 3 year old female – Broomeacres CC Black Magic Kona TD. Kona is handled by her owner Debbie Whitesell of Red Deer. She did a footstep track to the very last corner, at which point she firmly convinced Debbie to follow her on an open angle to the glove! Tracklayer was Margaret Wing.

TD #4
This Nova Scotia Duck Toller was doing a beautiful job, dead on the track. Unfortunately, just when it looked like she had turn 3 (to the right), she backed up and pulled her handler strongly left too far off track.

TD #5
This Boxer turned too soon from his first leg, slightly recovering only to turn again, too soon, and too far from leg two.


Tanya me Shirley Jacquie
Tanja Klagge and Quinn TDX, with Shirley Klatt (apprentice judge), Donna Brinkworth (me) and tracklayer Jacquie Moore. Photo by Dan Wing.

Hovowart, 3 year old female – Fallon Quinn vom Treuen Freund TDX UTD. Quinn is handled by her owner, Tanja Klagge, who drove for two days to take part in this test. I recognized her right away at the draw, as I judged her successful UTD last year in Courtenay BC, and I remember what a great track she did that day.

On this day, she passed a 940 metre TDX that started at exactly 3 hours old. This blind track had 5 turns, two knolls, a dry ditch and three changes in cover including grass, grass – dirt stubble and dry tall marsh grass.

Quinn had a confident track almost the entire way: her turns were dead on, every article was clearly indicated. She completely ignored the crosstrack on leg 2, but on leg 3 she searched the crosstrack both ways, before returning to the primary track. We are so glad she worked it out. We believe she may be the first Hovowart TDX.

Well worth the drive this weekend! UTDX next! Thank you to tracklayer Jacquie Moore who laid a TDX and a TD on Saturday. There is a picture of Shirley and me plotting Quinn’s track below near the end of this post.

Tanya Quinn leg 2
Tanja and Quinn under the big sky on leg two, green stubble, where she found article one.
Tanya Quinn leg 4
Quinn on leg 4
Tanya sign
Tanja and Quinn TDX UTD

Sunday, October 25 – 5 TDs, TDX absent, all alternates absent
A cold morning at – 6C with bright sun. This field was a lush hayfield with dense, short grass. All TDs had 4 turns.

Me following Mayzie
Me following Leanne and Mayzie on day 2.


Mayzie track
Leanne and Mayzie take their first turn on TD #1, pass!

Nova Scotia Duck Toller, 6 year old female – CH Kelticfox’s Daisy Head Mayzie CD, PCD, RA TD. Mayzie is handled by her owner Leanne Hurl of Sherwood Park (near Edmonton). She did a calm and steady track, only checking off track near some tall grass, and again where something (deer? coyote?) crossed her track – RIGHT BEFORE her article! It made it a TD with a natural crosstrack.

Facing the blazing morning sun in bright frosty conditions, Leanne could barely see for the entire track, and suddenly, Mayzie indicated with a very pretty down. Thanks to tracklayer Wes Haynes, who laid three tracks today!

Rosette Mayzie
Me, with Leanne and Mayzie TD


Kona 1
My iphone was too cold to get photos of Debbie on day 2, so here is another photo of her TD pass on Saturday!

Debbie and Kona the GSD who passed yesterday were able to enjoy a second TD pass today, as the alternate chose not to attend the test this morning. Kona did another lovely job, throwing in some happy leaps today (she must have known yesterday was the ‘serious’ day!) Thanks to tracklayer Wes Haynes.

Rosette Kona
Debbie and Kona TD#2


Rosette Gibson
Audra and Gibson TD

Rottweiler, 6 year old male – Multi V-Rated Nightshadow Braxhaven in Action BH, SE, RN, NAC, O-NJC, TN-N, HP-N, CRN-CL, SD-SP, HIC, TT TD. Gibson is handled by owner Audra Sinclair of Red Deer County. Gibson stepped off the track a few times on leg one, then was dead on to the entire end – 6 minutes start to finish.

Audra says she does not remember jogging behind him. Thanks to tracklayer Jacquie Moore.

Gibson glove
Gibson is showing me what he found!
Audra and Gibson leg 3
Wes and Marilee
We plotted Gibson’s TD last weekend. This is Wes Haynes and his assistant. Wes laid three TDs. Marilee Irwin plotted two other TDs last weekend. Thank you!


