Article Fun Day!

Since Ben did such a great track yesterday, I decided to have a fun day today and play article games! Articles are so important to tracking that if your dog misses one, it can fail its test. Recently in Ben’s UTDX test the judge complimented Ben for locating his wood article in a busy parking lot with some student garbage sadly strewn in some areas. I have been working with my SAR friend Dan Vas (Canadian Search Dog Association) on articles and give him the credit for Ben’s find.

I love to learn new things from other tracking trainers. And since I am playing around with his SAR methods, I don’t want to over-explain our article games today. You will just have to buy Dan’s book (when he writes it! Sort of like you will have to buy mine too, when I write mine!) What we did today is NOT his game, but it is my amended version just to have some fun.

Yesterday I did a long UTDX training track at my church. Today being Sunday, I was there again. I decided that I would play an article game right there in the parking lot by the seacans. Ben LOVES to play this particular game. Caden was with me for the ride and he has a back injury, so after taking him out for a prayer in the church parking lot, Caden went home to rest and heal.

I then contacted my friend and training partner Judy Wallace and we met at the College to play more. All of the dogs had so much fun. This game has nothing to do with tracking and everything to do with encouraging our dogs to find articles for praise and rewards, making use of the wind or at least observing how they find the scent pool and react to each article. It’s a game shared with me by my SAR friend Dan Vas, so I don’t want to give away too much – but do want to share the credit!

This post simply shares the fun videos and photos of a very fun afternoon. The weather was beautiful but winter is coming, so we made the most of it, with coffee later! When you watch the videos I hope you will see that we encourage the dogs (and sometimes try to help with body language and verbals). But the dogs are working steadily to find each article. The articles have been tossed so there is no “track” the dogs can follow to them and we retrace steps and wander over and over in the same area.

This is the longest video, showing Ben find a series of articles. I am gently trying to reintroduce the down at articles, but mostly happy when he is clear to me that he’s found one!  I have all winter to work at this!

Judy and I let every single dog have a turn, including my two oldsters, Tracking Champion Jet, and TD hopeful Ted, both 11 years old.

11 year old Ted found his gloves (plus one of Judy’s) so easily. He LOVES gloves! I have been sidelining Ted for many years, and decided today, who knows – TCH? Maybe TD is setting the goals for this brilliant guy too low  🙂 Ted is a son of Scott Glen’s well-known Pleat.

Ted had by far the greatest moment today. I asked him to find a glove, and had placed three out for him. He was running the “WRONG” way in my nose-challenged opinion, and as I was calling him to head out the right way, he indicated Judy’s glove which was up high on a concrete block – jumping up to pull it down! When I placed his gloves, I thought about putting one up high and decided not too, thinking it would be too hard. I am always saying Ted is brilliant. Proof!

This is a very short video. Gotta love Ted! He acts like a puppy.

Jet also had some fun! She is so savvy. I put out three articles for her. One was hidden in some coiled tubing. She went right to it and threw it over the tubing to show me she had it. The second one was a leather glove which I put up high, in the empty drawer space of an old desk clearly heading to the landfill.

I love this video because she does such a body snap – hitting the brakes, then running to pull that glove out of its hiding spot before I can get there! She is truly amazing and always has been. She is a show-off! The third article was a sock put up on the hitch of a trailer. It took her longer to find this one, so thankfully she had a little challenge – which she loves.

This video is 30 seconds long – that’s how fast she found that leather glove!

Here is Jet with the sock – she hates to lie down now so she found the height was just perfect for indicating it with her chin!

I found it! This is Tracking Champion Alta-Pete Jet, a daughter of Scott Glen’s Maid (later Diane Pagel’s Maid) and daughter of a MacRae dog Risp, son of Ken Arrendale’s Mac

Below are more videos of Ben, Judy’s dogs Riley and Shiloe and Ted. No commentary, just for sheer fun. One of the videos shows Ben’s session at the church this morning. He did better this afternoon at the college and I am sure it is because this is a familiar area. *I am sorry Judy, Lark was too fast, and every photo is blurry.

In both instances however, it is clear that some articles have a great scent pool and others seem to have no scent pool at all. What this tells me is that in an advanced test, a dog would have to be practically on top of the article to successfully indicate it (metal, plastic). Ben is pretty honest so it is not a case of “I don’t like this one” – when he does finally find these, his surprise body snap is really clear, yet he will run over them and past them many times to get to wood, cloth and of course, leather.

