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
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!
How my tracking methods have developed and an overview of what to expect in the book!
Spiritdance Tracking started in 1995, a few months before my mother died of cancer at age 58. I have always experienced tracking as something meditative – and as an activity where I find myself surrounded by wonderful people.
23 years later, I have grown this business and passion into something ‘uniquely Spiritdance’ thanks to the many people who have trusted me to be a part of their tracking journey. While one of my goals is to inspire others, working with trackers has inspired me over many years to keep growing and to hone my ideas and methods, resulting in a Spiritdance Tracking method.
Below I briefly decribe my methods This is followed by my personal tracking journey.
Tracking is always a work in progress! We never know everything. It is one of the things I love about this sport. And every dog brings something new to the table. However, a solid method should be able to help every team succeed in this sport and perform consistently despite handler and dog differences! The Spiritdance Tracking Method is proven to work for traditional and non-traditional breeds in this fun sport, including mixed breeds.
About the Method
In 2013 I added coaching skills to my instruction and training, and graduated from Erickson College’s International Coach Federation cirriculum based coaching program. Coaching shines the focus on the two-legged half of the tracking team. As a Professional Coach I bring a unique view to teaching tracking, by encouraging and motivating people to grow and develop in the sport.
Coaching has changed how I organize lessons and seminars – and as a result of coach training, I have started online training, to become the first tracking instructor in Canada to offer online lessons, coaching and webinars! Bringing people from across Canada together online is exciting and allows trackers to hear from people with different ideas and backgrounds in tracking. When I have travelled as a clinician and judge, I’ve seen this in person. It is exciting to bring this to everyone through coaching and instruction online.
Now I am finalizing my first book, after many years of giving presentations and developing handouts and unique course materials (all copyrighted!). I am looking forward to sharing my ideas and methods even more once the book is a reality.
What uniquely Spiritdance methods and ideas will you see in the book? They are all related to tracking of course so focus on all of the skills we need for success in the sport. It is the way they are presented, and the combination of ideas and training I’ve been fortunate to learn – CKC, AKC, IPO, police work, and other sports – that makes it different. It is the fact that my methods work, not just for my dogs, but for others teams too.
The Spiritdance Tracking Method has long incorporated the coaching and training science that is proven to work for elite athletes around the world! Holistic mind and body training that applies to tracking handlers – and even to our dogs! I’ve been a long admirer of elite runners and have developed tracking methods using the great ideas of marathon, triathlon and Ironman athletes. It works.
What is the Spiritdance Tracking Method?
- In Spiritdance lessons, seminars and webinars the focus is on skill development, mental training, muscle memory, kinetics and training the athletic brain.
- It is about a focus on the two-legged half of the team – taking handlers through stages of skill acquisition that create confidence and ability
- The Spiritdance Tracking Method is focused on teaching and giving our dogs tools even though we know they are natural trackers, and on creating confident dogs that have a belief in themselves and track consistently.
- It is about developing teams from foundations to advanced tracking, giving handlers tools and habits of excellence.
- It is about seeing training as a purposeful practice and a discipline.
- It is about exercises with purpose, and training deliberately, with a plan.
- And it is about eliminating the struggle – as struggling is the worst way to learn! It eliminates what appear to be elements of randomness from our training and testing.
Overview of Spiritdance Tracking methods
- Methods are grounded in respect for the team, kindness, open sharing, honesty, inspiration, motivation, compassion and a belief that any team can succeed and love this wonderful sport
- Strong foundations shaping our dog’s – and our – behaviour and habits
- We teach our dogs – not just read our dogs and expect consistent behaviour
- Our dogs talk to us, and we communicate through the line dance and magic steps
- Solid starts and first turns with flag recognition, drive and focus
- Flow and follow through on straight legs and turns
- We string together L-tracks in a system of teaching, training and testing
- We keep our dogs confident and motivated, and keep our own mental game strong
- Ability to negotiate transitions and find touchpoints for confidence building
- We work in zones with spatial awareness and make constant micro-decisions, taking in environmental cues intuitively
- We use dead zones, wind, edges, curb serpentines and obstacles strategically
- We use the power of the group to work together plotting and laying tracks so that dogs can go from scent pads and serpentines to nose down tracks in one seminar!
- We do base tracks and long runs, we peak our performance, taper and prepare for tests with high level planning skills, goals and positive visualization
- We hone our skills to achieve Tracking Mastery, fluency and literacy in the sport to become elite athletes, running our personal race and seeking to achieve our personal best and keep learning
The (future) Book
Since I am heading into hip replacement surgery in 3 weeks my goal is to take all of the materials and recordings I’ve accumulated over the years, and get my book ready to share details of my methods with everyone. I hope that the outline at the beginning of this blog post gives you a good idea of what to expect.
