Keeping It Straight

We started out our lesson by not having any hot dogs to use so use rolled roast beef slices (I didn’t have any complaints from Clancy). Once I arrived at Maggie’s, I realized that my good clicker wasn’t in my bag, my treat pouch was still in the fridge at home, so I had to take a breath and regroup so as not to get flustered about everything.

We started out our lesson last night with heeling work. Right now we are going slow with small steps, getting Clancy to really learn to drive with his rear. I am holding a whole hot dog in my left hand, letting him get small bites, while I take slow, very short steps. we are only working in lines with a left about turn and an about turn. Clancy is really getting the hang of it, but while he is driving with his rear it is also wobbling all over the place. So, this week Maggie lined up broad jump boards to create a lane for us to heel in and for him to feel something to help get his rear more steady and in line. Clancy is really doing well with his heeling and driving really strong.

I haven’t put a focus with Clancy on Heel Position, so we want to start to focus on getting him to know where the RZ’s are (re-enforcement zones) in location to my body, which are the front position, heel position, and the right side position (which is used more in agility, but we will use it and train it more later on). Maggie formed a three-sided square with the broad jump boards turned on their side. I stood behind the front board with a front box in front of me and one end propped up on the broad jump board. I started by leading Clancy into the front box and getting him used to sitting in it, which he did pretty readily. Then I stepped in front of him and then by placing food on his nose led him over the broad jump board and into heel position. Which I rewarded him with five treats while keeping my body standing up straight and not looking at him. This is to get him used to a side view of my body as Clancy wants to look at my eyes, so he needs to get used to other views. After we did this several times, Maggie held him about 10 feet behind the front box and I called him into it and had him sit and then rewarded. Again, my boy is pretty stinkin’ smart and catches on very quickly.

I didn’t bring my socks since there were no hot dogs, but Clancy is loving the two toy/sock game. He is grabbing the socks more and holding them longer when I tug on them, so he is getting the concept of tugging. I told Maggie that he is now stealing my socks, which made her happy that he is associating them with the game. So instead Maggie used sticks, which are probably better to Clancy than the socks even. Maggie sat in a chair and got Clancy to tug with a stick on her right side a little bit and then had him play and tug on a second stick on her left side. Then she had Clancy sit in front of her and take the stick, which he did readily. Next she had him hold the stick for several seconds and the gave him the “out” command. So, we are to do this several times a night while watching TV or whatever and get him used to the “hold” and “out” commands.

We have our homework laid out for us. I love working with this dog, he is so pliable in training about pretty much everything and relaxed when we are on break. Such a difference in temperament from the girls and starting a dog the right way from the beginning instead of having to re-train everything we did.

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And we are working again!

We had our first training class with Maggie after barely working at all this summer. There have been many changes going on in my life this year, both good and bad. I started dating Matt right after Thanksgiving last year, we were engaged by the end of February, and married May 12th. To say that I was busy planning our wedding is an understatement, the wedding wasn’t so bad to plan for, it was a lot of fun, but adding in my health issues to top everything off. I was dealing with intestinal issues for about a month before being admitted to the hospital after being sick for a week and passing straight blood for a little longer than that. I was in the hospital for a week, diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and then began a regimen of different medicine trying to control the symptoms, mainly prednisone, which has caused a lot of side issues. The biggest issue being my energy level, so I am determined to get back to a regular training schedule for the good of my dogs and my health.

So, along the way a certain little puppy has grown up to be a sweet boy, but much in need of formal training as I have not done much other than basic manners and games at home. I knew we needed to get back to classes, but still did not have the energy to drive to my club’s classes every week, so I set back up with Maggie for privates. I find that if I am taking classes then I am much better about training at home and making sure we are doing our homework.

                                           Blueberry all clean and fluffy!

We started with Clancy, he is not sure where heel position is and his proper place, also he loves to play retrieve, but lacks tugging skills. I started Clancy wearing a Gentle Leader head collar since he was a teeny puppy and during puppy class. Because I didn’t work on a formal heel position and focused more on his self control, he wants to sit where he can look directly at my face. We started with setting up a chair to form a barrier, so that when I get him into heel position he isn’t able to swing out, Maggie wants him to get used to seeing my face from a side profile and not the front. After getting him into heel position, which at this moment he is not thrilled with, I am to ask him to do a pop up stand, reward, and then ask for a couple steps backward. With this exercise, we are adding a lot of beginning moves that will play into many more exercises later on. I also need to do this exercise in front of a full length mirror so I know that he is straight and and in the correct position. We then reviewed our retrieve, which Clancy loves to do, but he does not want to tug on the toy. I am to fill an old sock with hotdogs to encourage him to grab it and hang on. After tugging on it he will get a bite of hot dog as a reward. I need to watch while tugging so that he doesn’t get too high and rough, make sure the game ends on a controlled note.