Enjoy the videos and as always, have fun with YOUR dogs! If you are interested in lessons, seminars, online classes and lessons or 1:1 coaching please visit my website. Click on the Tracking & Dogs Menu Tab for dog -specific topics. You can also stay in touch with what’s up, or contact me through my Facebook Page “Spiritdance Tracking.”

Each video below is about 30 seconds long.


Ben finds his wood article

Ben finds a sock!

Ben’s article game at church this morning (4 minutes)


Ted finds a glove – being a stockdog at heart he does a beautiful “‘Way to me” outrun LOL

Ted finds a hidden glove by a curb, in leaves


Riley runs for the article – 10 seconds – hilarious, he sees the wood but runs for the cloth!

Shiloe retrieves a glove – Shiloe retrieved every article today – wood, plastic and cloth. She is a gem. She’s up there in age too, and a solid, steady tracker who loves this game.

Riley is another TD hopeful and he is really doing well! Some people may know him from his Rally days when he won quite a few HIC awards. Judy says he likes tracking even more!

“That’s it!” says Ben. “Treats in the car and let’s blow this popstand!” Ben’s happy face tells you how much he enjoyed this. Every day does not have to be a tracking day to be productive and build skills. But every day should be FUN and always be sure to enjoy each moment, and be in the moment, with your dogs.

“I had fun, Mama!”

That’ll do Ben.

Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben TDX UTD, son of Jet and Ted and grandson of Scott Glen’s Pleat and Maid (I add that for the stockdog people. Jet is a Maid daughter and Ted is a Pleat son)

UTDX Training – Hillcrest Church

Last week I spotted a potential UTDX track at my church and decided to plot something to try today. I plotted it on Google Earth. Today I drove around the church and thought I could probably improve it upon seeing the grounds but decided I would stick to the plan, which would make the training track a bit more challenging. To my delight, Ben ran this track in 15 minutes and aside from one article buried under leaves, he was very confident today.

This post shows you photos with the track line drawn on them, and matching videos, so you can see the visual of the track I laid, and then watch how Ben handled it! Of course, I know where it goes, but I hope you will see that Ben is in charge and I let him make the decisions. When he is right, I quietly say “yes!” to let him know he is a good boy.

Background details about plotting and laying the track

On Google Earth it was 630 m, but using my Tom Tom Runner’s Watch it was 770 m. That is a big discrepancy but I probably added a few more steps in that were not accounted for on Google Earth, as a few legs required some “meanders.” When I laid it, I took photos of each leg. Below, I will share the photos of the legs with pink lines that show the track. Then I will give a link to the video so you can see how Ben did on each portion!

When we were leaving the church to let the track age, the parking lot was filling up and there was obviously an event taking place. When we returned to run the track, cars were lined up to leave. And so I knew the parking lot was very contaminated in the area of his non-veg turn at the end. However, he did a beautiful turn on rails. So amazing to see! (I know – spoiler!)


This is the map from my Tom Tom Runner’s Watch. Each yellow teardrop indicates an article. The start is on the left along the front of the church. In order, the articles were plastic light switch, wood square, cloth gardening glove, and at the end a leather article.

The total length of the track is 770 meters or 3/4 of a kilometer. An actual UTDX would not be this long.I could find easy ways to shorten it by moving the start up, and by altering the path around the back of the church to be simpler (in the photos below I use an orange line to show how I might consider changing it if this was an actual test track). This track was laid at 9:30 am and run at 12:30 pm.

Below you will find a breakdown of the track in sections with photos and video:

  1. First legs and first turn
  2. Parking lot and wood article
  3. Photos showing the track – Legs 4-7 along the back of the church, through the seacans to a cloth glove, article 3
  4. Photos showing the track from the cloth glove to the hard surface (non-veg) turn to the end
  5. Video of Judy Wallace and her Border Collie Lark running the entire track freshly run by Ben! Judy followed us and put down articles for Lark then ran her right away. It was very motivating for Lark and she does a wonderful job!

