I have been working on a book FOREVER. And it is finally a reality! The Spiritdance Tracking Method (not the name – the book is not named yet) has been developed over decades of tracking, teaching and coaching. Visit the “Book Website” to learn more.
For now, I am calling it Godly Paths because the Bible verse of Jeremiah 6: 16-17 really touched my heart the first time I read it. In the New International Version of the Bible the original Greek text is interpreted as ‘godly paths.’ In other versions, the Greek is interpreted as ‘the good path’ or ‘the ancient path.’ The image the text evokes to me is not only about following God’s will, but also about my life path. It reminds me of the trust we need for tracking success.
On June 19, I was at a crossroads in my personal and working life, and the Daily Devotional I read, written by Dr. Charles Stanley, was called Look for the Good Way. It was a reminder to me about the website I had created a few years ago, the last time I had the energy to devote to writing. I began to write again while I was off this winter following hip surgery.
I invited you to read that Daily Devotional. So much about tracking relates to every day life and values. That is why I love tracking, and love to teach it and coach people. It is indeed a wonderful way to spend time with our dogs and with each other.
Congratulations to Michelle Armitage and Pamela Burns on their new Tracking Champions, English Springer “TCH Cameron” and Wirehaired Dachshund “TCH Lieder!” If you check out my public Spiritdance Tracking Facebook page you’ll see their reports from this past weekend as they each passed their final title – the Urban Tracking Dog Excellent test – for their CKC Tracking Champion honour. These teams came to me with a lot of experience and three titles already earned. It was my great honour and privilege to work with them remotely over the winter and spring as their Coach – helping them be prepared for the performance of their tracking careers!
The UTDX is a difficult title: 3-5 hours old, up to one-half non-vegetated surface, in contaminated public settings like industrial parks, schools or college grounds. The dogs must find the track and three articles along the way, sorting out the competing scents. The handlers must read their dogs, hold up their end, and trust their canine partners. It is the ultimate in teamwork and trust and a very intense test. Many try and don’t pass. In part, understanding the urban environment is a challenge in itself.
I love urban tracking! I love tracking! As a judge for all levels, I am always thrilled when asked to plot and judge tests. Seeing dogs pass is always a joy. As a participant, I love to train my own dogs. And as an instructor and coach, I love to be part of the journey with so many talented teams. I always make sure to tell each team that THEY put in the work. A coach can coach away, but if the client doesn’t put in the work, the results and outcomes won’t be there.
I have been teaching tracking since 1995 and have had the ongoing personal rewards of seeing my students / friends enjoy success and become independent over time as they become passionate and knowledgeable in their own right. Today I see many of my original students still involved in tracking as participants and organizers, including here in Alberta where I’ve been teaching since 2008.
Since starting online coaching – the first in Canada for tracking, focused on CKC rules – I have had the honour of coaching many teams including Beginners to tracking, people stuck with their progress on TDX, and beginners to urban tracking. I’ve seen these teams go on to be successful at tests in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC! Teams I have not worked with IN PERSON but who I’ve coached online, viewing videos and providing ongoing lesson support and training.
These two UTDXs are the highest titles I have ‘coached!’ I am so grateful to both Michelle and Pamela for sharing how I contributed to this final title. Often the coach is the “person behind the scenes” when teams achieve their goals (and that’s ok!). I am grateful in this case because by sharing that we worked together, it shows everyone that COACHING WORKS!
And let’s be sure to acknowledge that no test is successful without a great judge plotting great tracks, and tracklayers offering their stinky feet! I am even more thrilled that both Michelle and Pamela passed under Marie P Babin, who I consider one of my mentors.
Let’s be clear. They did it. They put in the work. They dedicated the time and miles to achieve this honour of achieving a Tracking Championship. A coach is someone who contributes along the way, helping people meet their goals. It is an investment in yourself.
I am working on a Spiritdance Tracking book, specifically on Urban Tracking. I believe in my methods and have been excited to share them with my clients. I’ve developed ideas and methods over 30 years in tracking that I’ve been able to refine over the past two years – seeing things come together as my students have been progressing rapidly and enjoying their tracking experiences.
In the meantime I continue to give lessons and tracking workshops in person. If you are interested in Coaching – please let me know. Many people need that extra boost or some new tools in the toolbox, and a lot of people have no access to tracking instruction at all.