Next, we are working on plate work from a chair with extra plates out for distractions. Maggie wants me to always have distractions around as she says that intact boys are easily distracted and Clancy needs to start learning now that he can work around them. The plate game we are starting on has me sitting forward in a chair, Clancy in heel position with my hand in his collar, I drop a couple treats on the plate, have him focus on the plate, then send him for the treats. I click and call “come”, using my hand to pull him in between my legs where he gets a treat by reaching into me. This is getting him used to working with a hand in his collar, that it is not a correction, just a tool to help him into the right position. It also is the beginning of plate work for go outs and glove work. Our last game/lesson is to have him in a sit at heel, rev him up with a couple “ready, ready” while pushing on his chest, then calling “Clancy come” and running forward about 10-15 feet, then ending with him playing tug with his toy  or giving several food rewards. If I use the toy then I have to remember to play for about 15-20 seconds so he has a chance to enjoy the reward of playing. Looking forward to working with my boy, he is such fun to train.

Blueberry had her turn next, she wasn’t too happy about the gentle leader, but only rubbed at it when she was sitting and not working. While Blueberry worked Clancy was tied with his leash to the light pole, Maggie wants him to learn by watching the other dogs train as well as learn that he can be do what he wants on the leash as long as he is quiet. We started with a basic “L” pattern, focusing on keeping the hand with the food at shoulder height and only bringing it down to nose level on turns and to treat on each turn. Boo was working very well, driving hard with her rear and keeping in position well. I do need to watch her on the sits as she wants to swing her rear out a little. We then did some recalls to a chair to keep her close on her fronts and straight. We didn’t work on it in class, but I am to get her back to work with the dumbbell so that can be moving ahead. A couple times Maggie held Blueberry while I got Clancy of his leash for some retrieve/tugging play for a reward on his good behaviour while watching us work. It definitely had him revved up for his retrieves and the last time he had a nice strong tug for about 30 seconds.

At this point I was about done, so we discussed our practice plans for the coming week and what I need to focus on. Now to get my practice routine going at home so I keep up with out lessons.

Puppy’s First Tracks

I took Blueberry and Clancy tracking with my friend, Joyce, yesterday.  We met up at the Boot for Clancy’s first tracking lesson. It was very chilly, just getting into the ’50s near midday.

At Blueberry’s last tracking test, she again made it to the last turn and just wouldn’t commit to it.  I did not mess her up and one of the judges, Luci Seeley, told me I handled everything correctly and did all I could to encourage her, but Boo finally came and sat down by me and just quit.  After talking with Joyce, we decided to lay some longer tracks to get her over the shut down hump.  I went through this a couple of years ago with her where she would get to a certain point along the track and just quit, finally after just keeping after her and laying longer tracks she was tracking solidly again. This is why I chose to go this direction with her, she needs to learn that there is a glove out there to find and motivate her to keep going.

Joyce headed off to lay Blueberry’s and I went to lay two shorter tracks for Joyce’s dogs, Micah & Alex. Her guys are working on TDX stuff, so I laid one for Alex about 300yds long that went through thick brush, across a road, down it, then back across it to the glove. For Micah I laid one about 180yds long with a couple of articles and focused on how I entered and setting Micah up for a 90 degree turn at the start flag.  After those were laid in the lower fields we went to the top field to lay a some tracks for a lady that is training with Joyce and Mr Clancy’s tracks.

For Clancy’s first set of tracks, I had Clancy watching Joyce as she walked his tracks and banged the glove on her leg.  The first track Joyce put a couple hot dog pieces at the beginning to pull his head down to the scent.  I let Clancy go and he ran up to the start flag and started chewing on it, goofy boy.  I got his attention down on the hot dogs and then he started moving down the track.  I was careful to make sure I stopped when his head came up and only to move once he was head down and working.  He got to the glove and we played for a minute with it before Joyce took it and started the second track. On the rest of the tracks Joyce did not put any food at the start, but did rub some on the bottom of her feet.  Clancy took a while on the first track to move and kept looking for the hot dogs. He was watching Joyce now and ready to go, the last two tracks he went head down and pulling to the glove, barely glancing up at all.  The first set of three were, 10yds, 12yds, and 15yds.  I put him up in the truck for a rest while Joyce tracked with another dog. After that dog was done Clancy had another set of tracks.  He knew what was coming and was ready to go, the first two tracks were well done, the last track he was losing his focus and stopped to look around at us more, but still pulled into his harness and found the glove. The second set of tracks were 12yds, 15yds, and 20yds. He was such a good little boy and everyone loved him.

