Experimenting with Fabric Articles

Earlier today I laid a 616 m track for Ben and alternated natural and man made fabric articles. I tossed them all slightly off track to see how he reacted. We think a lot about wood and metal articles – what type of wood? What metal works best? I have never really heard anyone talk about what fabric is more suitable, and I have even bought cheap poly and nylon types of articles at dollar stores for seminars, which I toss into my own tracking bag. I mean – isn’t a sock just a sock?

I am rethinking this all after the seminar and my first try at different articles today. In fact, I have been thinking a lot about the scent cones of all articles. For some, it seems a dog could be right out of luck in a test if they are slightly off track, or the wind is against them, as they have very little scent cone (metal and plastic particularly). I’ve been working on these ideas with Ben, and have seen him alert to an article when he has passed it, because of the wind or the direction the scent cone is drifting.

But this post is about FABRIC!

(with updates on Jet and Ted at the end)

This morning I cut up an organic cotton tea towel and a flannel blanket (both were recently washed); plus I tied some wool socks from my tracking box in the basement into knots, found a fleece sock and sacrificed two knee-high pantyhose socks for my article experiment

I was motivated to do this after the Winter Tracking Online Webinar yesterday which I presented with Dan Vas. Dan is a Search and Rescue volunteer with the Canadian Search Dog Association and its past president. In the Webinar, Dan did a section on articles and mentioned that in SAR they see dogs alert more to natural fabrics than to man made ones which are non-porous and retain much less scent.

I could hardly wait to go out today to experiment with this idea. While the track was aging, I also played article games with both Ben and Ted.

This is the 616 metre Fabric track. I aged it for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The temperature was 5 C and there were some gusting winds at times on a cool sunny and very dry day. Articles – starting at the top – were: smart wool sock; sock from my tracking bag of unknown material; wool sock; nylon knee-high; flannel strip; garden glove from my tracking bag of unknown material (cotton and nylon?) and of course, a leather glove.

Today I used wool, cotton and flannel along with nylon, and two items that have been in my van all summer.

The hands down star was FLANNEL!!

Ben alerted to a flannel knot and ran 40 metres straight to it. He body snaps to a smart wool sock and does a nice circle back to a wool sock on pine needles.

You can see this all in the video, below, of his track.

Ben did nose a sock he missed on a short track yesterday and he indicated a garden glove. I am not sure what either is made of and in fairness to the experiment they have been in my van for months while the wool, cotton and flannel were only scented by me today. In the article game he also alerted nicely to 100% cotton strips from a tea towel.

Article locations are pictured below – top row is smart wool sock; wool on pine needles; nylon on stone – all were tossed slightly off track. Bottom row shows the flannel knot and garden glove. Jet walked with me as I laid the track.


Nylon appears to retain no scent.

Earlier I did a nylon article game with both Ben and Ted while Ben’s track was aging. Neither acknowledged nylon even when I tried to call them to it.

Here are links to those games:

Ben’s article game
Interesting to see the order in which he finds each article – he ran across the lot for the flannel in the game too! He never did find the nylon.

Ted’s search for nylon article (never found)

Ted nails his leather glove
Leather glove is put into the exact spot of the nylon – I stand offside to call him in a sweeping arch, so as not to prejudice his find

Yesterday, Ben did a great track on a new field which was filled with gopher holes and very dry. He missed this blue sock so I put it on today’s track. Today he found it by the soccer field bleachers. I am not sure what this sock is made of, and was curious about his reaction today.

Ben only needs his UTDX for his Tracking Championship and he did a stellar job on his first try in October. I am really enjoying working with him and discovering new things all the time.

A bit about Tracking Champion Alta-Pete Jet

Jet’s role, at age 11, is to walk the track with me. She is a Tracking Champion (in 2012 when she was 7) and loves to be involved. Today, at the end of the track, we made our non-veg turn and put the leather down. She is so funny – she turned and began a game of tug, which is what she did AFTER she ran her tracks, back in her training days. It really touched my heart when she did this.

Last night, after doing article games and a track with Ben and Ted, I threw one leather glove up into some pine needles for Jet to locate. She literally leaped out of my van, ran across the parking lot, and hit the scent cone of the article from 50 m away – wind was coming at her – then ran straight to it to indicate with a sit. She really is a wonderful and smart girl.

Update on Ted’s TD Training

And for those following Ted’s training for TD, he did another short ‘article- motivated’ track today. He has so much joy for this – considering he did not seem to like tracking in his earlier years. I am using no food. He doesn’t even take it if I offer it to him. Ted loves his leather gloves. Here is the last leg of his track today. What a good old guy he is. If I have him in a test next year, he will be 12. You can find another post about Ted, the Accidental Tracker on this blog.