GO CANADA! Through coaching, I’ve seen people come together and share from east to west, in the online classroom. Tracking is a small community and my goal is to inspire, motivate and encourage trackers at all levels, so that they love the sport and enjoy success – achieving their goals!
Thank you to everyone who has invited me to be part of your journey. I look forward to growing my Coaching over the years to come – and to sharing my methods in my book!
Congratulations to the new TCHs! Thank you for the honour of working with you, and thanks to all of my past and current clients, students and friends.
If your group or club want a Spiritdance tracking seminar this is the one! We all start in urban environments now. Let’s do it with greater knowledge! If you are a keen urban competitor this workshop will give you ideas and insights into urban moving scent.
And if you are a new or aspiring Tracking Judge at the urban level you would find this workshop very helpful for plotting and for understanding what’s happening on the track!
These workshops are an idea I’ve developed over time focused on how to help people understand and train in he urban environment successfully – beginners and advanced.
The exercises I’ve designed will be enlightening and practical and will be all about predicting scent flow, plotting for success and article placement using urban concepts. Dogs will demonstrate our predictions to test our knowledge, in a series of short exercises in a variety of scenarios, locations, times and track ages.
The exercises are sure to bring out our inner geeks!
Everyone will also prepare their own scent maps! I’ve been studying Urban Scent for 12 years now and use my ideas to train and also to plot for tests when I judge. I love to watch dogs on test tracks handling challenges and shining when they are in flow.
Thank you to all of the wonderful trackers – students and friends – who have filled and practically over filled both June Urban Scent Tracking Workshops in Olds and Medicine Hat!!
I’m so honoured to have people attending from Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, and Medicine Hat. This is the first time I’ve filled a seminar in the Hat too. I love to work with such passionate people and am looking forward to these seminars. They will be fun!
Once I nail down the format I hope to offer more. I think it will be a workshop I can give anywhere in the future and a real “Spiritdance” brand! (Like my own Stinky Feet Workshop!)
Thanks guinea pigs, I mean trackers! It will be awesome!
Have you always wanted to learn about tracking? Have you started to track, but haven’t learned enough to get into a test? Now is your chance!
Spiritdance Coaching & Tracking is taking our training show on the road! Alberta really is a great place to drive a circuit. Starting in July, I will be giving regular lessons in Calgary, Olds, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.
2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for beginners and experienced trackers! More tests are being offered across Alberta and elsewhere. New judges are ready and that means more people to help spread tests around! There is a new ‘Master Tracking’ title available to Tracking Champions, meaning more chances to play! MIXED BREEDS are allowed in CKC tracking tests and many are earning titles from TD to Tracking Champion!
Whether you are a beginner, wanting to learn about urban tracking or seeking the Master Tracking Champion title lessons and coaching can help give you the tools to train well and succeed.
Because it takes a lot of time and space to teach tracking, it is tough to find tracking instruction. I happen to be passionate about sharing this sport with others and I’ve been teaching tracking since 1995. I love it, and love meeting people and their dogs. We have fun!
My mission as a coach is to inspire and motivate and because I am a Professional Coach, I focus on your unique needs and your goals when we work together. I’m committed to the continued love and growth of tracking, a non-competitive outdoor sport that attracts great people – a sport dogs of all sizes and ages enjoy and love!
Since moving to Alberta in 2008 I have been privileged to see people become interested in tracking, obtain titles and even form new tracking clubs to offer more tests. It is a wonderful feeling to see students grow, and to make new friends. It is rewarding to have been a part of this tracking growth!
NEW! Learn more about the exciting world of urban tracking and how scent works in settings like colleges, industrial parks, city streets and back alleys! Unravel the mystery of scent in urban areas to increase your success in training and tests!
TWO dates and two locations. Suitable for everyone wanting to understand scent theory and learn about tracking.
These workshops will offer in-class learning and outdoor theory in practice.
Experienced tracking teams will demonstrate scent flow and scent properties in these highly contaminated and ever-changing environments. These workshops are suitable for beginners to participate in as observers, to learn in-class and observe the teams at work.
Working teams must already know how to track. Full tracks will not be provided – but working teams will be challenged to work in a variety of scenarios with many interesting challenges on both blind and known tracks. Some beginner (TD ready) teams may be able to take part depending on how working positions fill.
An experienced team is defined as ‘TD-ready’ or already working at the TDX or urban levels. Experienced SAR teams are also welcome.