We then headed back down the hill to run the aging tracks.  We ran Blueberry’s first as her’s was now aged to about 1 1/2 hours.  Blueberry was raring to go after watching Clancy track, she was so jealous of him. I started her about 10 yards out and let her work her way in as she was jumping around and just being goofy. About halfway down the first leg she settled in and started working well.  She worked the first turn very well and the second leg went through an area that was a huge pile of dumped tires and has now been cleaned up.  As Blueberry hit the center of that area she really had a hard time keeping on the leg. She kept working back and forth to find the scent and I could tell she was getting frustrated.  I just kept quiet and she finally found the exit scent and once through that area she found her first article and then on to the second turn.  At this turn she had a hard time, kept casting back and forth, went to the right where the leg went but never committed and kept coming back to the turn area.  I was behind the turn by about 10 yards and after several minutes of really wanting to go straight, she committed to the right and down the third leg. She made the third turn which went to the left at a harder angle and then midway down that leg she found her second article.  Once I was at that point, I could see where we were and I think she was picking up the scent from the article and wanting to cut off the leg to get to it, so I am glad that I held my ground and let her work it out. She worked the fourth turn well and was halfway down the fifth leg when a dog across the road started barking and startled her. Blueberry didn’t want to push forward as this leg went directly towards the dog.  I just waited her out and she did come down and work the leg, finding the fifth turn and worked through that to head down the last leg.  She was working a little to the right of the track, but the last 20 yards she was right on and stood on her glove, what a good girl.  Her track ended up being 490yds total length and had some tough obstacles overall on it that she worked through and didn’t quit.  The obstacles weren’t planned and we really didn’t know ahead of time how they would affect her, but I am very happy with Blueberry and that she does work through stuff and find the glove, now to get her to do that in a test.

A good day tracking was had by all.

Stair Step Tracking

I met up with Joyce yesterday to track with Blueberry and one of her guys.  We tracked at the Astatula location, a subdivision that has no houses in it.  I wanted to work more on turns and not so much length today, so Joyce laid a track for Blueberry, then while it was aging she laid one for her dog and I would put in crosstracks later.  While waiting we discussed tracking ideas and looked at puppy pictures:o)

At about 50 minutes aged, I lined Blueberry up and got her started on the track.  When Joyce laid the track there was not much breeze, but as we were starting it really kicked up.  The first leg, the breeze blew across the track, so Blueberry worked a couple of feet to the right of the actual track.  She worked the turn well and due to the wind checked really hard to the right before heading to the left at an angle, into the wind.  Headed down leg two where she found her first article, when she reached the second turn she noticed a school that backs up to the land we were on and a lot of children were heading out to the playground area, so she stood a moment to watch all the movement and noise.  At this turn, Blueberry was working around it a lot and the started pulling more acutely to the right, I could see a flag at a  90 degree location from the turn and didn’t go with her like she wanted, so she circled back for another check and then wanted to do an acute turn again.  This time Joyce yelled at me “your dog is correct”, so I went with her. One day I will get it right and trust my dog completely.  The wind was at her back and she found her second article and checked out turn three and then headed uphill and up wind on the fourth leg. On this leg she touched the article with her nose, but did no stop on it, just headed on to the next turn.  Blueberry worked turn number four with no problem and again the wind was blowing across the track so she was off and on with her scenting.  She found the glove and got her reward.

Blueberry’s track ended up 370 yards, 4 turns, aged 50 minutes, with a heavy breeze.

On our way back down the road that runs between two parts of the subdivision, Joyce had laid a long leg for her dog and put flags out where she wanted the crosstracks to go and timed it just right for when my track was done I could lay the crosstracks on the way back, saving more long walks.  I line myself up with the first flag and Blueberry and I headed out to cross the main track. We crossed it, walked a ways out then turned to head up the track and line up with the second flag.  Blueberry thought this was fun, even though I kept her short so she didn’t add anymore than one crossing on the track.  Joyce’s reasoning behind adding Blueberry was that there have been times after we have laid a track that you see someone head out with their dog into that field.  Just a different scent for her dog to work.

