Ziva – Alta-Tollhaus 1st AKC Champion Tracker!

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Ziva passed her VST at the Weimaranaer Club of Northern Illinois tracking test on Sunday 10/1/2017 to  complete the coveted tracking trifecta (TD, TDX & VST)!!! She is now officially Champion Tracker PAM Alta-Tollhaus Ziva VCD1, BN, RE, MXP, AJP, ACT1, DN, TKA, HIC, TDI, TC, CGC!!!!!!!  To earn the prestigious title of Champion Tracker (CT).  The dog and owner must have earned a Tracking Dog (TD) or Tracking Dog Urban (TDU), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), and the Variable Surface Tracker (VST) title. 

Champion Tracker (CT). This title is awarded to dogs who have passed all three tracking tests.

According to the AKC, the VST test has an 11.44 % Pass Rate and 9.4% of dogs that attempt all 3 tests succeed to become Champion Trackers.

A brief description of the 3 test elements is listed below.

Tracking Dog (TD). The track is 440 to 500 yards long with 3 to 5 turns and has been “aged” for 30 minutes to two hours. The dog must “indicate” the article found. Tracks are laid in open fields with uniform cover and do not include changing terrain, roads, ditches, etc.  Before a dog can enter this beginning level test they must be certified as capable of handling a basic track by a judge.

Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX). The dog must have a TD or TDU to enter.  The track is 800 to 1,000 yards long with 5 to 7 turns and has been aged for 3 to 5 hours. There are two sets of “cross tracks” that are diversionary only and should not be followed by the dog. The terrain is more difficult, and the dog must indicate his find of four dissimilar articles along the track.

Variable Surface Tracking (VST). The dog must have a TD or TDU to enter.  The track is 600 to 800 yards long with 4-8 turns and has been aged for 3 to 5 hours. There are 4 articles placed along the track & must include one each of leather, cloth, plastic, and metal. The dog and handler must follow the track without knowing where it goes and find all of the articles along the way.  The terrain must be comprised of a minimum of three different surfaces, two of them non-vegetative (such as asphalt or concrete), where the dog is required to navigate a turn. This is a very difficult test of a dog’s ability to track in an busy urban environment.

We started our 10 hour drive to Illinois Friday at noon.  I wanted to get her there by noon the day before the test on Sunday so she would have time to acclimate to the different types of vegetation in that area she would be tracking on.  We needed time for some fun motivational tracks before the test.  This was our second attempt to pass this test.  2 weeks before we were entered in a test & the judges were sure she would pass, but with the unseasonably hot 86 degree weather she tuckered out ¾ of the way through.

Ziva really loves the hotel life we live when travelling!
























The day of the test was perfect, cool and slightly overcast.  Ziva and I arrived at the college test area for the draw for tracks at 9 am.   I got out of the car and looked at the busy campus grounds and thought this will be an expensive practice track, but a good experience for us.   I was the 2nd person to draw and my track ended up being #3. The club had these pretty little jars filled with homemade dog cookies to choose and our track # was under the lid.
















When it was our time, we drove to our track.  As I got Ziva’s harness out of the car, she was whining and eager to go.  My heart was pounding and hands shaking as I adjusted it.  The judges were super nice,  asking if I had water, and an extra line-something a nervous competitor may forget but are essentials to a successful track.  We walked toward a set of buildings; saw a hot pink start flag & one of the judges said there is your start.  Ziva saw the flag and knew what was coming and she enthusiastically pulled toward it.  About 30 feet from the flag I unhooked the line from her collar and to her harness which is the cue to start.  The start article was a knotted sock; she took, for her, a rather long sniff of it.  Our start was on grass and she carefully checked the area all around the flag and when she was sure which way the track went, she was off so fast, I had to be quick to grab the sock on the way by.  This campus had large drainage covers EVERYWHERE and she had to go investigate them ALL-it was very nerve-wracking for me, but after a brief investigation of each one she came right back to “her” track.

