Flashback 2005: Are you ready to enter a tracking test?

For the first Flashback post, I thought I would share something that is timely today – am I ready to enter a tracking test? I had been teaching tracking for 10 years at this point, but had just started to track again after recovering from Cancer. I decided to get out with my heart dog River, Lindau’s Uncharted Course TDX UTD – and that fall we earned our TD under retired judge Erich Kunzel in Thunder Bay. Our track was laid by Brian Earnshaw – who has moved back to Thunder Bay after years out west (hmmmm, wonder if I could do that!)

The featured photo above is of Jet and I working on UTDX at Olds College. Jet passed her UTDX the following year (2012). Here she is below, in 2007, passing her TD – from the old blog! 

Jet TD 2007

I was so enthusiastic and filled with joy for life and for tracking after recovering from cancer, and it is River who inspired me to get out there. She was the inspiration for this blog and will always be my heart dog, no matter how special any others are. We had a very special bond. It is sort of sad – but I have very few pictures of River tracking. Here we are after passing our TDX in 2006 under judge Dawn Sanderson, from the old blog:

River TDX 2006


I now have 3 Tracking Champions, 3 UTDXs, 5 UTDs, 7 TDXs and 10 TDs. I am a firm believer in being sure I am ready for a test before I enter! Tracking test spots are so limited and it is considered ‘sportsmanlike’ to be sure when taking a spot – you don’t enter “for fun” or “to see where you are at” in this sport! Though, sadly, it is tough to get practice in a real test situation. I try to give mock tests and safe blind tracks in my training seminars to help people. My methods are constantly growing and changing – but I hope you find this post from 12 years ago food for thought!


September 14, 2005

Are you ready to enter a tracking test?

Hi everyone! How do you like this cartoon? Someone at work gave it to me today.

With the trial closing in on us (October 8-9) everyone is wondering “are we ready?” Here are some ways to evaluate whether you should enter for your TD:

1. Starts should be solid – Most times you practice, your dog takes scent at the scent pad and proceeds (on its own) toward the 2nd stake in a steady manner. You can sense your dog means business and apply tension to the line to say “I’m following you” then step off to do your track.

*remember that in a trial, the judge and tracklayer will NOT take wind direction into consideration when plotting and laying tracks, so your dog should be solid in all conditions…you should note the wind direction to help you read your dog on track (might she overshoot a turn? track downwind?) …the judge will also consider wind when assessing your dog’s performance

2. Can you read your dog at corners? Have you done enough “blind tracks” (with no stakes) to know if your dog has indicated a turn and to trust your dog?

*you don’t have to do a LOT of blind tracks, but you should feel secure in following your dog without the aid of stakes or clothespins…make sure you can trust your tracklayer…if in doubt have them use a subtle marker at the corner, or ask them to use turn warning stakes before the turn, but not tell you which way the track goes unless you get confused

3. Will your dog indicate an article fairly reliably? YOU are the person who has to recognize it, so that is all that matters.

*I recommend ALWAYS placing a reward in the article or treating at the article, so that the only time it doesn’t happen is at the test (***for TD***)…also, remember that the judge might ask how your dog indicates in a test – do NOT use this opportunity to boast! Say they nose it, and if they lie down, all the better!

4. Can your dog do the distance and age of a TD? Check the maps handed out in class and use some of these as patterns to practice with. Check the average times the tracks are aged – usually between 45 minutes and 1:15, but some might be aged longer. Dogs begin to expect a reward at a certain distance…if you don’t begin to add the length, they will have trouble understanding why they haven’t reached a glove, and it could affect their performance.

*this does not mean to make EVERY track 450 metres and 1 hour and 30 minutes long. Start to add variety so your dog never knows what to expect…sometimes there are two articles, sometimes one…sometimes there is a LONG first leg, sometimes several shorter ones and more turns…sometimes it is 30 minutes old and sometimes it is 2 hours old.

5. Is your dog experienced in the changing weather and vegetation? Mornings are getting cooler and damper. Grass is dying and leaves are getting mulched into the ground. Fall is in the air. Be sure your dog gets experience at tracking in the mornings at least once a week to prepare for a morning trial. Training in the evening is good too, but you must practice in the morning for a morning trial.

*remember that dogs have a field where they are comfortable and learn (the home field) but they should also get some experience in strange and new fields…hopefully each of you have found places to practice and are working together, travelling around and helping each other out.

6. Do you feel positive? Remember that the big part of any test is mental. Begin to visualize your successful track. When you are not tracking, imagine how your dog looks when they are negotiating a turn. Think of that great feeling when they are pulling in the harness. Figure out how you will handle things if your dog casts at a turn, and how you will confidently step backwards, lift your arms, and wait for your dog to find the track and pull – how great that will feel…

*the best advice to getting ready to trial is to practice, so that you can visualize every step and work as a team with your dog.

If you don’t feel ready to trial, please consider being a tracklayer on one or both days. Contact the test secretary if you are interested in track laying. It is a great way to learn about tracking, hear the judge’s thoughts and see the dogs in action.


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