After some more time for Alex’s track to age, Joyce headed out with him and I followed to pick up stuff.  He had a short first leg, and then one turn, which he worked nicely.  After the turn his track headed into the wide ditch area running alongside the road, out of the ditch and then across the road into a large field.  He worked nice up to the road and then headed across, picked up his scent on the other side and worked his way to the first crosstrack.  Here Alex worked back and forth and really gave Joyce a pull to the right.  She didn’t follow and came back to scent a circle around her, she told him to “get busy” and he just headed on down the main track.  About 20 yards after the crosstracks he found his article, then headed on for another 100 yards before his second crosstrack.  This one he indicated with a side to side movement of his head, but then continued down the main track to his glove.

So a good day was had by all even if it was hot!!!

No Glove, Bad Handler

Very early Sunday morning, I loaded Blueberry and Chauncey up and headed to Orlando for the Tracking Club of Central Florida's TD test. It was cool, in the mid to high 60's and with some spitting rain. Once all were there and ready, we drew numbers to see who would run what track. I was the 5th person to draw (of 9 entries) and pulled track #2, which I was happy about as Blueberry tracks very well in those conditions and the sun would not be beating on her yet. We all headed out to the fields, about 5 minutes away from the draw location.

The fields were wet and the grass in our field was about mid-calf height and thick. The road leading into the big fields is bordered on one side by smaller fields and the other side with a new business center so they had the extras park in the center's parking lot while the first dog ran her track as it was in the first small field. That dog started well and did the first turn nicely, but went right instead of left on the second turn so the whistle was blown. While the tracklayer helped them finish their track, the judges, Ron Seeley & Jane Craig, got me to head on to my track which was just a little farther up in the next small field. Blueberry was ready to go as I harnessed her and got her out of the truck. The judges headed us to the flags, so about 10 yards from the flags. I sat Blueberry and switched her line from the collar to the harness and gave her the "find it" command. I felt very calm and wasn't nervous or funny feeling like I have been before. I was confident that Boo could find her glove.

I lined up our start flags and let her track in to the start article. She scented the sock and went about 5 yards forward and came back and sat down beside me. I stayed quiet and just waited, she was only 10 seconds and then started tracking. I didn't follow until she was committed and pulling hard, then I let my line get out 20-25 feet and followed. She did not track in her fast normal paced style, but was methodically nose to the ground and moving steadily with confidence. Now, due to the length of the grass and the early morning dew, I was able to see where the tracklayer had walked. I was careful to not look ahead for direction but caught myself glancing ahead of Boo to make sure she was on the correct path. She was solidly committed and working, never circled at the turns, slowed enough to indicate then kept moving down each leg. I was starting to breathe easier knowing we were closer and almost to  the glove. Somewhere along the way I started counting corners and she had just done turn 5 and I knew she should be stepping on the glove at any moment. This leg was headed to a grouping of yellow road type signs with a red one in the middle (perfect for a judge to line up with) with a worn driving path running perpendicular to those signs. Boo tracked up to just before the road, I hadn't seen a glove and was sure we had missed it. She tracked a little to the left of the tracklayers path and worked a little to the left but never really committed, then went to the right for twenty yards or so but came back. I started backing up at this point thinking that we had gone too far, I could see the judges were standing just before our last turn, so I knew we were correct at this point. Completely thinking that we missed the glove and trying not to panic because Blueberry was just looking to each side of the track but not indicating or committing. After several minutes of this I knew we were in trouble. Blueberry was still working, but nothing was happening, so she got frustrated and came and sat beside me. I knew we were done, so I looked back at the judges and told them so. They were really impressed with her tracking until at the very end and there was one more turn to the glove. They judges headed off to the next track and left me with the tracklayer to find the glove. I had to help Boo down the already worked leg and then once we were past that turn she was tracking steadily again and the tracklayer was telling us we were off to the side of the track and probably had passed it when Boo stepped on the glove. A lot of hugs for Boo and treats once we were back at the truck. She was a good girl and tried really hard.

Talk about disappointed, big time let down for myself. I know anything can happen but really thought we were ready and going to pass. Maybe I was too optimistic. How do I know I screwed my awesome tracking dog up? While watching the first dog run people were discussing which way her track may go, turns, etc. One lady was talking about a minimum of 3 turns and no more than 5 in a TD. Somehow that number was in my head and even though I didn't consciously say "Oh, I can count the turns", my mind just started doing it somewhere along the track and I counted turn number 5 in my head when Boo had only done 4 turns. Instead of trusting my awesome tracking dog I mentally shut off and started looking for a glove and backing up instead of standing there,  trusting her, and letting her figure it out. I know she would have, so bad on me.

