A “Tail” of Two Tracks

You just never know. It’s sort of like a test. One day everything goes right and on another, things don’t add up as you hoped. This pretty much sums up my weekend! Yesterday’s “hard track” went very well, and today’s “restful, fun and easy track” was a challenge! But both days had great wins and we learned a lot.

We are about 5 weeks out from our next try at UTDX. Last fall Ben did a “half-UTDX” (is that like a half-marathon?) and I identified some things to work on this winter. His tracking is great; articles are good; tolerance of distraction needed work. He soldiered through his track last fall but he and I had some holes in our bucket that we’ve been trying to plug – particularly his sensitivity to lurking students! We’ve done very well on this.

You can’t really change a dog’s personality, but what you can do is make sure he knows he’s supported and work through things together, positively. I worked a lot on MY handling and how I let Ben know I am with him, and that he is not up there on his own when things happen!

Ben’s tail was like a flag both days when we passed students. But yesterday he was cocky and today he was stressed. Yesterday, he did a beautiful, challenging track. Today he did a beautiful track that ended in a bit of a mess but in the end – we learned a lot and we are far enough from the test that pushing him, and pushing myself this way had a ton of value that I will process as we now begin to ease off and make things positive and fun sliding into test motivation mode.


1. When Ben is ON, I love his Border Collie crouch and intensity

2. His elimination of directions (which is something I teach):

Yesterday near the end, on the road – he checks the boulevard, then returns to find the track on the road. Video link HERE to view this in action.


And today in our first parking lot, turn at the centre median curb – he crosses the curb and says “Hey, no scent here!” Then comes back, finds it, and at a break in the curb quickly determines that he should stay on the correct side, to get to his light switch just ahead on the boulevard! Video link HERE to view this in action.


3. We always have fun and I enjoy his company, plus I take Jet and Ted the oldsters out for a walk at the same time. Tracking is FUN and enjoyable! 

April 22 Earth Day Track – the “hard” track

Yesterday, I planned a hard track, with the goal of following up with an easy, restful track today. As they say – best laid plans!

Yesterday’s track was 1030 meters and aged 6 hours – which is older than the average UTDX which should be 3-5 hours. It was also far longer than the average UTDX which would probably come in under 700 m and maybe even closer to 630 metres. I laid it around a student residence in hopes of some opportunities to interact and practice our teamwork. Prior to the track I did an article game (previous post on this blog). To boot, when we ran this track, the winds had picked up and were gusting!


The track went very, very well! I am so proud of how Ben did, even when a student appeared by surprise from between two residence buildings. Ben’s tail went up like a flag but he carried on bravely! He was dead on the track and completed it with a beautiful non-veg turn.

Ben tail
Student’s shadow can be seen and Ben’s special tail is UP but he carried on beautifully yesterday

You can see this part of the track on VIDEO HERE

Right after the incident of the student lurker I made sure Ben calmed down and he did some lovely tracking – note the difference here in his tail immediately after passing the student:

Ben went on to complete this track with a long leg and open angle turn, then another long leg to a metal article, near a chain link fence.

VIDEO of the open angle turn to an article HERE

VIDEO of the leg to the metal article (feature image at the top) – made me so happy as this article was placed off track deliberately! And he did a beautiful turn in gusting winds!


TODAY I laid a 710 m track. Yes – longer than it was meant to be because I got a bit ‘lost’ trying to approach things in a different way. It is a lovely humid and cool day with damp veg. I only aged the track for one hour.

This should have been an easy track. What happened? 

First of all – I am really sick today. I forced myself out, with ringing ears, and I believe, a fever and body ache. “Must practice….,” I said to myself. I made it to church (of course – if I am going to track, I darn well better make it to church first!) and then called off friends saying I planned a short track, then home to recover from a bug.

Track too long! Why didn’t I approach from the normal end? I ran out of parking lots and went into a parking lot I have never used which was covered with geese, and surrounded by geese. I usually end in the parking lot at the bottom – but it is always good to try new things (maybe NOT when you wanted something easy though…)


Geese. Everywhere. And their droppings.

Jet Ted geese
12 year olds Jet and Ted helped gently persuade geese to leave the roadway where cars were trying to get by. It was really sweet to let them do this, but the geese are annoying!

Students – two more appeared out of nowhere today. That is NOT what I wanted for this track. Today, Ben’s tolerance level was lower. His tail was UP UP UP twice on this track. It is “funny” but not funny, as mostly I just want him to soldier by. I am reminded of my own advice to people to not overtrain cross tracks, because you inadvertently can make them an issue. Have I over trained ‘students?’ EEEK!