Tracking brings me a lot of joy. Can you guess?

I am very blessed with great dogs and the time to enjoy this hobby, for which I’m always grateful.

*I recently lost my German Shepherd “Caden” – Tracking Champion Caden von der KleinenWiese. He died suddenly and shockingly on November 4, just three weeks ago, after a brief illness which turned out to be bone cancer in his spine. I am still coping with this loss and have not been able to post much about it here yet. I will. I’ve shared it on the Spiritdance Tracking Facebook Page for those who’d like to see a little about his passing and legacy. On this blog I posted about his passing a TDX and UTDX back to back one year ago. This is how I would like him to be remembered. Run free, my big boy.

And here is the family today. Someday, I will have another German Shepherd too, when the time is right, and the right pup comes along.


Ben’s 4.5 hour old 2 km track

Some days, I feel like pushing it and today was one of those days. Ben and I have not practiced for awhile, and he won’t be in a test until next spring. Snow is coming so I wanted to take advantage of a relatively warm afternoon. At noon I laid a LONG meandering track for Ben. Jet and Ted walked with me as I laid it. I did some things I would never do if a test was close at hand. My goal was to allow Ben a loose line and see how he did.

The track starts at the left and goes counter-clockwise around the college. X marks articles which were leather, plastic, sock, cloth glove, leather, wood, sock, sock, glove. The last two were in our ‘article play area’ because I knew it would make Ben happy to end there

I forgot how early it gets dark, and I ran it at shortly after 4 pm. We ended up finishing with college lights shining down on us, under a starry sky. Ben did an amazing job! These are long videos and I do most of my filming for ME as I like to rewatch them and study his body language. For those interested, please enjoy!

Jet and Ted (Ben’s sire and dam) walked with me as I laid the track at noon. Jet is now 11 and is a Tracking Champion (in 2012). Ted is 11.5 and considers himself more of a stockdog 🙂 but I’ve decided to try for his TD next spring as he is very healthy and agile.

Below are video links and photos. In the bullets I describe some of the interesting things he did along the track. On the videos I also narrate as I follow. Enjoy!


Video One – part one – up to the bridge crossing and sock

13 minutes (longest video)

  • a rabbit popped up under his nose at the start (yes Peggy… eeek!)
  • a jogger passed by at our first turn and I worked on letting Ben know I have his back
  • at 3 min 30 seconds you can see Ben overshoot a turn, and the reason you know is that he always circles back to ME when he hits a negative (I teach this) – it is always nice to see this on video
  • lovely turn off the path into scrub and a serpentine around dirt and mulch piles to find a light switch – dead on! (that footstep foundation always pays off). Photos below of his turn off the trail and his serpentine around a dirt pile (also on video)
  • a turn at the curb, even though a truck was parked in our way – Ben went around it
  • a very neat LOOP, where I crossed a footbridge, put down a sock…

Video Two – looping my track, to passing the college main entrance

7 minutes roughly

  • … (continued from part one…) and then Ben looped back to cross my own track in front of the bridge – this portion crosses video one and two and I was so impressed with how Ben handled it – dogs’ amazing computer noses can detect scent age and he sorted it out nonchalantly
  • dead on along the front of the main entrance to go exactly where I went with Jet and Ted – right down to which concrete or brick pillars I walked between – stunning
  • a wide turn into a parking lot to end up on the wrong side of a median – and he sorts that out
  • and a very strong ‘pot’ smell in that parking lot… didn’t seem to affect Ben – or was that why he veered? LOL

Video Three – back to veg and road crossing to the soccer field bleachers

3 minutes roughly

  • interestingly, he has trouble finding his leather glove under bleachers – Ben has a superstition around these bleachers and it is his least favourite area of the college because of busy soccer games and crowds, and I wonder if he just wanted to scoot on by – so I had to encourage him. I used leather on purpose hoping it would be easy.

Video Four – from the bleachers to a wood ramp (and my iPhone cut out!)

Last video – just too dark – the ramp and building

two videos are 2 and 3 minutes respectively

  • a lovely turn UP a wood ramp and through an open building
Sock in the open wooden building
  • in the pitch black, heads for the pathway behind the college to end in his favourite “article game” area where I let him go to find a sock and a glove – happy boy!

And when it got too dark to videotape, I took some very grainy photos!

Along the lit pathway behind the college along a coulee

Below, Ben find a hidden sock, then popped up over the concrete because he could smell the leather glove, which he came around and grabbed! He just loves hidden article games!

And of course at the end

WE PLAYED! Good boy Ben! That’ll do!


Thanks for checking out the blog!