Monday, July 9, 2007


Once the pups settled in last night, they were good for the night.  No more crying, and no messes.  I was up at 6 and woke them up!  Got everyone out to potty and we greeted the day.  My intention was to leave them hungry for their introduction to tracking, but I neglected to pick up the leftover kibble and so they had full little tummies by the time I took them out for tracking.  They are now eating one kibble meal and one meat meal, plus meat for training treats (which ends up being a small meal, as well).  I like to feed puppies three times a day.

I brought Doc out first, since his scent pad was not going to have bird scent on it like the others, since he is destined for Search and Rescue and his quarry will be humans. 

You can learn more about tracking in Joanne Plumb's training tape, which can be purchased through Canine Training Systems ( Welcome to Canine Training Systems®! ) "Foundations of Competitive Working Dogs Tracking."

I stepped down a square in the grass, about 1 ft x 1 ft, with the flag to the left.  No reason for that other than that is where it goes in schutzhund competition.  The flag is simply there so I can find my starting point and it helps give the dogs a visual cue when learning. 

Then I drop small balls of hamburger ( or small pieces of whatever tasty treat you are using, but it must be something they can swallow and not have to stop and chew up and not so large they make a meal on one piece), making sure to place some at the outer perimeter of the scent pad and some scattered inside, about 10-12 pieces.

My friend, Sue, held the pup on leash as I completed the scent pad.  I think let the pup smell a piece of the treat and led it to the scent pad, where I tossed the treat onto the scent pad.  Oops.  Problem here.  The pup is focused on my hand, and does not follow the treat.  He sits, knowing this is the learned response in order to get a treat.  I point to the food on the scent pad, and he figures it out but it is clear that the fullness of his tummy is causing a break in concentration.  Note to self.  Plus when he does wander off the scent pad he is more concerned with fighting the collar and leash.  Still, we do have some calm, focused moments which result in Doc finding food on the scent pad, so all is not lost.  He is praised and led away.

The concept is that the puppy will learn that "where there is human scent, there is reward."  They are allowed to move off the scent pad within a leash length, without correction, and discover that there is no reward there, and to find their way back to the scent pad. 

When it was Danica's turn, I sprinkle bird scent (the Dokken scent) on the scent pad so that she will learn (and the others) that where there is BIRD SCENT there is reward. 

Because I was seeing a combination of the pups thinking they needed to sit to get the treats, and resistance to the leash, I decided to shape this behavior off-leash and teach them to look for reward on the ground.  I laid little tracks through the grass, baited with food that they could follow and they earned their next meal, later in the day, this way. 

We also did a little retrieving using a rolled up sock with bird scent on it.  Only a couple, because you want to leave the pup wanting more (and never giving up/ quitting/seeking shade) and also because, while it is play for the pup, it is actually training and you never just throw something and turn your back.  If you throw something you immediately call the pup and encourage him to bring back the item.  If you find you have a pup who wants to play keep away, put it on a leash and never let it learn it can run away from you with a retrieve toy.  You are not correcting or even speaking gruffly at this point in learning, but calling and encouraging and gently pulling the pup in your direction as you move backwards, if necessary.  In general, you will also find that if you lean back you will encourage the puppy to come closer.  Lean forward and you create a huge space in front of you like a monster shelf, and puppies will often stay outside that zone instead of coming in close, especially if you reach foward to them.

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