Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Schatze learns to track

I have the most amazing obedience student! Tom and his German Shorthaired Pointer, Schatze, make giving obedience lessons fun! Schatze is yet another reminder that I really should tape beginning lessons, because she has come so far! This little firecracker is actually preparing for her BH. She is showing beautiful attention at heel, and today we walked through the entire routine.  Balance this with the fact that when she began, she was attached to a very long rope to keep her from running off and following her nose.  We put that snooter to good use, and taught her how to do an evidence search.  She loves to stretch her legs and when she hits that scent cone it is clear as day. She is a very fast learner, so willing.

Today we introduced Schatze to tracking.  I showed Tom how to lay the scent circles, where to place the flag and how to use the wind properly in this teaching phase.  After 5 scent circles, I decided to see how she would handle a short track of approximately 30 feet.  Warning! Don't do this at home! This was dreadfully premature, but she was picking things up so quickly I just wanted to test things. I handled the line for this test, so that there would not be mistakes, but I was so impressed. With only a little guidance she worked the track to it's end, a tracking article.  Since she already knows articles, it was an easy and successful end.  What I wanted to test was that she could transition from using her nose for air scenting, to putting it down and tracking.  If you are familiar with NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association) tests, then you know that this very ability is tested but using birds.  First the dog must locate birds via air scenting and point them, and in a subsequent test must perform a track for a running pheasant.  So, this is something that the breed is able to do.  And Schatze had demonstrated that she loves to use her nose for air scenting exercises.  But would she be willing to put it down for a track?

The answer is clearly "yes".  I have seen young dogs being started who struggle to keep their nose to the ground, and their attention to the scent pad initially, and here was an adult pointer, with no puppy foundation in tracking, knocking it out of the park!  Tom will be back to practicing his scent pads during the week and I expect we will be doing our first real tracks by the end of the week. 

Their success made me feel good, as well.  This week I was feeling particularly depleted as a trainer, wondering why I was not teaching as well as I should be, what was lacking that either did not communicate well or not motivate adequately. Thank you, Tom and Schatze, for picking me up!