Cindy Rocky
Cindy with Rocky on leg two

Boxer, 5 year old male – Ch. Cyntech’s Smooth Criminal RN, SD-SP TD. Rocky is handled by Cindy Thomas, breeder and co-owner with Donna Rodes, of Red Deer. Rocky did a circle at each corner, then pulled Cindy along each leg to the final article.

His final leg was 120 metres and on this leg he built up a lot of forward momentum really leaning into his harness. The wind was coming up and blowing the article scent straight at him. He is apparently very good at nosework, and must have known that article was waiting for him. Thanks to tracklayer Jacquie Moore.

Rocky near end
Rocky heading for the final article
Rosette Rocky
Me with Cindy and Rocky TD

TD #5
This Boxer, who only missed her last turn yesterday, tracked to just beyond turn two when she stopped and began to paw at her eye. The wind had picked up for this track. Her handler noticed that her dog had a very irritated eye and after checking it out, decided to retire her girl and declined a second track opportunity. A heartbreaker, but we know she is ready for next year. Thanks to tracklayer Wes Haynes. As her boy (above) passed, it was still a happy day.

**Update October 26. Cindy has shared that CJ certainly does have an ulcerated eye, so it is a good thing that she did retire her girl. Dog comes first! Tracking is a hobby, and there will be more tests. Good decision Cindy. I hope she heals up fast.

The TDX alternate was absent today.

Me and Shirley tall grass
Donna and Shirley plotting Quinn’s TDX track through the marsh grass.

This was the C.A.T.S.’ first tracking test in the Central Alberta area. It filled with alternates and entrants came in from Vancouver, Calgary, Red Deer and the Edmonton area. The members worked very hard and the test was well-organized with very nice fields. Thanks to the tracklayers – Michael Craig, Wes Haynes, Jacquie Moore, Margaret Wing, Marilee Irwin. Without your stinky feet we would not have a test. Other club members also pulled together to make this test a success.

As I live just south of Red Deer, it was a treat to pick away at plotting over the course of a week at fields only 30 minutes from home. The Alberta fields are huge and the big sky made for some beautiful photos. It was also a pleasure to work with Shirley Klatt, who now completes her apprenticeship and will be another judge for Alberta tests. We all enjoyed her company and her contributions to the test outcomes.

Congratulations everyone!

C.A.T.S. gallery – Leanne Hurl, Cindy Thomas, Jacquie Moore, Debbie Whitesell (behind). Audra Sinclair, me (why are they walking ahead and ignoring me?) and Margaret Wing. Shirley Klatt is hiding behind too. I think we are on our way to judge the TDX. Imagine Tanja watching this motely crew walking up!
Shirley and Jacquie
Shirley Klatt and Jacquie Moore beside the club sign on day one

As the alternate as absent on Sunday, we had to pick up the stakes for the TDX. Without aging it, we gave Jacquie Moore a chance to run it with her Bouvier NV. NV just won the Nationals Bouvier TOP 20 in Colorado. She was also BOS at the famous Westminster dog show last year. I believe this girl is also a natural tracker. Jacquie worked hard to lay tracks this weekend so we thought this would be fun. NV tracked the entire 940 metres. Next year, I think Jacquie will be in the tests!

Jacquie and NV 1

Jacquie and NV
Jacquie and NV run the TDX after the test ended. Followed by Debbie Whitesell.
Sat field
Field, day one, panorama by Jacquie
Field on the morning of day two, panorama by Jacquie

Tracking Champion Caden and Ben TD – Dream Weekend in Thunder Bay!

New TCH Caden von der Kleinen Wiese. What a journey!
New TCH Caden von der Kleinen Wiese. What a journey!

This summer my personal training was like a part-time job. I was training Caden for the two most advanced tracking titles – Tracking Dog Excellent and Urban Tracking Dog Excellent. I was also motivating Ben to complete a TD (beginners) test, knowing he is capable of it, but making sure he could perform consistently in all situations. Caden’s advanced tests would each be 3-5 hours old with 3 articles. The field track (TDX) has crosstracks, and the urban track (UTDX) has 1/3 – 1/2 non-veg surface. Since I was entering both in Thunder Bay, I often laid both tracks and ran them back to back – just in case this happened at the test. And guess what – it happened!

By the end of the test I had a new Tracking Champion and a new TD dog. I am so grateful to Karen Boyes who always organizes a fantastic test, and to our judge Marie P. Babin who plots and judges so fairly – she is my role model as a judge. Pass or fail, I always feel good about either result when she is judging as I know we’ve had the best opportunity possible.

Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben TD. I love this photo with the dairy farm behind us. Thanks to Marie P. Babin for sharing it!

Day one – September 25 – Ben drew TD #3. I was so happy to watch my friend from Edmonton pass her TD with her Airedale Terrier Reggie. I had talked Peggy McCallum into entering in Thunder Bay, knowing that the conditions are always nice for tests, with high humidity and wet mornings perfect for tracking.

After Peggy and Reggie, we all watched Joan Kleinendorst pass a TD with her Cairn Terrier Skye. This is Joan’s third tracking Cairn. Her first, Dundee, was in my classes in Thunder Bay in the 90s. Her second, Stirling (son of Dundee) just finished his Tracking Championship last June and I was honoured to be the judge for that test. Ben and I passed too! We drew a field I’ve never been in, but I have seen other dogs pass their TDs in it way back when – notably Karen Boyes’ TCH Aussie, Penny, and Julie Hutka’s TCH Cavalier Austen. I felt it was a good omen and sure enough Ben trucked through the four turns and did a very nice down indication at the end. Yippee!

Peggy McCallum of Edmonton and Reggie TD! Reggie is officially known as Monterra Regan TD PCD AGIS AGNJS CGN. She made an impression on the crowd for her tracking style, as it is not common to see Airedales in tracking tests. Way to go Peggy!

Next up on day one were four TDXs. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many TDXs in a test. I drew TDX#3. The first two entrants did not complete their tracks, and sadly, neither did Caden. It was a beautiful field, wet and lush. For reasons I’ll never know, he insisted strongly on a left turn when the track went to the right. Tracking is a sport where we trust our dogs, as we cannot see the track. When he pulled that strongly I had no choice to but to follow.

Hearing that whistle is so jarring but I am expert at unsuccessful attempts! After tracking for 25 years, with Collies, German Shepherds and Border Collies, I’ve had my fair share of failed tests. It is a part of tracking that we all must learn to accept. The track was fair and plotted by the judge following the CKC rules – and sometimes we will never know what happened when our dogs insist on a wrong turn… or perhaps we have misread them or handled in a way to lead to a failed attempt.

Ben again! Passing TD on day two. There were no alternates so we were able to run again!

When it happens, I try to think about what I can learn from the day and go forward. The last TDX of the day also had a rough time, so all four of us were in the same boat, hoping for day two.

Day two – September 26 – since there were no alternates, I was able to run Ben again on a new field! Ben did it again, and I had a happy start to the day. On to the TDXs once again. Once again, I drew TDX #3 – the last TDX of the morning. At the morning draw, I also drew UTDX#1. This meant that Caden and I would have back to back advanced tracks. The rules state that if an exhibitor that has more than one entry craws consecutive tracks, they have the option to redraw. However, they do not address an exhibitor drawing consecutive tracks with the SAME dog. In these days of combined and two day tests, I think the wording should be changed. I am always careful to follow rules (and more so, being a judge).

I had trained for this possibility, but knew it would be tough on Caden (and me!). I was glad TDX was first and that Caden would be fresh for that test. We have had trouble finding suitable fields for training and this was the test I was most concerned about.

Caden and I out in the big field on day two – TDX. So hot and windy!

Once again, the first two TDXs did not pass. It’s easy to be influenced by this, so I worked at maintaining a positive attitude and followed my rituals. The field was HUGE and one I have never seen or been in before. I looked out over the field and thought, this track can go anywhere! As I pulled Caden out of the van, I noticed he had a bleeding nose from barking in his crate. Great. On top of this, the temperature had risen into the 20s and the wind was up.

Off we went with a good start. He found article one and headed off for two more confident legs. At turn four – he circled and circled. Straight ahead was a thicket of dead brush. The track could have crossed the little field road leading to that thicket, or it could go left, or right. There was a hill just behind us to the left. I believe the wind must have been swirling here, as Caden repeatedly went ahead and lifted his head into the air, then circled without choosing a direction.

Nearing the end of our TDX, day two

“Trust your dog” was all I kept thinking to myself. I have a tendency to overthink and I had told myself that on this day, he was in charge.

Finally he went left with purpose. Was I happy to see article two! For both articles he did a nice platz (down) indication. From there he was on to the end. He came over that hill to the final article and did a short search to find it.

I heard a cheer from the gallery and I literally collapsed to the ground. I think I was dehydrated and it was very hot. It was a well-earned title for Caden. We posed for some photos, then off we went for his try at UTDX.

