The first week of the rest of our tracking lives…
Bear and I attended a tracking seminar last fall and had a lot of fun, learned a lot and really enjoyed watching different dogs work. We did maybe about 2 weeks of tracking last year before it got cold, I got busy…you all know how it goes.
This spring has been miserable (way to much water) and we are doing lots of Rally-O and tricks training work but I decided we should venture outdoors and give tracking a try. This will be the first time I’ve trained something completely on my own – There are no tracking instructors nearby. I think the journey will be interesting for both of us.
I have two very similar tracking plans – One from the seminar mentioned above with MaryAnn Warren and one from a book I purchased last fall called Try Tracking by Carolyn Krause. My plan is to use both: I really like Krause’s ideas for teaching the indication with a clicker but I think Warren’s plan is better suited to adult dogs and trial preparation with longer tracks and more gradual fading of food on the track. I’ll also be following along on a blog I recently discovered by a Canadian Tracking Judge , Donna Brinkworth called Your Tracking Coach.
Our training goal is to enter a CKC Tracking Test this September in Winnipeg – there are not very many opportunities for such tests so I may not have another chance until next year.
Our First Week of Tracking
Our First week out was very interesting. We worked in warm weather each day – with the coolest being 24 degrees celcius. The fields here are very dry with varying degrees of vegetation and I had my first and last run in with Spear grass! We are lucky enough to have slight winds and many, many fields to practice in Shilo, both on base and off although I need to keep an eye out for shorter cut fields as we know they tend not to hold scenty as well as taller grass.
We got our new Premier Sure Fit Harness which fits much better than the ‘Canadian Tire special’ I had as a leftover from our flyball days. The Sure Fit harnesses are adjustable in 5 places and are very easy to put on – you slide them over your dog’s head and attache them with two girth buckles. I have been pleased with everything I have purchased from Premier and this is no exception.
I was surprised how well Bear took to getting back into this – we only did a couple of weeks work after the seminar last fall. He’s very diligent about ferreting out every food drop. We have also successfully worked in fields with containing a fair amount of prairie dog holes. I have to admit that we’ve never actually seen nor heard one! We have flushed birds out of the grass but thankfully, birds are classified as “Nothing of Interest” (NOI) in Bear’s world.
This week our tracks have been fresh (to ageing), double layed with lots of food drops. We’ve been to 3 different locations this week in some warm and very dry conditions but Bear has been able to keep it together until the end of the track every time!
Body Language & Handling
I have been really paying attention to Bear’s language while he’s working and it seems that the biggest indicator that he is “on” the track is that his head drops below his shoulders. He doesn’t work with his nose buried in the ground but maybe 6 inches above it. When he loses the track or is trying to hone in on a food drop he tends to raise his nose and circle round. Occasionally he’ll stop to look at a passing car or person on the road but he’s been able to get back to work.
I used a 10 foot line for the first few days but soon realise I’d need to use my longer line since Bear is easily working 10 feet away from me. I need a lighter line and also some gloves or my hands are going to be ripped to shreds when Bear leans into the harness he really can pull – and in tracking, that’s a good thing!
I have been using both leather rectangles and leather gloves as articles but right now I don’t think they mean much to Bear.
- I’ll start teaching bear to indicate articles.
- We move on to longer, single tracks out the advantage of working into the wind…this means we’ll be working with the win and all the scent will be blown AWAY from us…uh oh….