Our 1st change of cover was a traffic circle (grass, concrete walkway, pavement, grass center and then the same on the way out).  She investigated a roadway leading off of the circle, but quickly indicated that the track went through the circle.  Again, more drainage covers and investigation.  Our first turn was to the left along a line of pine trees.  There was a drainage ditch on the other side of the trees and she briefly scented toward that, but discarded that route and came  right back by the tree line.  Pine needles pose difficult scenting conditions, but she quickly adjusted and passed by them.  Up ahead was a building on our left, she went up on the sidewalk that paralleled the building and about 60 feet in stopped.  There was (I  hoped) article #1, a concrete colored piece of leather.  I watered her and adjusted the harness and told her what a super girl she was, then asked her to find her track again.  Off she went down the rest of the sidewalk, then she suddenly zipped into the bushes planted alongside the building, then I heard it-the squeaking of chipmunks – curses.  I had been concerned about squirrels on the campus, but had not seen any, so I thought I was home free.  I spent many minutes asking her to get back on track, but the force of the chippies was strong.  Finally, it was now or never, I sternly told her to leave it and find her track.  Miraculously she went back to work with only a slight backward glance.  We continued on until there was a choice to go either over a crosswalk or turn in front of a building.  She indicated a turn in front of the building and at the entrance where there were 10 concrete pillars with an overhead arch.  She spent a fair amount of time investigating the doorway and bases of the pillars, suddenly making a decision to move past them onto the mulched area in front of the building.  The building ended near a parking lot entrance with concrete half walls.  She entered the parking lot, but seemed to me to be investigating, not tracking.  She did this for quite some time.  I watered and rescented her on the sock several times & she went back out to the lot after each time.  I paused and asked her again if that was her track since I did not see a way out and definitely had not gone even the minimum track length, nor was there enough room for our moment of truth turn on pavement.  She kept investigating the bases of the concrete walls-I was almost in panic mode when she wanted to go further in knowing it had to be wrong and she WAS NOT tracking.  I asked her if that was her track and she came back towards me.  I backed up a bit getting closer to where I knew she was last indicating the track.  She went back to sniffing along the base of the ½ walls.  We were not making any progress and by now I was almost back to the lot entrance where I was sure she was on track.  I watered her and readjusted her harness, not sure what to do.  I rescented again on the glove and asked her to find it.  She went past me back to the walkway where she had turned into the parking lot and then nose down once again almost dragged me across a median and across an access  roadway.  She hit the curb, went over the sidewalk with some brief casting about and then onto the grass that paralleled another building.  Now she was tracking-what a relief!  Approximately ½ way along the length of the building she stopped and stood.  I did not see an article so I waited for a bit, not sure why she stopped, finally deciding to water her, readjust her harness and tell her what a super girl she was.  When I was done I rescented and asked her to find it.  She turned 90 degrees from where she had been and started to cast around me.  She started down the incline to a ditch and roadway.  There was no way that was a turn, not enough yardage, and she was not doing her typical tracking behavior on grass.  All the rules on yardage and turns were rushing through my head.  She was now at the end of my line and stopped dead.   I asked her if that was her track, she turned her head to look at me and then turned back.  OK, now what????   I marked where I had been when she was tracking and went down the incline.  There between her front legs was an altoid tin.  Holy Cow, was that an article, had the track really been down here and not up by the building??  What the heck.   I squatted down to water her, scratch her ears and gather my composure.  I picked up the tin, maybe it was and article, maybe not, but she indicated it so it was coming with me.  I stood up and asked her to find her track and back up the incline she went to where we had been and again  started her lovely “I’m on track Mom” behavior.  After we passed the end of the building there was a huge pond filled with geese.  When they saw us, up they went like a cloud.  Ziva stopped and watched them fly for a brief moment then back to tracking she went.  I am thanking my lucky stars that she herds ducks and we practice at an office park that has that same distraction.  At the end of the day, 2 dogs that entered in the test saw the geese, lost their minds and were unable to recover.  She penciled a right turn over a side walk, another grass area and into a big parking lot.  No hesitation, she was totally committed to her path.  About ¾ of the way into the parking lot she made and arcing left turn and confidently went in the new direction for about 35 yards, then she stopped.  I saw something between her front legs.  It was a small plastic container lid.  I picked it up and saw the #4 on the back, the last article is the only one that is numbered.   OMG, she found the last article- -we did it!!!!!  Ziva was not sure why this piece of plastic was any different than the others she had found for me, but she joined in the excitement also.  I turned to face the judges and stopped, no smiling, no congratulations-oh no, had we failed somehow-then I realized that maybe the 2 intermediate articles I picked up were not the right ones and we failed on the article search.    One of the judges asked if I had 4 articles and said yes and gave them to the tracklayer who confirmed they were the ones she set out.  Where did you find that metal article they asked?  I told them it was down by the ditch of the last building we worked past on our track.  The track did not go down there and they had not seen me pick anything up  and were thinking they would soon be whistling us off for going off track.  That article should have been just past the end of the building where we had the appearance of the geese.  Apparently someone saw it, picked it up, walked with it and tossed it aside.  The tracklayer tried to locate it after we passed the spot where she dropped it and could not, so we would have passed anyway because she could not find it.  The judges were both impressed that Ziva was able to locate the article and convince me to come with her to get it.  Then they were off to the next track leaving me on cloud 9.