The end! I had to sit and take it in. Happy happy! TDX!

I told everyone in the parking lot at Lakehead University that I was so happy to pass the TDX that I was just going to have fun on this UTDX track. It is a hard test and the winds had picked up even more, coming from the east and from the direction of Lake Superior. I poured a whole jug of water over Caden and rubbed him down so he was soaked, plus gave him a good drink. The area where we started is one I’ve seen used before for UTDs. Looking ahead I thought “a UTDX can’t fit here!” I was dying for a coffee. My head was throbbing. I was still in a stupor from the TDX.

UTDX start. I was still in a stupor, and realized, “he is tracking!” 35 minutes between our TDX pass and our UTDX start.

At the flag, Caden took off. Suddenly he took a 90 degree turn to the right and I told myself to snap out of it! My dog was in the game and I was not thinking straight! Over a road, he suddenly started to cast back and forth, and then he pulled me to the left to a cloth mitten. Article #1! Shock was setting in. Seriously. Even though I had trained for this, to see him doing it in a test was surreal.

Off he went again, suddenly veering right. I did a quick look to the left and realized there was no way it went left so looked ahead and saw a bike path and a tunnel ahead.

THE TUNNEL! I’d never seen a track go through it. I felt giddy, as Caden roared through at full speed and then took another sharp right turn and then a left turn in the parking lot. I later heard that our judge Marie and tracklayer Deb Gavin were running to keep up with him.

UTDX article #1. Shock is starting to set in as I realize he is ON and I need to step up.

Caden suddenly stopped and started to cast again. That blessed east wind was blowing article scent to him. He cast back and stopped at a wood article. Article #2!

At this point, I started to think he might really do this. I am embarrassed to say I was in in a fog. I went back and re-walked the track the next day to remember everything. He took off over a ditch, gravel and more grass, turning right in a ditch.

At this point he proceeded along a stretch of grass, a road cross and onto a big lawn directly across from the cemetery where my parents are buried. I remember saying to myself, “Mom and Dad, maybe you can see me, and I could use some help!”

Heading through the tunnel. Just ahead we turned right on a patch of grass / marsh / ditch and into the parking lot unseen to the right, where he found his wood article. He was moving, and the judge and tracklayer later told me they had to run to see the parking lot turn!

Caden veered to the right and pulled me to a piece of paper which he diligently sniffed. I thought he was being visual, but later found out that the piece of paper was right on his leg. As we emerged onto the knoll, I could feel that wind. It pushed Caden to the left and he circled in and out of some large, decorative evergreens on the downward slope of the knoll. I simply followed him as he worked and worked this area.

I saw that his tongue was hanging out of the side of his mouth. He went to a tree and relieved himself. He rarely will do this on a track and I approached and squirted water into his mouth. I thought that he was done – and it would have been ok, as he had given me everything he had.

The final leg to a black leather glove. Caden got hung up in the trees you see behind us, on this windy little knoll, then suddenly got a second wind and finished the track. His tongue was literally hanging out of the side of his mouth. What a great heart he has.

I prayed, “God, please help my dog.” I know that God has big things to worry about, but I also believe he cares about our happiness and I’ve always felt close to God when I track. Plus, it was Sunday, and I had started the morning with a prayer of thanks for a good day ahead, no matter the outcome. I’ve always believed that we are so lucky to enjoy this hobby when there is so much strife in the world.

I looked down and saw that piece of paper again. As I was dwelling on the fact that we were back to that point, Caden suddenly took off again! This time, he pulled me to the right, and within seconds, he was standing at what looked like a rotten, black banana peel. I walked up gingerly, and saw that it was a black leather glove.

As I picked it up I heard that sweet sound of cheering from the crowd. I had actually forgotten they were there. Marie and Debbie came for hugs. Pass!

Emotional moment at the end of his UTDX track. New Tracking Champion! I had trained for this, but to do it was like a dream come true.

It hit me that Caden was now a Tracking Champion. I thought I would simply have a fun time on that UTDX track. It was our first attempt at that title. My Border Collie Jet also passed on her first try. I love urban, and I am sure I pass it on to my dogs. There wasn’t a lot of time to gush, because my friend Katie Jaremy was running UTDX #2 with her Golden, Scarlett. We drove to the College and watched as Katie and Scarlett calmly made their way to the end, with the second UTDX pass of the day!