Student tail
Today’s tail. But sadly he was more stressed after this encounter than he was yesterday

Line got tangled: It happens! But what a comedy of errors in a row today! Good it happened today though and we worked it out. Yesterday’s “hard” track looks easier and easier as I type this out though! Although he carried on, he was markedly more stressed with each of these things on the track adding to it.


Truck: As we approached the final turn, a truck idled waiting for us. Ben crossed nicely. Not sure if this bothered him, but it made me rush a bit and really – I needed to be handling Ben thinking “the last turn” not “gather up the line and say thank you!”

Truck waits

Finally: Stress became evident at the end when he circled the new parking lot several times as he tested directions. That parking lot – long and narrow and covered with geese – was not our friend.

End of traack
The END of today’s track! Nothing sweeter than this

You can watch a video of the end of the track HERE!  It isn’t our best work (by far!), but I am never one to hide because my goal is always to share and hopefully help others! No one ever has perfect tracks every time, but we can all have perfect practice. 

The good news – is that we did it! This was our last HARD WEEKEND before the test. I always try to peak my training the way runners and elite athletes peak theirs. I gave Ben his line and let him take me on these tracks. He never stops working and on both tracks, made all of the right choices.

The wins – after a track like this one today it is important to tally the good things! 

  • Beautiful start today and lovely dead on turns

VIDEO of the start HERE

  • Beautiful circle and negative as he hits his first parking lot

VIDEO of Ben overshooting his turn, then circling back to find it (I teach this!)

  • Lovely search for the turn around a raised concrete median – identical to how he found his road turn yesterday through elimination (something I teach – as noted above)
  • Great article indications!!!!!!!!!! YEAH!
  • No attention at all to any geese or geese droppings across “goose lawn”

VIDEO of Ben crossing “goose lawn” HERE

  • Crossed a bridge – dead on!
  • Soldiered on past students, though visibly stressed
  • Aside from the final parking lot, dead on the track the whole way

Great observations for me, the biggest being to realize that as his stress builds, he gets less precise and I need to talk more to him positively and shorten my line – I don’t know why I let so much out at the end which you will see in the video and can only blame my fever.

I love training. I love tracking! It is such a process and always leaves me feeling happy, even on the tough days. As I type this, my dogs are all sleeping. Jet and Ted went for a nice walk with me while I laid the track. They are 12 this year and it is hard to believe they are aging so much. Ben is satisfied – as tracking is a great physical and mental activity for our dogs.

This is my last free weekend until the May long weekend! I am off to give a seminar in Regina, then judge a test in Red Deer, and then give another seminar in Olds Alberta!

Happy tracking and as always, have fun and enjoy the journey! I always give thanks to God for the luxury of enjoying this hobby especially in a world filled with strife. We are very lucky and no track should ever leave you feeling sad or unhappy. It is a sport where we can try for personal bests and always treasure the company of our dogs, like-minded friends and for me, there is a closeness to God I feel when I am out alone on days like today.

These are all great experiences! Ben posed at the end as usual!

Donna and Ben
Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben TDX UTD


Catching up with Ben’s 2017 UTDX training

Ben end of track
Ben poses at the end of the track on January 21 – Lethbridge University (end of this post)

Ben has been doing so well this winter! It was a cold winter, and we had a long spell with no tracking – brutal! We picked up our training again in mid-February. This area has a lot of chinooks which give us warm enough weather to get out. I have been doing a LOT of long hard tracks which are described below.

Today I did a short 30 minute old urban serpentine. My goal was to give Ben an easier track after a very challenging one yesterday.


It is very apparent when you have an advanced dog that their sense of smell is so acute that a 30 minute old track almost has too much scent, especially as it was on moist yellow grass. I had to remind Ben to stay on track a few times as I think there was residual in the air, but he was a good boy and focused on his primary track.

Here is the map


These videos show three little problems I gave him to resolve on this short track:

Start with a little serpentine to article one. He tries to cut a corner and I say “uh-uh” and he is a good boy.

A road cross with a little challenge: I leave the boulevard – walk down the road – and walk up on the next boulevard about 20 m to the left. I call this an offset scuff. Sometimes dogs just cross without really following scent. I put in scuffs here with treats, but again, the scent seems to be hanging and he is not as veg-oriented as I’d have liked. Still a good effort. I ask for a down and he is distracted so it’s delayed. He usually retrieves these days but today, I actually think he is still a bit tired from his long track yesterday!