There is a huge amount of work that goes into tracking.  To quote ” You can cheer lead in obedience & agility or protection work is somewhat self-reinforcing….but tracking? At some point, the dog has to step up…..and that shows drive, work ethic, and the relationship between dog and handler.”


Ziva working the track next to a building.

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The judges and our track layer Sally.














Letting Ziva know how proud I am of her.  After all of the tracks run,  we were the only pass of the day & the only pass for that club’s test in the last 5 years!  This was also very special for me because it was on what would have been my Mom’s 95th birthday & I feel like she was helping to guide just like she did my whole life.  When we were presented with our ribbon and track copies both judges spoke about her wonderful work ethic and her awesome methodical and thorough tracking style.  They also said as judges what a joy it was to watch us work as a team, seeing the fantastic bond between us and how she consistently stepped up to the challenges we faced together in the track.
















Ziva’s track.  Ziva spent 40 minutes following a track of of 623 total yards, 241 yards (39%) vegetation and 382 yards (61%) non vegetation (concrete & asphalt).  The maximun non-vegetative surface allowed on a VST track is 66%.

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The Program.

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Ziva’s Champion Tracker title ribbon that came in the mail several weeks later.






























Our celebration Wine!








Aiden’s busy Thanksgiving week

On Monday November 20th, before heading out to Springfield, MA for the annual Thanksgiving Cluster Agility Trial (AKA The Biggest Show on Dirt) we went to Rochester, New York.

We have not had any snow on the Cape yet this season so Aiden was thrilled to be able to play in a little bit of snow.

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On the way to Lake Ontario we saw some deer in Durand Eastman Park.

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At Lake Ontario Aiden was able to run and splash in the lake.

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The next day was a lovely, warm day so we took a walk along the Erie Canal.

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That evening we met Julie and Carl for dinner. It was great to catch up with Julie and meet Carl.

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On Wednesday we drove to Springfield, MA. We spent Thanksgiving Day relaxing and taking a nice walk in Robinson State Park before heading to the Eastern States Expo Center to set up Aiden’s crate for the agility trial. We then had Thanksgiving dinner at the Storrowton Tavern, a historic tavern set in a circa-1789 building.

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Friday was the first day of the Thanksgiving Cluster Agility Trial. It was a long but fun day.

Aiden’s first class was Time to Beat Preferred. He put his nose in an off-course tunnel and therefore did not qualify but otherwise had a good run.

The next class was a very difficult Premier Standard Preferred course. Aiden knocked the panel jump and then ran the rest of the course clean.

In Masters Standard Preferred Aiden had a super clean run and qualified in 1st place earning 28 PACH points.

Next up was Premier JWW Preferred. We got off to a bad start but then had a good run including getting tricky tunnel and weave pole entrances.

The last class of the day was Masters JWW Preferred. Aiden qualified in 2nd place and earned 23 PACH points AND a DOUBLE Q!!

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Saturday was our second and last day at the trial. Aiden had another good day.

The first class was Premier Standard Preferred. Due to Aiden’s early morning enthusiasm we had a couple of minor mistakes and did not qualify.

In Masters Standard Preferred Aiden had a clean run and qualified in 1st place and earned 33 more PACH points.

