My Article Bag

The dogs LOVE articles as they have been taught to! Great excitement to see them out!

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:



More discussion…

I’ve written quite a few blog posts in the past about articles on the Spiritdance Tracking training blog – how to choose them, scent cones, article indications and article placement on the track. A search through the posts will show that this is a topic I am passionate about!

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. 


A large selection of leather since I use it the most
A selection of fabric – cotton and wool. A smaller number of plastic, wood and metal items I like
Some of my least favourites – manmade things and the dreaded blue plastic lid, since my dogs need to be prepared for any article! The rules are not specific about ‘fabric’ for example.

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.

Happy tracking!

Here is a thank you from 12-year old TCH Alta-Pete Jet! Thanks for checking out the blog…


Donna Brinkworth
Professional Coach
CKC Tracking Judge (all levels)
Tracking clinician since 1995

Check out my new business website!

(C) Spiritdance Coaching & Tracking, Donna Brinkworth, 2018


Introducing ‘Training Micah’

On Sunday, a new journey begins with an 8-week old German Shepherd puppy named Gem von Wendelin – call name “Micah.” I will be journalling our training on this new blog Training Micah, including all of her tracking lessons. I invite you to follow along!