New Online Course Teaches you to Crack the Code on Urban Tracking

Do you like puzzles? Are you someone who enjoys problem solving and trying to find innovative solutions to things? If you are a tracker and want to stretch your mind and challenge yourself in a practical way, you will love this new course on plotting and map making! It will make you a stronger tracking team to develop awareness of scent, flow and designing a great track.

My goal as a coach and instructor is to help you to improve your performance and inspire you to train for excellence, enjoyment and success! Please note that all unique ideas and training suggestions, content and photos are (c) Spiritdance Coaching & Tracking, Donna Brinkworth. 

The newest online tracking course at Spiritdance Tracking will guide you through urban tracking mysteries. The goal is to increase awareness and the ability to plot GOOD tracks and train well, to be ready for anything.

What can you look forward to? Work with me, a Professional Coach and CKC Tracking Judge, and most importantly a self-professed Geek about all things tracking!

  • Beginners – develop new skills and better habits by training in urban areas, read the environment and learn to handle and read your dog
  • Intermediate trackers – begin to design and run more challenging tracks, increasing your dog’s independence and problem solving, and gaining your own mental skills to cope with more difficult tracks
  • Experienced trackers – move into the area of ‘unconscious competence’ where your handling and body movements are like a well-rehearsed dance, freeing you up to experience heightened awareness of your dog’s sometimes vague cues on long, aged tracks. Train using secrets of Olympic athletes to have more focus, get into the zone and  have a sense of place, all while keeping track of direction and environmental challenges and opportunities.

The key to all of this is understanding how to train in urban environments – and at the core of this is scent understanding, and good plotting.

Urban plotting is like the Rubik’s Cube of tracking. I call coming up with a good urban track ‘cracking the code.

UTDX track LU
This is the final version of a UTDX track that was run successfully by a *new* Master Tracking Champion (Dawn Sanderson and her GSD “Adam” in Thunder Bay). I drafted at least three maps before arriving in town to plot, then walked the site with test organizer Karen Boyes to come up with a final track that I felt had the right mix of challenges and flow. What a thrill to see this team run it successfully to become the second MTCH team in Canada!

Plotting urban tracks is like a mystery game of staring at maps or driving in circles around a potential tracking site until a solution appears. Other great words offered by a thesaurus for ‘decoding’ are:

  • Figure out
  • Interpret
  • Untangle
  • Decypt
  • Make clear
  • Work out

This is exactly what we are doing when we plot urban tracks. Working in urban areas is complex, yet can be a better training experience for teams at all levels than working in an open field. Cracking the code means finding the flow; figuring out what scent is doing in urban settings – around buildings, landscaping, sidewalks and over streets and parking lots, and yes, along curbs!



In my seminars and online lessons, beginners work scent flow around buildings and through useful outdoor features such as fencing, boulders, concrete parking barriers or corridors.

These encourage dogs to move forward or turn as they work what I call ‘active scent.’ Understanding these basics is the beginning of your training to ‘see scent.’

From there we begin to string things together in sequences to achieve a number of training goals in urban areas. We also begin to arrange pieces together in various orders by degree of difficulty or by desired goals. When we do this, we are taking our first steps to design a track. Examples may include:

  • easy / hard / easy OR easy / easy / hard
  • start / problem / easy / end
  • sheltered start / turn around a building / pass the end of the building and go straight
  • start into the wind / turn on veg before a road / head into next parking lot for article
  • long straight leg covering multiple surfaces with multiple articles – start on veg, end on non veg

Aging is random according to conditions and goals. In the beginning we age tracks just enough to let residual scent blow away; UNLESS our goal is to use fresh scent to pull our dogs along edges and through scent pools to give them clarity and confidence.

Eventually we design long tracks and build endurance and problem-solving skills in our dogs. We build this in our own minds too, as so much of this kind of tracking requires spatial awareness and environmental and dog-reading observation skills.

These can only come when we are operating at a level of kinetic excellence with respect to handling and moving with our dogs. This of course means repetition and exposure for great habits to develop. Like any athlete we work on muscle memory and form, as well as on visualization and the ability to make snap-decisions based on instant information-gathering.

Ben manhol

A tracker operating at this level is in the zone. Being ‘visual’ we are more able to develop our skills in urban environments where we have more cues feeding our senses. And we all know that the toughest skills we require for tracking excellence are to read the environment and read our dogs. Urban tracking gives us these skills in spades.