In Premier JWW Pref. Aiden again had a clean run and qualified in 1st place.

In Masters JWW Preferred I did not get a cross in where I wanted to and Aiden NEARLY passed the plane of a jump BUT he didn’t. I was able to “save it” and got him directed to the jump without him spinning around and therefore not getting faulted. The crowd went wild on the “save” and as Aiden was over the next jump someone yelled “Go Lynda”. I think Aiden possibly reacted causing the bar to fall! Such a shame as it was a good run. Oh well no double Q.

Our last class was T2B Preferred. Aiden had a nice run, he set the “Time to Beat” at 29.69 seconds and thus earned 1st place and 10 points.


In-between his agility runs Aiden took the Intermediate Trick Dog Test twice, passing both times and earned his Intermediate Trick Dog Title (TKI) !

This was the 20th Anniversary of the Thanksgiving Agility Cluster put on by LEAP Agility Club and Talcott Mountain Agility Club and I’ve been at most of them! There was a great cake to celebrate the anniversary!

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Aiden with his five qualifying ribbonsIMG_2464

U-Ch, V, PAM Alta-Tollhaus Aiden


Ziva’s latest not so fun adventure.

Ziva recently sliced her paw very deeply before her class at an agility trial.  I could not stop the bleeding so we wrapped her up in a diaper and off to the vet. They had been doing some renovation at the site and since the slice was so clean we are wondering if one of the workers may have dropped a blade from a cutting tool used on either the drywall or carpeting.  She has been getting lasered & wrapped  every other day and finally we are starting to see some granulation tissue filling in-yay!   We will have missed 3 trials and it looks like the late December trial will be it for us for the year since there were only a few more local trials before winter set in and then that was it until March 🙁

Here I am waiting to get my foot looked at.  Mom needs to clean her floors, look how dirty my bandage is!

I hope that I can start to do things soon!  Hanging in the house is BORING!!!!












Laser all done and my nice clean green bandage is on 🙂  I find if you look like a sad waif at the vet techs they give you goodies























SUCCESS!!!!!  Cookies are yummy













Bye, bye Audrey, see you (and your cookies) in a few more days.





Aiden – Day 2 of the CCKC Agility Trial

Today Jack, Aiden and I were back at the Cape Cod Kennel Club Agility Trial. We had a very successful day.

Aiden’s first class of the day was Masters Standard Preferred. Aiden always seems to be amped up in the first class. Although he was his usual energetic, enthusiastic and loud self, together we managed to get around a tricky course keeping all the bars up and hitting all the contacts. Aiden qualified in 1st place and earned 23 PACH points.

The next class was Time to Beat Preferred. This was a great, flowing course and Aiden set the Time to Beat, qualifying 1st and earning 10 points.

Last up was Masters Jumpers with Weaves Preferred. After two days of agility, and 5 previous classes, Aiden was STILL raring to go. He bolted off the start line and unfortunately knocked the bar on the first jump but went on to have a nice run.

No Double Q’s again for us this weekend but we qualified in 4 out of 6 classes, all with 1st places. The most important thing is, and you can see in the videos, Aiden REALLY loves this sport! We had a great time.

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Aiden at the CCKC Agility Trial

This weekend the Cape Cod Kennel Club is holding their fall agility trial in Westborough, MA. Jack and I drove up yesterday afternoon to help with the set-up. It was 74 degrees…. on November 3rd…T-shirt weather!!


This morning we were at the trial site at 6:45am. AKC rules require 4 club members to be present before competitors are allowed in the building. Since we are both club members we agreed to be there early and assist.

Aiden’s first class of the day was Masters Jumpers with Weaves preferred. He had a great run and qualified in 1st place and earned 15 PACH points. Another GSD placed 2nd and Aiden’s GSD friend Yasha was 4th. Go GSDs!

The next class for Aiden was Masters FAST. Aiden got the bonus and racked up 78 out of the possible 80 points and qualified in 1st place.

Aiden’s last class was Masters Standard Preferred. He was having a nice run but unfortunately missed a jump. I got him back on track but after that he also had an off-course at the see saw!

The good news is that Aiden did not knock any jumps today!! We were having a spell where Aiden always seemed to knock just one bar.

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