1. First legs – Photos showing the track (pink line)

Leg one was 200 m long
And here is Ben tracking on leg one, 3 hours later. There were two pieces of kibble along this leg. One is up beside that next light post
Leg two ran behind a row of trees. I saw a rabbit run by as I laid this. The plastic article is actually further up – odd perspective here

VIDEO 1 – Start and first turn

Here is a video of Ben on leg one, and his turn onto leg two leading up to the cloth article. He actually had trouble finding the article – and did a circular search for it. It was buried under leaves. I helped him to find it – he showed that he knew it was there.

2. Parking lot and wood article

Legs 3 and 4. There was a wood article just PAST the light post (it is hard to doodle these Xs on my iPhone! I originally drew the lines on my phone on a small screen)

VIDEO – 2nd turn onto parking lot and wood article

This is a video of Ben going from Leg 2 along the trees, out onto the parking lot to find his wood article…

3. Photos showing the track – Legs 4-7 along the back of the church, through the seacans to a cloth glove, article 3

After the wood article, the track turns right and goes around the corner
The pink line shows how I plotted it on Google Earth. I stuck with the plan, but the orange line shows how I would probably fix it for a test track
Lots of hard surface along the back of the church leading to veg
At the veg, I “meandered” to the left, then made a right turn across to the seacans
The turn is just between the two trees to the left between all of the seacans and sheds and a trailer. The orange line shows how I probably would fix this track for a test, by going straight back at the corner of the church, and then turning left to come up along here to join the track at the turn
Here is the leg between seacans and a shed and trailer. The cloth glove was actually past the trailer (hard to draw it on my iPhone using doodle)
Ben surprised me with how he confidently motored along this section even finding both meanders – along the back of the church to the veg (I had a treat there as I thought it was a hard leg), and then, after the trailer, to hook up with veg, leading to the glove I made a small wobble, and he was dead on! Here he is at the cloth glove!

VIDEO 3 – Mid-track behind the church and through the seacans to the cloth glove – article 3

4. Photos showing the track from the cloth glove to the hard surface (non-veg) turn to the end

Location of the cloth glove, looking ahead to a turn on sand and sparse plants into the parking lot
The turn on sand, looking ahead to the parking lot turn and glove at the end. The parking lot filled right up after this was laid, because of an event. As we ran the track, cars were leaving again so it was very contaminated when he ran it and did this hard surface turn.
The last leg to the turn! This area was covered in cars, and as we were preparing to start the track, there was a line up of cars alongside his last article, waiting to leave the church after an event!

VIDEO 4 – End of the track and parking lot turn

My good boy Ben – Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben TDX UTD


After Ben was finished his 3 hour old track, my friend Judy Wallace ran the track while it was fresh with her 1 year old Border Collie Lark. Judy only got Lark this summer and she has been working hard with her to get ready for a TD. Lark has been a wonderful dog to train, and Judy is an experienced tracker, having already trained her Border Collie – Brittany cross Shiloe (who is also a very solid tracker). All of that handling experience is coming in handy because Lark is really learning fast!

While I ran this track with Ben, Judy followed and put down articles for Lark. Lark has been doing very well, so Judy gambled that Lark would try the entire track. Lark really dug in and tried to run it! She found it incredibly motivating to follow Ben’s track. Here are her videos. You will see the familiar locations from above. She did an awesome job! You’ll be seeing a lot more of Little Miss Marlarky in the future!

Lark is a purebred sable Border Collie. She LOVES to track!

Lark video – hard surface to wood article

Lark video 2 – Mid Track

I am so sorry that my iPhone ran out of room and I only have photos of the end of Lark’s beautiful run. She found the hard surface turn but paused to stare at people talking by their truck. Then she whirled off to the right, to find her leather glove. Pretty amazing girl. You really don’t see this every day.

Lark following the track on sand leading to the parking lot
Lark already leaning to the right – turn is just past this van
After a brief pause, she swings to the right, catching wind of the glove!
That’ll do Lark! She has lovely down indications. Great job Judy!
“Yes, I love tracking… I think the walk out goes that way…”

I hope you have enjoyed this post about our tracking day today.

It is such a wonderful, positive sport.

If you are interested in Spiritdance lessons, seminars, online classes or 1:1 coaching please check out my website. Go to the Tracking and Dogs Menu tab for more information.

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!