Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tracking Going Well Right Now

In order to semi-pattern train my dogs, I’ve been doing full SchH 1 tracks during training. I avoided doing this at first because I wanted the dogs to learn tracking, not learn a pattern. However, my dogs got so good at not learning the pattern, that when they did the pattern they thought it was too easy and would not stay on the track. The SchH 1 track is 100 paces in a straight line, a left or right turn- 50 paces to an article, 50 more paces then another left or right turn then 100 paces.

My dogs were used to 20 paces then a turn, then 10 paces and a turn, 10 paces turn, article, 20 pace serpentine, 10 paces turn, 20 paces turn, etc. This keeps them slow because if they go too fast they will miss a turn, and slow means they won’t miss a turn. Kind of a self correcting loop. But when I asked them to go 100 paces with no turns, they got worried, thinking they must have missed the turn. They second guessed what they were smelling and cast all over for the turns that weren’t there.

After the trial I’ll go back to a more normal training regime of short with lots of turns then longer with less turns the next time. Since I’ve been doing more SchH1 style tracks the past week or so, they’ve gotten much better. And faster and less careful. Drat. But overall I think it has been an improvement. It has taught them to just go straight a long time.

The only one who is having trouble is Fancy. And I finally figured it out earlier this week. Last Friday 2 club members and I met for dirt tracking after work. Turns out I had my shirt on inside out but I suppose that isn’t actually relevant. As always I tracked all 3 girls. As always I laid the tracks in order of importance. Importance meaning who I want to pass the most. Pie, Dottie, Fancy. Pie because it is her only chance at SchH1. Dottie because I want a SchH1 on her and she should get it eventually and it would be nice to get it at our home field with the home field advantage. And Fancy last because I want her to title, but we can trial anywhere since she is only doing tracking and that does not come with a home field advantage.

The dirt we were tracking on was tough. But the Mals did ok. Fancy did not do great. After her first leg I laid another one and she did much better. Then I laid another leg and she was better again. K said Fancy might need a short warm up track for confidence building. I thought that made sense. On Monday I laid the dog’s tracks in the usual order, then did a short extra track for Fancy. I got her out and ran her on it. She did great. I then put her away and tracked Pie, then Dottie then it was Fancy’s turn again and she was horrible! Turns out the heat did not help our cause and some of her track was on short, dead grass which was also difficult. Pie’s nose actually came up on that section so she was doing some air scenting.

So? What was different from the practice track to the long track? What was different in the dirt? Time aged. Because Fancy always goes last, her tracks are aged much longer than the Malinois. Some aging does help the scent settle, but after a certain time it does start to dissipate and become more difficult. Sometimes it can take me 15 minutes just to lay the tracks- they can get spread out so they don’t overlap and they end up some on the soccer fields, some on the baseball field, just all over the place. Then there is the time to walk to and from the track, and the time for the dog to figure it out. So by the time it was Fancy’s turn, that track had been sitting around for a while. It timed it today and it was somewhere between 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Which isn’t too hard, if you’ve eased into it. Which she hasn’t.

Ok- today I had her go first, followed by Pie, then Dottie. That is easing the Mals into it, because each is only moved down 1 time braked. Fancy started off a bit unsure, needing two “such” commands to get started. But once she realized it was easier, she did well. Even on the portion that went thorough rock hard dirt. All these fields are green on the edges, and deader than dead in the middle. It actually removes quite a bit of tracking space, especially when I’m doing the SchH1 length tracks. Figured out Fancy’s problem, now need to build her confidence up and the time. I think the SchH1 ages at least 20 minutes. I could see my footsteps for all three dogs most of the time and it was interesting to see who was willing to track right on them and who wanted to follow the blowing scent. Fancy followed the blowing scent about a foot off the actual path. That is bad because she will miss the article. But if I block her from moving forward when she is truly following scent, she’ll quit. Hmm…

Pie did great. She took off nice and straight, not doubting the way, made her first corner, sniffed a stick in her path, took a step over it, stepped back and picked it up, then dropped it and kept going. That was when I realized the “stick” was our first article! I said- NO – show me and she did. Funny that she picked it up. The extra stress of the track aging a bit longer confused her? The track was too easy so she didn’t want to stop? She made her next corner then I had trouble walking straight on the last leg but she followed it anyway as it curved gently and she did a good indication on the last article. Nice!

Dottie’s turn. She started out well, got fooled by the cross track I accidentally tracked over- both were my scent so I can’t blame her- then made the turn and indicated the first article perfectly. We kept doing and everything fell apart. It was as if someone had a party on our track. Either that or died messily, leaving no mess and only confusing scent behind. Dottie lost the track. She searched and searched and went right over it a few times but couldn’t find it. I ended up winding the leash up and keeping it really short in that confusing section so the only way she could move was forward. I have no idea what caused the problem, but about 2 feet down the track she was fine again. Very odd. She finished strong, doing another nice indication on her final article. Dottie came off the actual path trying to follow blowing scent a few times, but as soon as I blocked her she went right back to the correct path. She knew right where it was, almost as if she was testing to see if the “grass was greener” off the track.

Right now my training plan is working. I think I’ll either do dirt tomorrow or Monday. If I don’t do dirt tomorrow they’ll get the day (and the rest of the weekend) off. I think sometime next week I’ll do 1 session of lots of short legs and turns but other than that it will be all long. I’ll keep rotating the order so everyone gets used to the longest age. Hope all continues to go well for us!

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