My Tracking Journey
And now for a little background about how this method was developed.
Early Tracking Years
My first exposure to tracking was to attend a Glen Johnson seminar in Thunder Bay, while he was home visiting his parents. This seminar was organized by Dawn Sanderson, my first tracking instructor in my hometown of Thunder Bay way back in 1989. I still have my notes and handouts from that seminar and of course, a well-worn copy of Tracking Dog.
As luck would have it, I met a Bloodhound man in the early 80s when I worked for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Dave Kenney was a Conservation Officer whose dog Nero was always at his side. Nero had been used extensively by the Ontario Provincial Police in northern Ontario. I would go out with Dave and ‘hide’ as Nero’s victim and will never forget that BIG NOSE coming at me, ears flapping as he closed in, Dave running behind. We went out in all seasons and as a result, I have always tracked year ’round.
I was hooked! My first tracking dog was a German Shepherd named Hawk who became my first TD and first TDX dog in the early 90s. Robin would come next, another German Shepherd. But it was Kate, my Rough Collie, that provided the watershed moment motivating me to begin teaching tracking. I had been using Glen Johnson’s method exclusively until the day Kate, a ‘show dog’ escaped from my car as I was loading up Robin who had just completed a track! Kate took off at a dead run, and as I watched, she ran the entire track precisely to the end, finding bait left behind and circling back to where the article had left a scent pool.
I had been convinced not to damage Kate’s coat or let her put her nose down as she was a promising conformation star, but Kate showed me that tracking was not just for German Shepherds. However, Kate was not interested in the repetitive drills that my shepherds did without question.
Spiritdance Tracking Begins
Training Kate made me take a step away from the program and think about ways to motivate her to track. This was a time of change in many venues with the advent of positive training, use of bait, and clickers that Malcolm Gladwell describes as “the tipping point” when the same ideas occur to people in waves. Long before the internet and social media, other trackers had similar ideas and came up with new ways to train. I presented my ideas in my first classes to friends who signed up with their Collies, Bull Mastiffs, Aussies, Dachshunds, Dalmatians and even Toy breeds.
I wish I had kept a list of everyone who trained with me beginning in 1995. I will be forever grateful to them all for giving Spiritdance Tracking it’s start. By the way, Spiritdance was also the kennel name I registered with the CKC when I bought Kate! She was non-traditional, an amazing tracker and a multiple specialty and group winner in the show ring (who never did put her nose down, but ran out ahead very independently on a long line thanks to tracking!) Kate passed her TD and TDX in 1993 and 1994 on her first attempts, and to this date holds the record as my fasted TDX dog at 11 minutes!
The big move to Alberta, Mentors and Growth in the sport
I’ve been fortunate since those days to seek mentors in both CKC and AKC tracking including trackers, fellow judges and fellow clinicians and other trainers. I peppered my training with ideas I gleaned from other sports – especially herding, which is my other passion. By 2005 I added Border Collies to my pack with my first ‘working stockdog’ Jet, who would become my first Tracking Champion in 2012. A working lines GSD named Caden followed (more about Caden further below).
Two more watershed dogs, Jet and Caden, led me into the hard core working dog world of stockdogs and IPO (known then as Schutzhund). A big move to Alberta in 2008 led to even closer ties to friends and mentors in these competitive dog sports and I realized how much there was to learn!
The Pendulum Swings back to Precision with Urban Tracking
In the years just prior to moving from Thunder Bay to Alberta I attended a Wallace Payne IPO Tracking Seminar, and organized a CKC Tracking Seminar with AKC Judge Steve Ripley. They were very complementary, as both advocated that dogs can be motivated to track precisely, whether on veg or on hard surface. Urban tracking had become a reality in CKC tracking in 2006 and the question on everyone’s minds was ‘how do we teach our dogs to do this?
In my seminars I talk about the pendulum swinging back to the center in tracking. Many of us got very excited about understanding scent, and moved away from the wonderful foundations Glen Johnson had provided in his book. Certainly scent understanding grew and some of his ideas had to be updated. But many of us became carried away with the very positive methods we’d started to use ten years earlier, and the ideas about moving scent. In urban tests, dogs were initially allowed to be 40 metres off track but it was not a pretty sight. This was another of those Malcolm Gladwell “multiple discovery” moments in time.