A curb turn – rather than going out into the parking lot I step down into the curb and turn left. Ben does great! He trots out about 15 m, looks at Judy, has a shake, then circles back to find the track. It is amazing to see how aware they are of scent even on hard surfaces. I loved this moment!

What I love about this curb turn is to see how Ben circles back to me after he loses scent. He shakes and gives a very clear negative. He has been taught to circle back. Love it!

Tricky turn in a turn circle rather than on a parking lot. But what happens is Ben seems to cut straight to the glove. AND I STOPPED HIM! I got so carried away with MY idea that he should follow the primary track that I forgot it was only 30 minutes old and the wind was bringing the scent of leather straight to him. You can see him look to see if I am coming. At that moment, I stopped him, and he ended up not very happy with me.

I ran it again and we finished it well. I had Ben lie down and baited the leg leading to the turn circle, then ran him again, but I did not feel very happy with myself. I am very sure Ben forgot about it quickly as we took lots of time to play. It was a good reminder that his nose is a GREAT UTDX nose. I’ve been working on his articles. And I blew it. Sometimes it happens. We carry on! I like to share these things because training is not always perfect but since we usually have very good tracks and lots of positive moments, this will pass 🙂

Read on to see the other tracks we’ve done since February!

March 18: 850 m – 5 hour old track

Yesterday, I laid an 820 m long track for Ben. It was an easy pattern (linear) with moist, yellow spring grass. I aged it for 5 hours, with my goal being to challenge him a bit as we prepare for UTDX.

820 m 5 hours UTDX
March 18 – 820 metres and 5 hours old

I laid this track at 10:30 and when we ran it at 3:30, we were in the middle of a WIND WARNING and one of his articles had blown 30 m off track. Winds were gusting up to 60 kph. On top of this, it was 22 C.

This is a big switch and Ben was visibly working very hard but he persevered and ran a great, challenging track – nailing his non-veg turn at the end! The entire track is 20 minutes long and I ended up with camera issues. Here is the non-veg turn. 

March 11: Residence Serpentine

Last weekend we ran a short track in -11 C. It was a serpentine around the college residence buildings. I could hardly keep up with Ben. I am using a new light line and he is moving very freely on it. My old line was 30 feet, and this one is 35 feet. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but he seems to like the distance better. I could hardly keep up with him, but it was really fun even though my fingers were frozen by the end!

March 4: 670 m in a new place – 4 hours old

March 4 650 m in a new place – Lions Park and Strathcona Senior Centre

The first time I tried the new line, which is mountain climbing cord, was a few weeks ago when we had another chinook – it was about 15C. We did a lovely UTDX track in a new location I discovered, having only lived in Medicine Hat for one year. My friend hid in some shadows to give Ben some ‘lurker’ experience as Ben has had some discomfort at times around residence areas which are commonly used for ran tracks.

I was so happy with how he did! The camera did a better job of filming this one (compared with yesterday).

Full Track – 15 minutes

If you don’t have 15 minutes, here are two highlights:

Two nice turns leading to the intermediate article
End of the track and non-veg turn

This was one of the funnest tracks I’ve done in a long time!

February 19: Brooks UTDX training – 610 m

My friend Judy and I drove an hour west to this beautiful government property in Brooks Alberta. We walked together and did this track for Ben. I have been trying to find him new places.

Ben's Track 610 m

On this track, I gave him as much loose line as possible to let him make his own decisions. I had a very sore leg, and at one point, he stops on a roadway to look back and make sure I can climb the embankment, just like Lassie! (you do know, the Rough Collie and Border Collie were once the same dog, right? But that is another story)

Here is the video of this track. I can’t wait to go back here. Below Ben poses at the start, after completing the track. Lovely grounds!

Ben end of track

February 11: 580 m – 3 hour old track in a huge, contaminated parking lot


On February 11 we got back to tracking after a very cold spell. It was wonderful to be out again! February 11 I found another new place – Holy Family Church. The parking lot is HUGE!

Here is the track. It was beautiful!

I loved being behind Ben on this one. 4 hours old and 580 m. I ran it an hour after church ended. When I laid it the parking lot was filled with cars. Just imagine the contamination. He aced it. Dogs are amazing.

Good boy Ben!

End of track


And on one warm weekend in January, we drove to Lethbridge!

