Our First TD Test – About as good as it could be…without passing

Before the Test

We met at a Denny’s for the draw. In tracking there is an advantage to an earlier track – early tracks are often aged less and are likely to have more dew remaining on the vegetation. Dew is good because moisture enhances scent.

Before the draw I got to meet a Facebook friend in person! Kristine travelled all the way from Calgary for the test.

I don’t know what I expected for the draw but the test organizers had four lovely mugs lined up, filled with dog cookies and wrapped in cellophane. We each chose a mug and on the bottom of the mug was the number corresponding to the track number we would be assigned. We drew 3rd track.

Our lovely tracking test memento!

The Test

I got Bear out of the car, let him pee and then we had a few minutes to wait until the track was old enough. we walked the short distance to the scent pad, and I put Bear’s harness on backwards. Once I got it on properly, I showed him the scent pad and told him to find it.

I brought him back to the track once before the 2nd set of flags and we were off. Before we hit the second leg, Bear squatted to poop. I looked back the judge and tracklayer were standing watching but no whistle so once Bear was finished – we continued.

After the car, we drove en masse to the test site at Beaudry Provincial Park. The terrain is almost exactly the same as what we have here in Shilo. Natural prairie grass about knee high. We got to watch the first track, which I was looking forward  to since I’ve never seen a test. Luckily enough the team was comprised of a novice dog but a an experienced handler. From far, it was really neat to watch. It was obvious to me when the dog was on and off the track. there was only one little “discussion” along the way where the dog was certain the track ran along a ditch and the handler was not so certain. Eventually the dog made her point clear and the handler followed. They found the article and finished the track in what seemed like less than 15. It was very educational – training alone means I never get to watch a team work from far.

After track #1, I had to return to our original meeting point in the park because they had to lay my track and I would be able to see the tracklayer at work from track #2. The good news is that meant we would have a relatively fresh track. The bad news is that we would not be able to watch Kristine and her Rottie Teah and I would be alone in my car with my nervousness and anxiety. During our wait, I took bear for a walk, a pee, made sure he did not have to poop, gave him a drink of water and then cocooned myself in the car, checked up on Facebook and blogs I subscribe to distract myself.

About a half hour after they left me, someone came back to take me to our track.

The Track

I took bear out of the car and, since we had some time to wait before the track was sufficiently aged, I took Bear out for another pee and organised my tracking line and harness. It was fairly windy (I would guess 25-30km/h) and our first leg was into the wind. I got Bear inbto his harness backwards, then readjusted it, showed him the scent pad and told him to “find it”.

On the first leg we had some difficulty and I brought him back to the track once before we hit our 30m marker flags.  About 60 feet into the track, Bear crouched down for a poop. I stood, and looked back embarrassingly at the judge – expecting a whistle. Nothing came, so we continued. Before the test, I decided to go wherever Bear lead me. and about 80 feet in he circled a bit and then turned right…we continued on without a whistle so I assumed we made the first corner.

On the second leg, we progressed through some vehicle tracks and what looked like a place where deer had lain for a time as we moved forward, I saw the start flags for the final flag ahead and figured our corner was coming. Turning to the right would take us back to the road so I assumed at some point, we were going right.

Bear did turn right onto what I assumed was the third leg and then we had some more difficulty working into the wind and through some sort of animal droppings (goose, I think). Bear did a lot of stopping, starting, crossing back and forth, chewing (on lord knows what!?). We went ahead for quite sometime like this – it felt like an eternity. I tried using our find it key, I tried holding my ground and waiting for him to commit but he kept circling and coming back to look at me as if to say “what the heck is going on here?”. he also stopped to listen to train whistles and watch folks pass by on the road. It had been at least 10 minutes and he was starting to huff and puff so I just decided to let him go and see what happened. he found some sort of trail, urine marking a few spots along the way and about 60 feet later, we heard the whistle – It was over. I was relieved and disappointed.

Our very kind track layer Val, helped us find the article, even tough I wanted to race back to the car and cry. She also commiserated – her dog did not pass the TDX test on Saturday – she knew how it felt. I think if she had not been there, I would have packed things up and headed home.

The last and final track was right after ours and, after blowing my nose and wiping my eyes, I stayed to watch. The team was whistled off about as far into their track as we were.

At this point everyone headed back to ‘base camp’ for ribbons the judges comments and lunch. Of the four teams in the TD test, two were successful – the first team and Kristine with Teah!

To help myself not be overly disappointed, I have decided to summarize the day:

The Bad

  • We did not pass.
  • One person said she saw bear indicate the 4th leg and that I interfered with his work.
  • Once we lost the third leg, bikers passing by, trains and just about everything became a distraction. in the past, only prairie dogs have been a distraction for Bear.

The good

  • I got to meet a Facebook friend , her husband and her very sweet dog in person.
  • We got through 2 corners when I was aiming for one.
  • The first 3 legs were through some vehicle tracks and what looked like deer beds – these have been difficult for us.
  • This is the first time Bear has followed a track laid by someone else since the seminar we went to in 2010.
  • This was our first blind track ever.
  • The judge said I had very good line handling skills – moving when Bear was on track, planting when he was off track.
  • As expected, lunch was delicious and folks were very kind.
  • One of the host club members took some beautiful photos. I like the one below a lot. Originals are viewable here.
Photo by Jill Dicken

What I learned

  • A dog is not whistled off for eliminating on track.
  • I should give some thought to giving Bear more space when we work.
  • I was the only person training on my own.
  • It’s easier to spot a working vs. non working dog from far especially when that dog has a tail!

Next Steps

I am going to need to think about what to do next. There is another tracking test in Regina in about 4 weeks and then that’s about it until next year.

Right now I am feeling more discouraged than disappointed. Training on my own has it’s advantages but the biggest disadvantage is that there is no one to reassure me that I am on the right path, and that in time things will be fine, that my dog has talent but just needs more training…

4 thoughts on “Our First TD Test – About as good as it could be…without passing

  1. Hey Ayoka, Really nicely written. It was great to finally meet you and Bear. We were really routing for you guys on your test (as well as everyone else!). I didn’t realize you were sitting in your car the whole time. I was wondering where you were. I would really like to be there to watch you guys pass the next test; I wish I lived closer.

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