We did the rosette and medallion presentations and headed off for a lunch together. I looked around at the familiar faces. I am from Thunder Bay and everyone at the table feels like family to me. Plus, there were my two Alberta friends, Peggy and Judy Wallace. Without Judy’s offer to travel together in her van, I would not have been at this test.

Thank you tracklayer Debbie Gavin!

To what do I attribute passing these back to back tests? Mostly I thank God and am happy when things come together. Certainly, I train a LOT. Anyone who wants to succeed at a sport knows that time and miles that are dedicated to training. I have cobbled together my own ideas over the years and worked hard with Caden to harness his drive in a way that I can be a worthy partner.

At this test, as with any, things aligned. It was one of those dream weekends, between Caden and Ben’s passes and the joy of seeing others do well too. I’ve been lucky to have great training partners, friends and mentors. I’m especially thankful to retired RCMP member Jean Blondin and to Dan Waters, President of the GSD SchH Club of Calgary for all of their patience and kind help over the years with Caden.

Tracking is such a great sport because we all root for each other. This kind of positive energy is crucial to doing well too. We also have to factor in the conditions, the judge’s expertise in offering good tracks to each team, the help of the tracklayers, and the organization that goes smoothly so there are no hitches and no anxiety.

Thank you Marie! Back at that tunnel. Caden still clutching his leather, which he carried all the way to the car.

And then of course, there is the dog. Caden is by no means an easy dog with his high drive. But he has a great heart and strong desire to work. Behind him on his dam’s side are 8 generations of German National Herding Champions. On his sire’s side – the well known Orry vom Haus Antwerpa, who won the SchH Worlds two times, and Siggo, an Orry son who won the American Police Nationals.

When I got Caden, I knew he would be more challenging as he’s my first working lines GSD, but I really did not know what I was in for. He has been a great teacher. And he is now Tracking Champion Caden von der Kleinen Wiese. I can’t thank his breeder Sandy Wilson (Pennsylvania) enough for trusting me with this boy. I’ve learned so much with him; and I learn from every dog I’ve trained along the way.

All this aside, what I love about CKC tracking is that any dog has the opportunity to go all the way with the right training and motivation. Sometimes, we fail. Sometimes, it is our day. Every dog I’ve trained has been different and it is our job to bring out the best in each one.

Leaving the parking lot and heading over a ditch and some gravel after finding article 2.

I’ve been tracking since 1989 and this is the second ‘dream weekend’ I’ve experienced. The first was in 1994 when I passed two TDXs, back to back, with my GSD Hawk, and my Rough Collie Kate. I remember the judge, Dawn Sanderson, saying enjoy it, because it doesn’t happen often. 21 years later, I’ve had another!

Thank you Caden and Ben. You are good boys. And now, a new journey begins with Ben. I am looking forward to new challenges and as ever, the wonderful quiet times out early with my dogs. As for Caden, he is moving into a new challenge with me, to be my running partner. Wish us luck!

More pictures from this great weekend are below! Including the maps. You can click on the image to see it in a larger size:

Caden’s TDX map
Caden’s UTDX map
Ben’s TD day one!
Test organizer, tracker Karen Boyes with her two TCH Aussies Penny and Jasper, plus her new TD girl Cassie.
Katie Jaremy and her UTDX girl Scarlett – GCH Docmar’s Just Don’t Give a Damn CD RA TD UTD AGN UTDX
The gallery at one of the TDX sites
Joan Kleinendorst and new TD Warkshire’s Skye of BK Cuillin
Three for three TD passes!
Ben! A new journey to begin with this little boy, son of my TCH Alta-Pete Jet. Thank you Marie!
Caden TDX with tracklayer Gord Boyes and judge Marie P. Babin
Caden TDX – article one
Me with Caden and judge Marie. Check out his tongue. Hot and windy.
Ben, leg one, day one – TD
Ben TD Day two!
End of TD two, good pup!

More pictures of Caden’s UTDX


I am so thankful to Judy Wallace for coming with us and sharing this trip. Judy’s Border Collie – Britanny cross Shiloe is a talented tracking dog and hopefully will be able to take part in a CKC tracking test. Here she is in a field by Loch Lomond, in Thunder Bay, a few days before the test when we did little motivational tracks. Thank you Judy!

The day after the test, Caden was just a dog – swimming and having fun. The Border Collie family also had a fun swim and walk!

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My two TCH dogs. Best of friends, and both passed on their first attempts. I love urban and the dogs do too.

