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.


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