The January 21 track ended up being 850 meters due to unexpected obstacles but this is roughly what we did there. I hoped to find a new location and track around students. Before the track we walked around the campus too, while it aged. Ben did a fantastic job. I feel like I keep saying this – – and he does. He is a good boy and loves to work. I feel very blessed.

The map is below. The video can be viewed here (11 minutes but the end is missing due to camera issues. The end of the track is below)

You can see the end and his non-veg turn here.  I love his little leap when he smells the article!

Google Earth image

Ben poses at Lethbridge University with the coulee in the background! The photo at the top of the page is also taken at the end of this track. You can see the big drop-offs in the google map above.

lethbridge u arch





The Importance of Trust in Tracking

River’s UTDX training track Olds College 2009 (2 minutes)

Above is a link to a video that I saw in the sidebar menu of YouTube last night as I was working on uploading Ben’s problematic track yesterday. Of course it caught my eye and I watched it and reminisced about how I always felt such joy following River. She was my first urban dog, and a year after this training track she came within 50 m of becoming a TCH but sadly, we missed our very last turn after being DEAD ON for the entire track at the main building area of the U of Calgary!

23 River TDX
River age 11 posing in her TDX field in Thunder Bay

River died in 2014 as a sweet old girl, who helped me lay tracks to her last week. She is my official heart dog and was “Lindau’s Uncharted Course TDX UTD JHD.”

In this year (the video), 2009, I took a YEAR OFF of tests with River. We had driven all the way to BC for a UTDX and failed at the start. It was heart wrenching.  I had met Dan Waters, President of the IPO club in Calgary and someone who has become a friend and mentor. He won the IPO Nationals with his wonderful GSD Ali. Dan gave me some advice for River which I followed before that test in 2010. I decided to follow Dan’s advice and it really paid off.

Fast forward to Ben! Ben is Jet and Ted’s son, and River’s “grand-baby” – she sure loved him. And ironically, he is a lot like her. River never liked pressure and so I learned to track with her on a very long, loose line and saw (as you can see above in the video) that she was very trustworthy.

Ben rocky turn.jpg
In this still from the video you can see the long, loose line as Ben makes this turn with me well behind

Ben has flown through his TD, UTD and TDX in three straight tests. For UTDX we have suffered a bit in our teamwork. Ben stopped indicating articles reliably. And his tracking has become very serious. That is ok – he’s a working dog and his tracking is excellent but I have been trying to bring some joy back into Ben’s tracking for the both of us, and some enthusiasm for articles.

Yesterday he had an off day. It happens. But it was disheartening. This morning I woke up and as is my practice, I started my day with a Bible Study. Part of the message in that Bible study was that we often rely on our own intelligence or intellect to fix problems, when we really should have faith in God’s plan, and trust Him.

Trust. Such a vital element in tracking! And when our dogs are advanced, we need to put this into practice. As usual, tracking is a metaphor for my life and relationship with God. What a lesson today.

Proverbs 3:5 says: Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding

Suddenly I sat back and thought of following River with all of that trust. I remembered how it felt to follow so quietly behind her, just enjoying watching her discover the track. She was a good girl and on that test day, I had that same joy following her – and heard later that I was literally standing on every corner until the end – on that very hot day. I am still so proud of how we did. Age caught up with her and that was the closest she came to passing. But what a TEACHER! As a Christian, I am always humbled by how God cares about these little things, and uses them to teach us – and I believe that tracking is a great dog sport for me, as it always seems to reflect on great lessons that help me to grow.

Today I got out that old, long, orange line. It is 50 feet long. I decided to lay a track in the same area for Ben, mirroring yesterday’s. I aged it for 2.5 hours, not 3.5, as it was quite cold and winds were gusting to 60 kph today.

Here is the video of Ben on that long line today (12 minutes)

It isn’t “pretty” but it is pretty happy! I gave Ben space without pressure to sort things out. He came through for me and was happier about articles with no cues! I think I have something I can work with, to tighten up his precision and achieve my training goal for this spring’s test.

Play the Rocky theme song!
Yes, it was fun! And tracking should be fun – because… you can’t push a rope!



2017 Training Begins

The game’s afoot!

Training Plan shaping up for Ben’s UTDX test at the end of May

On the Spiritdance Tracking Community Facebook Page the members voted that our first group discussion should be about Goal Setting and developing a Training Plan for spring tests. Perfect! I can always use extra encouragement to work on my training plan.