Dogs may excel on lovely wet veg, but in an open field we lack the cues we need for our minds to be challenged and to grow. People say ‘my dog just pulls me along!” when they work on nice veg. Don’t get me wrong – I believe we build our foundations on veg – and what nicer veg can you find than irrigated green grass in urban areas? The difference between an open field and an urban space is that we can ‘see’ more of the results of what we plot, and our dogs show us more of the impacts of good and bad plotting.

Micah car
My young GSD Micah indicating that there is an article UNDER this car! I deliberately did this to teach her it can happen. I placed it under the front bumper, but the short car parked there left, and a bigger car moved in. You can’t predict urban environments!

BAD plotting is my biggest pet peeve. Plotting is NOT just a matter of walking here and there, thinking that it doesn’t matter because your dog will simply follow where you walked. That is ignorant, bad plotting, particularly in the training phase.

From early training through to your Masters Tracking title, you should focus on plotting, laying and running your own GOOD tracks. This is how you learn to read your dog, and read the environment. When you plot, you analyze and predict what will happen. You make the best use of the landscape to set your dog up for success – to nail turns, to solve problems and to move confidently forward in flow.

Last month I deliberately laid what I considered a very difficult track for my Tracking Champion and partner, 7-year-old Ben, a Border Collie. I tried to go against all of my ideas for good plotting, and aged it for 4.5 hours. Ben showed that he is up to the task of sticking with the primary track, problem solving and even ignoring some of the blatant scent traps I felt I set for him.

Even though I teach this and have tracked since 1989, I am always amazed by how our dogs can analyze and follow scent. But do they track like Ben, above, naturally? No! In this sport, we teach them, shape their behaviour, and work at clarity to communicate with them and seek their partnership to achieve OUR goals. Ben started out like any other pup, keen to use his nose, and happy for the time together. The ability he shows here developed over years of ongoing work together – keeping our skills sharp.

Understanding scent comes much easier in urban environments. As dogs are exposed to good tracks, they build skill and independence. Gradually encouraging them to solve problems – problems that YOU set up attempting to use your scent knowledge – gives them valuable experience. Laying these tracks yourself, you learn to read and observe your dog, plus you can step in and help when required, because struggling is not a way for any of us to learn – dogs included. Identifying problems is important as we can then address the gaps in our training to build up our partnership.

Experienced tracking dogs have acquired the skills to follow scent and solve problems. Experienced handlers have acquired the skills to read when their dog is on, or when it is working out a puzzle – even on a blind track or a test track.

So – tests. In CKC (or AKC) we design tests to challenge the skills of the dog – handler team. We also design tracks that provide the right amount of flow and an appropriate degree of difficulty to allow the team to demonstrate it’s ability to reach the end successfully. There are rules that involve location, math, ratios of veg to non-veg, aging, article placement, turns, angles and distances.

Ben UTDX last turn

People entering tests must understand these rules of the game. While we don’t always train to the rules – rather we train for good tracking – plotting test-style tracks also gives us the ability through repetition to get a feel for timing, spatial awareness, distance covered and the ‘feeling’ of a test track.

Believe me, dogs understand this too! We’ve all had dogs that know when the last, ‘precious’ leather article is coming up and build up speed and excitement. Or dogs that understand when they are lost along the way and go into their well-trained and determined search techniques to save our bacon.

While dogs should follow anywhere we have walked (because hey, a lost person doesn’t make nice 90-degree turns, and may parallel their own track or walk randomly down roads, right?) a good test track is designed and plotted so that it is passable and judgeable.

A judge uses their knowledge and scent expertise to plot tracks appropriate to the test level and attempts to avoid breaking rules, AND setting dogs up for a failure due to poor plotting design or setting a team off into an area where recovery is almost impossible.

We aren’t all aiming to be judges – but to excel in the sport – we should think about our knowledge and awareness of all of these things, to be as prepared as possible for every test level.

All of the above principles are at the core of my coaching programs for trackers at all levels, and will be more explained in my book! In the meantime I have decided that this is the course everyone requires for positive progress. No more random plotting without goals. No more wondering what your dog is doing and why! Look forward to growth and to mastering the puzzle – and cracking the code!

The new online course will focus on understanding scent, flow and how to use urban features constructively to train your dog, and yourself.


Course details:

Since December is a wonderful time to track, with snowman snow and time to spend with your dogs during the day, I will be starting this course in early December, then taking a pause over the holidays, resuming in January to catch up and keep going!