I began to piece together ideas to regain precision, and on all surfaces, from IPO and other working dog training. I’ve had great mentors in both CKC and ASCA herding, as well as Border Collie stockdog trials. I was very fortunate again to meet great mentors who have become friends in sport dog venues and these people have generously shared ideas with me and train together.
Attending IPO tracking seminars and working very hard with Caden, my IPO candidate, I reshaped them to suit my CKC goals. I then took my GSD River, and Border Collie Jet out of tracking tests for an entire season to retrain them in foundation work.
The results were very exciting! While River did not pass her UTDX, at age 10 and again at age 11, she came very close, running two test tracks ‘dead on’ – each with small heartbreak moments leading to non-passes. I accept the complete responsibility for both and learned from them – adding to my training toolkit. In training, I saw my brilliant Border Collie Jet bloom, to pass her UTDX on her first try, and become my first Tracking Champion – TCH Alta-Pete Jet.
Ironically, I started my tracking business just as my mother died in 1995. My first Tracking Champion passed her test just after I lost my father. Both dogs were collies, and both were strong-minded females that challenged me to update my methods. River, another female, was my first urban dog and is the dog who taught me so much, and let me experiment and grow as we enjoyed many years of training together.
I give River credit for Jet’s pass! In my heart, she is a Tracking Champion and had she started at a younger age or had a more experienced handler I have no doubt she would have passed that final, difficult test. River lived up to her name. She was meant to be a canoe dog and named River – but Lindau’s Uncharted Course UTD TDX came to Alberta and is my heart and soul dog, a beloved friend and my first urban teacher.
Tracking Judge Experience
By this time, I was now a Tracking Judge too, and with Jet’s pass, I was able to begin judging all levels of CKC tracking tests! Being a judge lets you see training and handling across Canada. This has been a great boon to developing my training ideas too and instilled a strong belief that I can help people succeed. Judges want everyone to pass of course! Tests don’t come around often enough and we only need that one pass for a title.
The pass rates in the advanced levels are very low. This frustrated me (and still does). As a new urban judge, I saw amazing handlers who passed, and others with poor starts, poor line handling, and sloppy habits lacking foundation skills. I saw dogs that had been given no skills although they were very natural and keen. I saw other dogs that seemed to have hit a wall and had lost their belief in themselves. And others with disrespectful habits, considering they were only being asked for 15 minutes of their time in a test!
Systematically Building on Training Ideas
I began to systematically work through my training with the goal of developing a system that set people off on the right path to tracking success. Of course, I always work out methods on my own dogs, and always have two dogs on the go – a beginner and an advanced dog. I continue to train both collies and shepherds and love the interplay of the two breeds and what they teach me! I expanded my training as I began to offer lessons and seminars across Alberta. I’ve also given seminars in BC, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick (and Fargo! Long story) – and in each place I love to learn the ideas people are using, and add to their toolboxes.
Finally, adding to my methods, I was very very fortunate to meet a retired RCMP dog handler who helped me with Caden for two years. I met him through my IPO friend and have never been so grateful for tracking help as I was when I worked with him. Caden did not take to IPO (largely because I didn’t). Caden was fast, powerful and gifted. While in IPO and while working with the RCMP trainer I endured hearing repeatedly that he was being wasted in my hands. He “could win the Worlds” I heard. He “should have been a police dog” I heard.
Well – he was mine to love and enjoy. My first MALE watershed dog, and a shepherd! Through Caden, I learned and practiced tracking as a discipline in ways I’d never experienced before. Caden passed his TD, UTD and UTDX on his first tries. He passed his TDX and UTDX on the same day in 2015 back to back. I had logged almost 1,000 hours of training with this magnificent dog and I knew we were ready. It was a day I will never forget and I doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again. Caden was my second Tracking Champion.
Thank God he passed. He died of cancer in his spine a year later after being ill throughout the entire summer. Sometimes those great dogs, the ones that shine, come into our lives for a short time, brightening everything in their path, then leave in a flash of light. I am so glad he stayed with me, ‘wasting his life’ by being truly loved and honouring this humble CKC tracker with lesson after lesson – and my methods GREW.
As he was an extremely gifted and powerful dog, I had to think about how I could take what I learned and share it with my CKC students. When my Border Collie Ben was born, I began to train Ben using my ideas of combining what I’d learned with Caden and all that I knew about tracking after 22 years in the sport. Thank you TCH Caden von der KleinenWiese.
