Posts Tagged ‘tracking in the snow’

This morning, it was 1 degree F. No breeze, no sun, grey-white sky, not yet snowing again.

My tracking buddy and I were at a large park nearby, one that was covered with 15″ of snow everywhere except the parking lots. The parking lots had only 4″ of snow. We were chatting, putting on boots, getting out harnesses and long lines, scent articles and leather gloves. We were getting ready to go tracking.

That’s when I asked her, “Are we crazy?”

“What?” she asked. “Why would you say that.” Hmmm. Not crazy then — maybe this is normal behavior for tracking aficionados in Boise in the winter.

“Well, it’s 1 degree out.”

“That’s OK. You go lay a track in an open W shape with 3 corners over there,” she said, pointing to one end of the park. I’ll go lay one with three turns for Carlin over there,” pointing in the opposite direction.

And we did.

Carlin ran his track first, about 15 minutes after my friend started to lay it. I learned several things:

  • If I don’t totally screw this up, Carlin is going to do well at this game. And he’s going to love it. This morning, he was so excited to go find the glove that his pre-track pee was only a few drops, but his post-track pee was the long minute’s worth he’d been holding while on the track. He did not pee on the bushes or trees or mounds of snow until he was carrying the glove in his mouth. That’s amazing all by itself.
  • I need to get in better shape. Carlin charged through his track at 3/4 speed through the chest-high (on him) snow. I managed to keep up with him, but was breathing really, really hard by the end of the 300 yard track. As a side benefit, I was also plenty warm.
  • I learned something about how Carlin communicates. When his nose is down, he’s sure he’s found the track. I can keep following him. When his head is up, he’s confused about where his track went and I should stop or move very slowly and wait for him to find it again.
  • I learned a bunch about leash handling. Mainly, I learned that when Carlin comes back toward me, I have to throw the excess long line behind me rather than dropping it at my feet. That way I won’t step into the tangle, get my feet wrapped up, and trip. How did I learn this, you ask? I am not telling. Except to remark again on the 15″ of soft fluffy snow.
  • And yet more about leash handling. Keep the line taut. That way I can feel what Carlin is doing. If he slows down even just a little, I’ll feel it in the line and can try to anticipate what he’s going to do.
  • Lastly, I started to learn about having no idea where the track is going. I was surprised by how disorienting that feels, to have no idea where I’m going. In past weeks, tracking in the snow, I could see the footprints because the bright sun created small shadows in each print. But today, the sun was hidden, the sky was the same color as the snow, there were no shadows, and I couldn’t see a footprint until I was right on top of it. And today we practiced in a public park. There were many, many footprints in the snow and no way to see which were my buddy’s and which weren’t.

It was a great couple of hours. I’ve always loved being outside with my dog, doing what the dog loves to do. I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold, cold winter day.




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I knew it was going to be cold this morning, and sure enough… That’s 3 degrees Farhenheit. Brrr…


But you know how, when talking about desert heat, people say, “But it’s a dry heat”? Well, the same thing can be said about the cold here in Boise. It’s a dry cold, and when it’s dry and not windy, 3 degrees isn’t quite as bad as I thought. Of course, I did have on three layers of long underwear, fleece, and windbreaker, neck to ankle, and lots of wool everywhere else. That helped, too.

I tracked with Dino again today, and she and I talked strategy.


Dino suggested that today Carlin should track his first corner. In other words, he’d track Dino’s scent a distance in one direction, and then, hopefully, he’d find the spot where she turned a corner, and make that same corner himself.

Carlin was sure something was up when I moved the long line from his collar to his harness. He was, thankfully, good about not pulling me off my feet on the icy asphalt, but he definitely eager to go.


We got to the start flag, and Carlin gave Dino’s knit hat a good sniff.


I told him to “Track!”, and off he went. Pretty fast, too. Fortunately, he didn’t go so fast that I had to run, but for sure I had to move right along. In the picture below, he’s about halfway to the corner.


I don’t have any photos of the corner, but when he got there, he kept going straight for a bit instead of turning to the left. This is training, and the corner, made by footprints in the snow, was obvious to me, so I just stopped at the corner and held onto the line so Carlin couldn’t get too far off track. I pointed to one Dino’s footprints, and when Carlin came back to me to see what I was pointing at, I told him to “Find your track.” He circled the corner a couple of times, looked up a squirrel in the big tree but (YAY!!!) ignored it, then put his nose down again and picked a direction to go.

Fortunately, it was the right direction.

He went along that way for a bit, and then came to a section of disturbed snow. Some large animal or two had really kicked it up sometime earlier in the morning, and Carlin got distracted sniffing around. But after I pointed again at a foot print and reminded him to “Find your track,” he got through that, kept going some more, and then found Dino’s “lost” glove.


I don’t know exactly how long each leg of the track was, but I’m guessing the first one was 40 yards and the second was 80 yards. I was pleased. This is only Carlin’s 4th time out, and he found his track and his glove. I think we’re going to love this.


Note about tracking in the snow. I wondered if Carlin couldn’t just see the footsteps, and simply follow them. That would be cheating. Plus there won’t always be snow or foot prints to follow in a tracking test. Or, if there are foot prints, they might not be the real track. If the tracking test for which I was a tracklayer is any example, there can be stuff on the ground that looks like a track but isn’t — things like foot prints made by people jogging through the area, little flags placed by retriever trainers, plants crushed by other animals passing through, etc.

And then, when I saw Carlin initially go straight at the corner, I knew he wasn’t following the foot prints themselves.


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