Workshops will include:
reading your dog
understanding the urban environment
tools to train for success
opportunities to participate in urban scent challenges for working teams
a chance to observe experienced dogs at work for beginners
maps and handouts
Beginners to tracking are encouraged to work in urban areas. This is a great way to learn!
Please use the contact form to express your interest in other training opportunities (lessons, seminars for your club or group, mock tests and training camps)
I am home recovering from hip replacement surgery. I can’t get out to train and have tracking fever! It’s a good time to organize my gear, and today I decided to go through my articles. I had at least three containers full and have successfully trimmed down to one bag for my car and one small container in storage!
Below is a photo of my articles (not all but a selection for discussion). I also did an off the cuff video where I talk about my articles here:
I am passionate about this topic, because articles are important! If a dog doesn’t find the articles on a track, it will fail. Over the 30 years I’ve been tracking, I’ve developed preferences for articles I like and will train with. When I judge I am very particular about articles I choose for each test level. There are some articles I just don’t like – I don’t like the weight, the material or the size – but we never know what we will get in a test so I keep these in my bag as well.
Dogs have favourites too, and we need to be sure they will indicate what is presented on the track. As I went through articles today, my TCH Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben fished out his favourite – a cut up cotton tea towel!
My one-year old German Shepherd pup Micah pulled out both yellow gloves that I use a lot, ignoring all other leather articles to choose them!
Since I’ve blogged in the past about this, I won’t go into detail here, but after a lot of practical experience I find that articles made of natural fabrics have a better scent cone and are more easily found by dogs. This idea was validated when I worked with my SAR friend Dan Vas who said in SAR they have observed the same thing! Nylon, polyester, polypropoline – these just don’t register as much on a dog’s nose as wool, cotton and flannel.
Clubs often go to dollar stores for articles to save money, so we don’t know if socks and gloves are actually cotton or nylon, but I suspect the worst. I’ve offered articles out of my own article bag when I’ve judged tests where I drive, to give test dogs the best possible opportunity to pass.
With respect to other urban articles made of plastic, wood and metal I have favourites too! Wood should not have competing scent such as cedar and should not be particulate that is glued together. I am not a fan of the blue ‘ziploc’ type of lids but they seem to be popular in tests. I prefer light switches and heavier plastic items including plastic fake leather wallets.
And so, I went through my articles today and made a quick cut to toss a lot of old articles that don’t make the cut anymore. I saved some for training though! Then I decided which articles I will put into my article bag for training – once I am back on my feet! The rest of my chosen articles will be put in a container in storage for seminars, lessons and tests.
Don’t fool yourself!
Articles that sit in your basement or car will be saturated with your scent! In tests, articles that are stored in someone’s home will smell like them – even if the tracklayer sleeps with them for two nights! New articles will leach a new scent, even if they are kept in someone’s hiking boot and slept with for two nights!
Given this, we need to train with articles that are foreign to the tracklayer’s scent. I get articles from Value Village etc and will bag them and mix them in with my articles to ensure my dogs will indicate them.
I will go to a hardware store and buy smelly NEW articles to make sure my dogs identify these, as club often buy new gloves for keepers in tests. I’ll also lay a track walking with a partner, and ask them to leave their articles. And I don’t just air my articles, I wash them, and haul out a new set a few times each season.
I used to be proud when my dogs ignored any article on the track except the one with the tracklayer’s scent. Now, as long as it has human scent, I reward my dogs for indicating.
Sometimes they will have two of mine, and one odd one (other scent, new scent) on the track and I can see an averse reaction – even leaping back – when they come across it. However, taking my cue from my SAR friends, I would rather see my dog indicate any human scent than skip something and fail in a test.
Here are the articles I chose for my article bag for this training season… as soon as I can track again. These are described in the video post above.
You can see that I’ve written “Dog training item, please do not remove,,” on some articles but I try not to write on them all with sharpies, to make sure my dogs are not just cuing to the ink smell!
I use mesh bags to air my articles after use and let them dry. All of my articles also go into a big mesh bag along with some rocks for weighing them down (or I will pick rocks up along the way). The extra articles are in a container going back to storage for seminars, lessons and tests or to be swapped out later in the season.
Everyone has opinions and ideas about articles. The longer you track, the more you will gravitate to certain types too. I always find it interesting to see what other people have and love to share ideas.