Caden and Jet


And thank you Ted for being a great tracklaying assistant. Maybe there is still a TD in your future🙂

You be the Tracking Judge! 5 UTDX Maps – Design and article placement

Welcome to the world of the Urban Tracking Judge!

Each of these maps represents a choice for a UTDX track at Red Deer College in Central Alberta. I’ve played around with all of them over the years. I know this area and they all work – no fences or barriers to worry about when you are ‘on the ground.’ One map is 615 m and another is 730 m, with the others all in-between.

A UTDX by the rules must meet these requirements:

  • 600 – 750 metres
  • 1/3 to 1/2 non-veg
  • 3 – 5 hours old
  • 5-7 turns both left and right and no acutes less than 45 degrees
  • At least one 90 degree turn on a non-veg surface plotted so that the leg after the turn is at least 25 metres long before changing back to vegetated surface (or the track ends with the final article)
  • Obstacles such as guardrails, stairs, open buildings (gazebos and breezeways) are permitted but it cannot enter a closed building
  • 3 articles must be placed, with the first at 100 metres, the second somewhere between the first and last, and the third at the end. The first two can be cloth, metal, wood or plastic. The last article is always leather.

On each of these maps below, I have put a measuring line showing 100 metres to help you eye up leg length. Where tracks cross a road and are parallel on the other side, the minimum distance on these maps is 70 m and the maximum is 100, so none are connected by a short, 30 m leg (in which case, they cannot be parallel).

Remembering that scent works differently in an urban environment, things to think about are listed here – but most of these can’t truly be assessed until you are walking and plotting. Note – some judges like to plot up to two days in advance to allow scent to leave an area, in case they have walked in multiple directions. Frequently a judge will go look at an area and ask the tracklayer to stay put to prevent tracklayer scent from spreading too much:

  • Cars moving scent up and down on roads
  • Proximity to buildings that can loft scent or hold scent along the walls
  • Scent refraction near trees and lightposts
  • Scent spread on flat, non-veg surfaces like asphalt parking lots
  • Curbs, bus stations, parking pay stations, building doorways and main entrances, sidewalks where scent might flow or be drawn away from the track
  • Areas of heavy pedestrian traffic and areas of light or no pedestrian traffic

So – your assignment, Grasshopper, is to look at the blank map, and then the one I did with Caden (Option 1) as well as the other options. The total lengths are provided. There aren’t really any rights or wrongs, but the amount of non-veg will change, leg length will change, article placement will change, problem areas may be included or avoided, and turns may be easy or hard!


  • I had a hard time deciding on where to put articles on Caden’s track (Option 1) so used 4! Which of the first three would you remove from his track today?
  • Where would you put articles on the alternate maps?
  • What type might you use where (cloth, wood, plastic, metal)?
  • How are you making your decisions? Think – what might help the dog and handler team?


  • What appeals to you? Don’t let the fact that I did one influence you. It might not be my favourite. I’ve done these others too over the years with Caden and my TCH Jet
  • What positives do you see for each?
  • Drawbacks?
  • Just because one is shorter – is it easier?
  • These are all “5 turn” tracks but you could consider that meandering first leg to be two legs as well. Would you add another turn to improve the track (you can have 7 total)


  • What questions would you have about the tracks? What would you look for on the ground?
  • Other ideas you would consider? Why not print and play with the blank one!

Blank map with notes about features – click on a map to see it better, then use the back arrow to return

Caden blank map

Option 1 – 730 metres

Caden May 22 730 m

Option 2 – 615 metres

Caden May 22 alternate 1 615 m

Option 3 – 630 metres

Caden alternate 2 630

Option 4 – 635 metres

Caden alternate 3 635 m

Option 5 – 645 metres

Caden alternate 4 645 m

On the Ground views

To see Caden’s start on video, click here. This will show you the first two legs (not the greatest video but it works!). On this day, there were buses arriving filled with students for a band competition so the middle grass island area of the start was very contaminated. Of course, I had no idea when I laid the track, that this would happen.

After article one (sock), track turns left here. He is approaching the turn.

Caden and bus

Leg 3, heading for article 2 – light switch

Caden double trees

Article two

Caden lightswitch

Leg 4, crossing road and median toward sportfield area

Caden road cross to sportfield 2

Article 3 – wood

Caden wood

Missing the portion leading to the parking lot – here he is after making his turn (I was too busy handling!)

Caden near article

Final article (remember, there should only be three, I used four, for training)

Caden article

Have fun and let me know what you think of “You be the Tracking Judge!”

Happy Tracking,