Last Friday I met up with the AKC judge who certified Dottie. He is the only one in this area that has experience with the VST. Before meeting, I sent him the most recent vidoes of Dottie tracking so he could see where we are.
I arrived and he told me he was impressed with our progress, and he had laid a mock VST track for us. Yikes. It was around 550 yards, so not full lenght, but it had aged 3 hrs, and had the correct number of corners and articles. And actually, it had too much hard surface. Off we went.
Sadly, right away we would have failed, because she made up a turn on the first leg that wasn't there. A few more times we would have failed again. So it showed me 2 things- we are not ready for a VST, BUT, we are better on hard surface than I thought. Up until this I've just been doing the corners in the parking lot and road crossings. Here she tracked down sidewalks, across large parking lots, up and down curbs, and though courtyards. She even was accosted and pet by a stranger on the track- which I've always heard about and always thought was weird, yet it happened none the less. I also learned I am having trouble reading her. She really fooled me when she took me the wrong way. It took her a half hour to finish the track.
On Monday I laid a track for myself at the same location. This time it was aged 4 hrs to 4 hrs and 40 minutes, due to the length of time it took to finish. Since I know where the track went, I wasn't fooled, but she did try to go the wrong way a few times. And on the last corner, which was close to a building, she could not find the track. She searched for a really long time and then she gave up. I corrected her for quitting (I know most AKC tracking people don't use corrections in tracking, but I was trained by a SchH person, so that is how I do it) and right after that she found the corner and finished. That was strange.
The hard thing about tracking is I don't have the knowledge to know why stuff like this happens sometimes.
I told K how our track went and she offered to lay a track for us today. This time we went to the library, which was a great location. There was grass, asphalt, concrete and mulch. Plus tracking between plants in the planters. Again we had some trouble. Not so much even related to the hard surface. K diagnosed the problem as I've been too focused on aging and hard surface, and I've let corners get sloppy. So the fix is to go back and work on corners, and also transitions, to help her get a bit more efficient at going up and down curbs, and between grass and other surfaces.
It is so hard! All this taking me the wrong way has leeched my confidence a bit. She used to refuse to go forward unless she knew exactly where the track was. I wonder if trying to fool her with obstacles (such as going over the tree) lead to this? I hope we don't fail a TDX now...
We will continue to work on it. Pie and Fancy are taking a break from tracking because apparently I have ruined them and we can only progress to a certain point before they implode and we have to go back several steps. I am really hoping I have not ruined Dottie to the point where it cannot be fixed. Maybe this is why most people wait to start VST training until after they have their TDX.