Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tracking with Fiona and Cooper on November 25

Sue and I met for tracking yesterday.  We have been doing alot of "in the hand" work with our dogs lately, shaping position and playing doggie games, and we had not tracked for some time. Sue had her two dogs and I had Fiona and Cooper with me.  Fiona is a young female German Shepherd that I have her to train and title, and I had her for a few weeks when she developed panno and returned home.  I had been working scent pads and the beginning of tracking with her, so I was anxious to see if I had lost any of the training in her absence.  Cooper had a foundation in tracking before he made a career shift to USAR.  After Jinx got sick and Cooper had to step up, my attention was to get him trained and certified and the tracking was put on hold.  Once we passed our Type 1 test last month I decided it was time to get back to schutzhund with him since he doesn't have to recertify for two years, and I can get his SchH3 done by then.

I laid a track for each one of them.  Fiona had only done scent pads and very short tracks prior to this, and since this was meant to see where we were at with things to make a training plan, I laid a track that was approximately 50 feet to a right turn, and another 50 feet to an article.  I have a particular way of teaching the article indication and have not finished that with Fiona, so in placing an article at the end of the track I move along side her to that position and cue the down for now.  The tracks were aged approximately 45 minutes- 1 hour.  I was very, very pleased with the fact that Fiona had not lost any of the foundation.  Both dogs wear a boettcher to track so that they have an additional physical cue to the activity.  Particularly for Cooper, this is important to make clear that tracking is different from other behaviors.  In USAR he goes "naked" and is released from a slip collar to search.  I stayed along side Fiona as she track to reinforce that she check every footstep and she did well with that, as well as the corner. 

Cooper wasn't as calm at the start of his track as Fiona was.  Fiona is highly food motivated and was intent on the scent pad, but Cooper showed his "I'm crazy to get going" behavior where he revs forward and back.  He was less interested in the scent pad than what was beyond, and I had to show him that he wasn't going to run down the track.  After that, he demonstrated nice attention to the footsteps and nailed the multiple corners.  The food I used blended with the grass surface and the grass was just long enough that it fell into the footprint indentation. Perfect!  The dogs couldn't look up ahead and see food, so were less tempted to skip steps.

I was very pleased with the tracking behavior.  Both dogs will need a gentle reminder that they cannot skip a footstep, and must check each one, which will require a minor equipment addition, and Fiona will need to learn her article indication.  Cooper knows it, and gave me a nice down at the article, so we will move in the future to what we learned from Debbie Zappia and place multiple articles in a row, concealed.  I have come to enjoy the challenge of tracking and look forward to putting all these pieces in order!

The only bad part about our track yesterday, is that I like to continue my progress by letting the dogs earn their meals on the track in the beginning.  I had plans to meet other schutzhund club members this morning but came down with a bad cold and between the rain and the sore throat, had to make a decision not to make myself more sick than I already was.  That doesn't get them off the hook for training, however; instead, we worked on heeling position INSIDE!  Tracking will be continued next week.....