TCH Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben, my first Spiritdance-trained Tracker
Ben has been my most successful tracking dog to date. Ben passed his TD, UTD, and TDX in a row, on his first attempts. He failed his first try at UTDX – breaking my streak of passing two in a row on my first tries with Jet and Caden! I figured out the ‘holes in my bucket’ (a herding phrase) and Ben passed on his second try. He is a quirky guy and is not the strong-minded tracker his mother Jet was. But I knew that my methods are solid when I saw Ben pull it together to pass and to track so consistently.
I give credit for Ben’s UTDX pass to my friend Dan Vas, a SAR volunteer with the Canadian Search Dog Association, who I met soon after my move to Medicine Hat. I’d never had opportunities to work closely with SAR trainers – not since my introduction to tracking with Nero the Bloodhound! I am currently enjoying training with Dan and his SAR recruits and adding little pieces to my training (as always!) The piece that helped Ben pass had to do with his article indications.
Micah, the New GSD Puppy
In keeping with my routine, I always have one GSD and one Border Collie in training. After losing Caden, I was fortunate to find Micah from a good Canadian breeder. Micah is also known as Gem von Wendelin. I started a training blog for Micah to chronicle her training over time.
Using my methods exclusively, Micah at age 9 months, is a confident tracker and ready for TD and UTD! If only we had tests in the winter! You can read her blog Training Micah for more about my puppy.
I look forward to this new journey and to continued friendships and sharing in years to come!
I appreciate all of the students who’ve been involved with my training from the beginning and the respect that they have shown in the treatment of my unique ideas, methods and materials developed over the years to help each of them grow and succeed.
Notice of Copyright
Please be advised that all materials, unique methods and ideas expressed on this website, other websites, blogs and social media owned and managed by Donna Brinkworth and all materials, recordings, handouts and presentation material related to Spiritdance Coaching and to Spiritdance online and in-person tracking is protected by copyright. Material cannot be reprinted, distributed or used for training and professional purposes without consent and permission of the author, Donna Brinkworth. If material is cited publicly on websites, in presentations, to students and clients or online (videos and social media) credit must be given to Donna Brinkworth, Spiritdance Tracking and Coaching and unique methods protected by copyright must not be portrayed as any other individual’s ideas or methods. All clients are asked to respect and honour this and the waiver signed as a condition of participation. This is in effect January 1, 2018 for all published and shared material and methods this year, and protects all original methods and materials shared with clients in past training and coaching.
From the Training Micah Blog: I LOVE winter tracking! I started out tracking way back in the 80s with a Conservation Officer who had an OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) certified Bloodhound named Nero. He tracked all year ’round and I would hide as Nero’s victim in the snow. When I started CKC tracking, it made sense to me to keep tracking all winter.
When I began to teach and started Spiritdance Tracking as a business in 1995 I encouraged people to come out no matter what the weather! Over the years I have accumulated a lot of anecdotal, experiential and ‘book learning’ about winter tracking! This all forms the basis of my Winter Tracking Webinars.
Yesterday my friend and tracking partner Judy Wallace laid a short snow track for Micah in the snow. It was a great opportunity to reinforce “footstep tracking” and give her little corrections for leaving the snow tunnel of footprints. She loved it! The three cloth and leather articles were slightly hidden in snow and she was very excited to find them and picked each one up, giving it a shake.
Today, I laid Micah and Lark each a parking lot track following edges. These tracks were 100% hard surface, although the snow acts like ‘veg’ on a day like today. It was 3C and the snow was soft and melting into puddles along the parking lot edges. There were great ‘berms’ to follow that would hold the scent.
Both Micah and Lark were allowed to problem solve, so that they realized the track truly was NOT in the snow. They explored scent puzzles and figured out that the scent was on the parking lot! Each of them did very well! Read more on the Training Micah blog!
This winter, I am very excited to offer something new to Spiritdance Coaching! Every second week, I’m hosting an ‘open house’ online that I call Tracking Mastery: Group Coaching. Group Coaching is becoming popular in coaching circles because it offers the benefits of working with a Professional Coach at an affordable price by sharing the time with others focused on the same goals and themes. I always keep my webinars small because they are LIVE and offer interaction and the ability to explore solutions to your questions.
One of the benefits of Small Group Coaching is to maximize the energy, experience, and wisdom of participants, which in turn helps others to learn and develop ideas to achieve their goals.
Group Coaching is slated to start November 9 pending registrations, then every two weeks following! It’s a new idea and another way I hope to encourage people on their tracking journey and form an online community of people from across Canada to share their ideas and their love of tracking.
