Thanks everyone for all of the messages about 2023! I love hearing from you. Mandatory reading for all Coaches is Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. I planned to start blogging again (I was an original blogger in the day!) next weekend but wanted to talk a bit about 2023 tracking and why I organize it as I do.
Registration Forms for 2023 are now online
Over the years I’ve changed a focus from CKC and sport tracking to just “good tracking.” Yes you need to know rules for sport but if you have a passion for tracking you’ll want more than the title and ribbon.
I started out in the 80s with mentors in law enforcement, conservation officers and SAR. That turned into CKC tracking for many years and great experiences. Moving to Alberta I’ve been drawn back to my roots in SAR – not as an active participant but to help others.
I’ve been fortunate to learn RCMP tracking methods from the head trainer and to have good dogs to apply the training to! I’m following police and security dog trainer Dick Staal and former military tracking and trailing master Jeff Schettler (GAK9). K9 Manhunters is a popular Fb group following these standards too.
My Goal as a Coach and Instructor
I want the same for everyone I work with. I want you to succeed at and love tracking. Not for a ribbon or title but as an activity that is natural for our dogs and bonding plus good for your own growth, soul and spirit. Goals are important and great but let’s remember to aim for excellence.
So how does this relate to 2023?
Location Location Location
Location is in your best interests (I drive there too!) It’s 1.5 hours one way for me and part of the ritual as far as I’m concerned. Of course this crazy climate change is wreaking havoc on the shoulder seasons but we track in all seasons and it’s worth the drive.
I stick with Olds and Red Deer as I’ve taught tracking in those areas since shortly after moving to Alberta. It’s central!
On top of that, Olds is one of the best places I’ve tracked and I want the best for you. And I’ve tracked and judged across Canada.
On top of the varied and beautiful venues, these areas are less busy than Calgary, more dog friendly for tracking in small groups, easy to drive around, relaxed and they are where tests are (for sport people).
There’s enough room for us to all have working space galore on a full day of lessons and enjoy a variety of exercises. If you’re a SAR tracker or have other goals, the area also offers great open space, fields and green space and friendly neighbourhoods and back lanes.
*you may see fees are higher this year. It’s because of gas and insurance prices and it’s not going to my pocket 😩
We move around a bit for experience of course. But a hub that we know well makes for more consistent training lessons. I’m grateful to everyone who has converged there for going on 13 years now! I swear I see ghosts of dogs (my own and others) every time I’m there.
Foundations Followed by Independence and Discipline
I always offer beginners foundations. People need to start somewhere and to understand what tracking is.
The beauty of tracking is that you can train on your own. In fact the simplicity of tracking and that time alone is one is the reasons most of us love it. Yes you need foundations. But to progress you must get out and work on them. Tracking is a discipline.
As a professional coach I aim for habits and autonomous skills. Until you put in the time repeating straight lines, L-tracks, transitions, starts, article indications – you won’t develop the line handling, footwork and multi-tasking you need. Plus you won’t develop the intuition and second sense required for good tracking.
We don’t do this in lessons. I count on you to do it alone or with a Buddy and to show up prepared. Lessons are not for practice.
Teaching, Mentoring and Coaching
You know that there’s a difference between coaching and instruction right? I try to find the balance with everyone. In the beginning it’s a lot more about teaching which is different from coaching aside from setting some goals and motivating people.
Instruction and teaching start to combine with coaching as people advance. Eventually people get to know their own dogs, the line they like, how they reward and what kind of practice best suits them. I love this and step back to keep them going and “light there a spark” in the words of outdoor educator Freeman Tilden.
Finally there is mentoring combined with coaching. Sharing, caring and preparing. Coaching through the mental hurdles that come with reality and testing. Keeping those goals and that confidence alive.
In lessons I can help tweak, observe, suggest and help. But unless you present progress you’re essentially floating down the river and my job is to help you cross it. I’m not in this to have students that coast along and not put in the work – that’s just not rewarding!
My joy and job is to push you to grow as a team. Your job is to push yourself and be accountable to yourself and fair to your dog.
Time and Miles – and Passion!
In tracking we say it’s about “time and miles.” It’s a reason so few go beyond beginners titles. It’s also a reason there is a deep passion in our small world. That grit and determination to do better. Not for ribbons and tests. But to be a good tracker.
It’s no different than my other passion of sheep herding and stockdogs. I’m fortunate to work with people who want good dogs that can work sheep first, not dogs trained to pass courses in trials.
Why Small Groups?
After graduating from Coaching (out of Erickson College’s Int’l Coach Federation sanctioned program) I tried lessons online. I have discovered that coaching always works for accountability, habits, confidence, goal setting and lasting change.
As far as the other piece – teaching – goes, I found that beyond webinars for specific topics or concepts, in person is still the best for me. I need to see you work to help you the most.
My smaller groups are to make sure you get quality time because tracking instruction takes a lot of space and time per team.
Guess what? YOU need to see others to grow too. While we train alone we do not test or search alone. We all work together and it’s a tradition to help others and work together. It’s a part of tracking. So we show up.
We show up ready. We show up willing to put in the time and miles not just for ourselves but for the greater good whether that be SAR or tests or simply to support and encourage each other and make the slogging fun.
Last August at the tracking camp over dinner I asked people to prepare a few words about what they would say to new trackers. I was overwhelmed by one theme.
It was about the group. The people. The togetherness. The support. The lack of competitiveness. The tradition of helping that we enjoy and maybe take for granted in tracking. I heard voices crack with emotion on this topic.
I try to set up my training to lay the groundwork for this too. I want this for you. I don’t just want good tracking. I want an excellent life experience all the way around for all of my students and friends.
Back to My Why
I may not judge for a year but can’t imagine giving up coaching tracking. It is an inspiration to me to see others and be around like-minded people and keeps me motivated to work my own dogs. Plus despite the independent training we do need that small village as we advance.
I am always thrilled for everyone and every milestone and success. Tracking instruction brings me challenges, it makes me exhausted. And it is my joy.
We all need this motivation. We all need to be around others to grow. We also need to be with a group to learn to work together and help each other. This is actually an essential skill in tracking. It’s why I prefer a small group at first, before 1:1 lessons. I save the 1:1 for advanced trackers who I KNOW “get it.”
If you can’t make it I understand. I know I’m not the only person who teaches tracking. However I highly recommend Dick Staal’s online training if you can’t make it to lessons this time. You’ll find the link on his Fb page.
I’m so grateful for the people who keep coming to experience the same togetherness and to help each other. Thank you to the people I’ve tracked with and learned from since 1985! The professionals and the CKC people. For me, seeing the sheer joy on the handler side of of the line never grows old, and I’ve been instructing for 28 years now!
I’m damn proud of my resume and accomplishments in tracking. I’ve worked hard and enjoyed every minute. I’ve learned from the rough experiences too and try to share this to help others. I’m a continual learner, still working with my own dogs.
I love the contacts and friends I’ve made across Canada and in the States. I love the dogs! But most of all it’s the people in this circle that make me the most happy. Thank you for trusting me to be part of your journey.
What’s Your Why?
I hope this inspires you to think about why you are doing this as it will help you with goals and to choose the training path that is best for you.
See you in 2023! (Or, this weekend and next as the 2022 season comes to a close)