I hope this has been a fun look at a tracking geek’s collection!
My bag is ready to go to the van! If I can’t track yet, I can at least drive around and still feel like a tracker.
Here is a thank you from 12-year old TCH Alta-Pete Jet! Thanks for checking out the blog…
CKC Tracking Judge (all levels)
Tracking clinician since 1995
Spring marks the beginning of tracking season! Just in time, I am excited to offer two MORNING CLASSES for Beginners and for Urban Tracking! These are not just webinars – they are mornings of personal, live instruction with small classes and interactive participation. As a professional coach, I am always geared to meeting your needs and goals and committed to your progress and success.
Each class is 4 hours of instruction (with coffee breaks of course!) When you take part online, you can chat live or use a typed chat feature to ask questions or make comments. Whiteboards are used – to draw maps and other diagrams that help explain things more clearly. There is a presentation, we will have a quick look at video, and handouts are provided. Everyone leaves with practical lesson plans and ideas to get out and get training!
Class content is based on proven successful methods that I have developed over the past 27 years as a teacher, clinician and active participant! You can see more about my dogs, read testimonials and learn more about my involvement in tracking here on this site under Learn More, or on my business website.
This information is soon to be published so be sure to check it out now! *A Spiritdance Tracking Book is in the works!
The Beginners Tracking Online Class is aimed at people who don’t have a TD or who are looking for new ideas for foundations and training. If you have never tracked, this is the class for you. If you are new to tracking or feel like you need to go back to square one with some fresh ideas – please consider this class. I will share my methods and ideas to get you going.
The Urban Tracking Online Class is for both beginners to tracking and experienced trackers. Beginners to tracking and beginners to urban tracking will find some unique and fresh ideas to get started in the fun and way cool sport of Urban Tracking! Be careful though – it is addictive!
If you are new to tracking, you will learn how you can begin to train for urban tracking once your foundations are in place and how urban tracking can improve your handling and test readiness. Plus, once you have that TD, you are ready to move on!
If you are an experienced tracker, you might be looking for some new ideas, new ways to train or ideas to improve your performance in urban tracking.
From the Spiritdance Life Coaching website – Just as we change and grow throughout life, a business also changes and grows. Spiritdance Life Coaching is evolving and changing in 2018 with an increased focus on performance and sport coaching. But not only that!
2018 will be the year of joy and inspiration for Spiritdance!
The time has come to focus on the things that bring us all joy. Joy in small doses, days filled with joy, the joy of companionship with good friends, and the joy our dogs bring us … Read More
We are growing again! Thank you to all of the participants both in-person and online who help me to constantly expand and focus on coaching and training! My goals are to help and share the wonderful sport of tracking with interested people across Canada.
2018 is a banner year for Spiritdance Tracking. A long time ago I made a promise to myself that this year would be special. I will be the same age as my mother was when she died very young from cancer. In that year, 1995, I started Spiritdance Tracking as a way of keeping joy in my life amidst the sorrow of loss.
Little did I know it would become a lifetime of passion and purpose. And through coaching and training, I hope to work with others who want the same kind of passion and purpose in their lives and training! I’ve always told myself that 2018 would be special and I am taking steps to make that happen.
This website (Spiritdance Community Online) has become a great place to share ideas and describe events and courses in detail. The new domain ‘spiritdancetracking.ca’ will help people find Spiritdance Tracking even faster and give a quick snapshot of what it’s all about.
In 2018 you can watch for
An increased focus on coaching
More weekend seminars hosted by other clubs in new locations
A Spiritdance Method tracking book
A series of small training booklets
A Spiritdance Holistic Retreat!
As time permits, Spiritdance weekend seminars, with first preference to existing clients as always
Oh yes, and my personal training goals of course are to get puppy Micah into tests, and TCH Ben into advanced tests to try out for our Master Tracking Title!
I wish everyone a wonderful year and look forward to working with you and to meeting new people too. Tracking is a great sport and attracts amazing people. Let’s commit to being good stewards of the sport and support each other and have fun!
The Tracking Championship title has been in effect for ten years now, and there are roughly 60 Tracking Champions. There are more per year recently as training methods catch up and as experienced people repeat their performance with new dogs. Still, at roughly 6 TCHs per year a discussion of Mastery and Maturity in tracking, after ten years of urban tracking seems practical. Read more… Mastery and Maturity in the Sport of Tracking