In each session, I am the group facilitator. My role is to keep discussions focused, develop themes, help individuals with ‘laser coaching’ techniques (quick problem resolution) and make sure everyone takes part and sees benefits.
A session could focus on one topic, such as “ARTICLES” and involve questions, sharing, tips, and field work (homework) being assigned along with goals to bring back to the next session. OR, it may be round table where each participant has a 10-minute focused discussion that everyone can learn from. And there are a lot of other ways the group can function once it gets going.
Well-known Coach and author Jennifer Britton says group coaching allows everyone to benefit from having a real-time conversation with peers for faster learning – often faster than 1:1 Coaching because the topics are focused and participants have a chance to both interact, and step back to listen and reflect during the session. In 1:1 Coaching, a client may feel “put on the spot” by a Coach who deliberately spends time with people helping them to focus and develop awareness. Group coaching can be a more comfortable space, particularly for people who want professional development or skills training.
Hearing different issues and resolutions in one session lets people pick and choose from a variety of ideas.
As facilitator, I will make sure that time is used wisely, everyone’s goals are met, and keeps everyone accountable from one session to the next to go practice, experiment, and participants are invited to bring results back for feedback and discussion.
The Coach (that is me!) also brings insights, guides discussion, manages group dynamics, helps to set goals and makes sure the discussion stays positive and productive. Everyone ‘co-creates’ the experience and a supportive community can become the result!
A closed FACEBOOK page will be also created for photo and video sharing as part of this experience for people who sign up for Group Coaching!
For the most benefits, people should attend regularly for ongoing support and feedback.
The cost PER 90 MINUTE SESSION is only $30. The average price for 1:1 coaching is $75-$120 per hour. Maximum participants will be 7 people per session.
For more information go to the Seminars, Training and Coaching page, or click HERE to register for upcoming group coaching sessions!
Group Coaching – printable flyer: Tracking Mastery – What is Group Coaching
In this new blog post, I provide details about the planning, plotting and running of tracks with tips to all trackers about making the most of your training. When you plan your weekend tracking training, you should put a lot of thought into your tracks, locations, and goals. Once the track is plotted and laid, make good use of it! There is nothing I love more than using a track more than once. I might run it again with the same dog or one of my other dogs either as a hot track, or after it has re-aged.
Last weekend I was able to do just this. After a training – practice track on Saturday, I laid a wonderful track on Sunday that was run by THREE dogs in a row. One ran it blind at two hours old, one ran it after it was aged 30 minutes, and my own pup Micah ran it hot at the end of our training session. Each track offered new things to consider and it was a real learning experience to see how age and scent affected each dog.
The opportunity was created when a friend came to visit, and of course, to track! Peggy drove for 6 hours from Edmonton to Medicine Hat Alberta. She has been here before and we’ve tracked at the college, so I wanted to choose different locations for a new experience and help her prepare for future urban tests.
The Training Micah blog post has all of the maps and information about this great weekend.
Micah is growing up! Above she is pictured in her harness, and on the track, running it hot, right after Judy and Lark!
Over on the Training Micah blog, I just posted an article about our track today! If you are interested in WHAT we look for when we follow our tracking dogs, you may find this interesting. I chose some stills from the video of her track and put together slideshows of the things I pay attention to when I follow my dogs – and things I am trying to learn about Micah, since each dog is an individual. Micah just turned 7 months old today!
Last weekend I judged a big tracking test in Thunder Bay (you can view the photo album of the test HERE). I was daydreaming all weekend about the day I have Micah in UTDX. I have been working on her tracking, exposing her to all surfaces and ages, and decided that for her birthday I would try a 3 hour old UTDX track. She did a fantastic job! It is very exciting to start a new dog and I am especially feeling blessed with this new puppy. To view the entire post and learn more about how we learn to read our dogs, click HERE!
What makes Spiritdance Motivation Coaching & Tracking different? Why is working with a Professional Coach a unique experience? After five years, let’s explore these questions and talk about how coaching is different from instruction, advice, technical expertise and mentoring and why coaching leads to comments like this:
“Your seminars are so different!”
“I always feel like I know what I am doing after a lesson.”
“I feel so motivated after a coaching session!”
Training Micah is the blog I started to keep track of my puppy Micah’s tracking progress. Here is a link to the latest training post! You’ll find video, checklists, descriptions about how I am training her, maps and ideas. This will give you an idea about Spiritdance Training, and I hope you find it useful and motivating! Micah is almost 6 months old. My training goal has been to expose her to all surfaces, obstacles, articles and conditions she will experience for years to come as we are partners on this exciting new journey.