Yesterday as a bonus I posted a link to a 50-minute presentation about goal setting. It is only part one, as we put foundations in place for a plan with a lot of meaning. When goals are tied to values, people are more likely to commit and follow through. Our values are a deep-seated part of our make-up. When we realize how achieving a goal will satisfy a core value, we want to see our plans through.

Presentation on the Spiritdance Tracking Community Facebook page – How to set goals and reach them!

As I have been leading the group through this exercise, I came up with my own goals and matched them to my values. Of course, one of my big goals for 2017 is to pas UTDX with Ben. We made it through a half-UTDX last fall. I am hoping he will be bomb-proof in May so that we both feel more confident.  Breaking this goal down – something I will be working on is article indications. And these goals tie in well and support my values of Knowledge and Learning; Challenge; Competence and Fun (those are not all of my values, but they are the ones linked to this!)

Last weekend I was fortunate to meet up with Dan Vas, past president of the Canadian Search Dog Association, to do article searches in a heated, empty greenhouse. Ben LOVED it so much he was almost giddy as he located four articles quickly, kicking up dust in the process! And what an honour to see the CSDA dogs work too including Dan’s German Shepherd Cairo and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever owned by another member (Liz). In the photos below, Ben ran up on plant racks trying to zero in on a leather glove. I was so pleased to see his enthusiasm – and his courage in a new place. I have posted a few more photos at the end of this post of that great morning last weekend!

Today I decided to do another article search game with Ben, outside in one of his training areas. I tried to make it as fun for him as last weekend. He LOVED it again! He was all business, trotting and running on the hunt for my articles. Here is a map of the article placement (picture it white with snow!)

This is the search area I used today, at Medicine Hat College and the order in which he round his articles. It also shows the wind direction. In order they were 1) leather 2) wool mitten 3) wood square 4) leather 5) wool sock and 6) flannel knot. I missed another sock which was above #5, and had already rewarded Ben with his toy, so I let Jet and Ted find it and have fun!

I basically walked back and forth to each area without giving hints, and let him tell me with an alert or body snap that he was in the scent pool or got wind of the article.

Click here to watch the video of Ben finding articles

I am not a perfect trainer, but I am a dedicated trainer. I am very goal-focused and I focus on progressing. I do not enter tracking tests unless I KNOW I am ready and I believe this hard training and preparation has increased my personal success rate (as we know, so many other things factor in too – but being ready is very important).

In the video you will see that Ben runs from my van away from the article area. When he turns to run back, at the 10-second in mark, he does a body snap to the leather glove up on a snowbank. He zeros in on it by 40 seconds in. From there and at a fast pace he finds the others at a rate of about one article every one and a half minutes.

The funnest one was a leather glove that I tossed into the snow on top of a random set of concrete steps just sitting in this maintenance yard. Ben knew it was there, but circling at a run. So I encouraged him to come downwind and he zeroed right in. In the stills below, you can see him approach from the downwind side and leap up to get the glove!

The hardest one to find was his flannel knot, which he usually finds very easy. It was thrown behind the tire of a big maintenance truck in the middle of four trucks. Ben ran around them and knew it was there, then finally located it. I was so happy, I think that is why I forgot about the 7th article!

Time to pose, then play!

When I realized I missed a sock, I let Jet and Ted find that sock! Jet is a Tracking Champion and 11 years old. Ted is also 11 years old and he loves finding articles (which he calls toys!). They are Ben’s sire and dam. All in all it was a fun exercise.


This is a small step forward as I start working towards my May UTDX goal. It was colder than I expected today, and I almost cancelled. But the beauty of goal setting is that you become responsible and accountable when you declare your goals to others!

I shared my goals in my presentation to the group on Facebook and told everyone I would be going out today to play at articles. It nagged at me, until I did do it. And you know what? I am so darn proud of myself. It only took an hour to drive there, place the articles, then run Ben. Right now I am looking at him curled in a tight ball on the couch – a happy, tired pup.

This is what coaching can do! It even motivates the coach!

Everyone is welcome to join the Spiritdance Tracking Community by clicking this link and submitting a request. For coaching purposes, I need your permission to add you to this group.

It is a training and coaching focused Facebook Page for trackers. As I grow and expand Spiritdance Motivation & Performance Coaching, this is another way I can reach out to people to share my passion for tracking AND coaching!

More photos of our Greenhouse Article Training session last weekend

Ben and I, plus Judy Wallace and her Border Collie Lark

Dan Vas and Cairo

Liz and Nia – I love this sequence! Nia realized the article was hidden in the next aisle and leaped under the plant racks!

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.

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,