Participants will share areas they work in, and using Google Earth and Google Maps, we will analyze opportunities and identify scent traps and problem areas. Everyone will plot, analyze as a group, then run tracks – and share video to show the results.

2 hour online sessions will be held once a week on Tuesday evenings in December to get going, then every second week in the new year to give everyone time to get out. Winter tracking instruction will also be provided!

  • December 4, 11, 18
  • January 8, 22
  • February 5

Fee: $225 (less than $40 per session)

Maximum participants: 7 – classes are small for optimum attention and participation.
If enough people register, two sessions will be offered (a second one on Thursdays).

Deadline to register: Sunday, November 25

Registration link: 


I look forward to being your coach!





Coaching Works! 1:1 and Group Coaching for Tracking Enthusiasts is catching on

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.

To learn more about what coaching is you can visit my coaching website – . And to find out more about my coaching for trackers, please visit my new business website, 

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.

New Urban Scent Workshops are FULL!

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!

Taking tracking on the road. Training circuit starting soon!

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!

Tracking is a very intensive sport to train, and so I can only fit in 5 (FIVE) lessons a day whenever I am in town. That’s why I put a 2018 Spiritdance Tracking Lessons, Seminar and Tracking Camps Calendar together to help you plan and pre-book if you’d like to meet regularly.

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!

Details about seminars, lessons and individual coaching are always posted on Please visit the website frequently to keep up! Training opportunities and other fun stuff is also posted on the Spiritdance Tracking Facebook page.

Take that next step! Plan to attend a seminar, a camp or a lesson and find out why people get hooked on this sport. I hope to hear from you.


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.

Medicine Hat AB: June 16-17

Please also visit my new website!

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.
BC Seminar
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:
  • scent theory
  • line communication
  • 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
  • other goodies!
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 look forward to being your coach! 

Spring 2018 Beginners and Urban Tracking Online Classes!

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! 

Beginners Tracking Online Class Poster

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.

Urban Tracking Online Morning Class Poster

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.

To register, click on the Training tab on this website or check out my new Spiritdance Tracking ‘business’ site for links to registration forms.

As always, I am excited and happy to share information about this sport with people who are passionate to learn.

Your Coach,

Donna Brinkworth

New blog post offers tips to make the most of a training track!

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.

Judy end of track
After Peggy and Reggie (feature photo) ran the track at 2 hours old, Judy Wallace and her Border Collie Lark ran it at 30 minutes. Then my Micah ran the track hot, for motivation! 

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.

Read more on the Training Micah Blog! 

Micah is growing up! Above she is pictured in her harness, and on the track, running it hot, right after Judy and Lark!

Learning to read my new pup & link to tracking test photo album!

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!

Catching Up: New Tracking Champion Ben!

I am a bit behind in announcing that Ben is my third CKC Tracking Champion, passing his UTDX in May.  Why does this matter to you? I bring my experiences – pass and fail, and training efforts – to my coaching and training. I am actively training all the time, including starting a new puppy this summer! I keep it real. This is a wonderful lifestyle and sport, and I love to share my passion with others, to help them enjoy it and achieve success.

Ben is now Tracking Champion Spiritdance Blackthorn Ben. He is pictured above posing at Hillcrest Park in my hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario where he passed his UTDX in May under judge Marie P Babin.

Jet ribbons
TCH Alta-Pete Jet. First Border Collie in Canada to earn this title.

Ben is the son of my TCH Alta-Pete Jet who was my first TCH in 2012. My second TCH was my GSD Caden von der KleinenWiese who passed his TDX and UTDX in 2015 (back to back no less, on the same day!).*

Ben passed his TD, UTD and TDX all in a row 2015 and 2016 with passes each time – Marie P Babin and Dawn Sanderson. He made it through a half-UTDX (is that like a half-marathon?) in fall 2016. I was so pleased with his performance for that first half, and found out what I had to work on, to fill the holes in our bucket. In May 2017, Ben passed UTDX the following spring under Marie P Babin.

He will go on to try for the new Master TCH as he’s only 5 (well, he will be 6 on July 21!)

*I have had a hard time publishing that I lost Caden to spine cancer last fall, very suddenly. He was only 8 years old. He can never be replaced, a great boy with a great heart, a great partner and friend. He taught me so much and I will always be grateful I had him in my life for what feels like too short a time. 

Caden ribbons
TCH Caden von der KleinWiese. My partner and friend. 2008-2016. A wonderful teacher, Caden was larger than life. A great dog with a great heart.