Okay, I won't beat myself up too bad, but will enter the next test in December and the whole time I will not think anything but "trust my dog, trust my dog", it is what I did for our certification track:o) I talked to Jane and Ron later and Jane asked if we only practiced 4 turns? They both said even though I mentally shut out on Boo she never committed or strongly indicated that last turn. I looked in my training book and she has done two, five turn, tracks in the last year. The track we had at the test was 465yds long, the longest we have tracked is 455yds so I don't think length was the problem. There were 3 passes, an 8month old shepherd, an Otterhound, and a 7month old shepherd. The Otterhound took her time but worked her track out nicely. The two shepherds, who were not related and with different owner/handlers were spot on, fast moving dogs. So back to the fields to keep working and try another test in a month!!

Always Something New

I took the girls tracking on Wednesday, met up with my friend, Joyce, at what we call “The Boot”, due to the location of the field behind a feed/western wear store that has a huge red Justin boot out front of the store.

The field runs in an “L” shape, so we decided to work the lower fields as someone else was at the upper fields.  I am keeping Blueberry warmed up on her TD work, but am also starting to add some harder elements to build up for TDX stuff.  This time I wanted to work on aging with her track, so I asked Joyce to lay a track around 250 yds with articles and to get hers in first so it could age.  I headed off to lay a track for Joyce’s Micah, it would be length and then crossing the road and back again towards the latter part of his track.  Joyce would then lay a track for Chauncey that was close to regulation length to see how she would do on one that long.  We headed out for our respective areas and started walking through knee-deep grass with areas that were over our heads.  After we laid the tracks we talked about training a new puppy and some ideas for me to use with it.

I ran Chauncey on her track first after it had aged about 50min.  She started well, but likes to take side trips to hunt on the first leg.  She did the first turn well and then was on track the rest of the track, finding all the articles but one as she worked.  That article she missed because she was working about 1 1/2 feet from the actual track, but as I am using the articles with her for motivation I did not worry about it.  Before each article she would stop about 2 feet from it and look at it, then look back at me, waiting for her praise and treat on the article.  Just before the last turn and leg, she stopped and kept looking around and then looked back at me like she was expecting a glove to be there and I forgot it.  I just kept quiet and she went ahead and did the turn and down the last leg to the actual glove.  Sometimes it is very scary how smart Chauncey is, we have been keeping her on shorter tracks (200-250yds) for so long since her neck injury earlier this that she knew we must have made a mistake.  Joyce made this track 460yds, so it really tested Chauncey’s skill.

We waited a little longer and then Joyce ran Micah on his track.  This one I laid fairly simply with the hard parts being the road and the second leg I took him through an area of grass that was over my head, it ended up being about 530 yds in length.  Just before Joyce harnessed him up a large semi truck and trailer pulled onto the edge of the roadway, right where Micah’s was coming back from across the road.  The truck just sat there with the engine running, so we decided to track anyways as stuff like that can happen at a test.  Micah started well, really working his track and keeping pressure on the line the whole way.

He did find all his articles and worked his turns very nicely.  He crossed the road easily, worked down the far side, then took a moment to cross back over the road.  Just as Micah started over the road the first time the semi truck pulled away, so as he came back across the road he had to work a little where the track was at the road/grass edge as the truck was sitting right on it with the engine running, talk about some heavy scent.  The last leg had a slight curve where I been walking and realized that I was going to get into Chauncey’s area so I had to zag a little to keep out of it.  Micah cut off the corner/zag I did but came back to it and then followed it to the glove.  He did very well considering the truck and the curve I threw him at the end, makes for a hard finish when he is already tired.

After Micah was done we headed back to wait a little more before running Blueberry.  Once I had Blueberry harnessed up, We headed to the start line, I hook her up to the harness about 15 feet before the start flag and let her track her way into the start leg.  This works very well as she doesn’t have to be stopped once she is tracking.  When we certified back in June one of the judges was giving a little help talk after the tests and suggested praising and rewarding our dogs at the start article because they did find an article and it helps them know they are on the right track.  I have not been praising Blueberry at the start just letting her keep going.  The last two tracking sessions we had, I stopped her at the article to reward and praise her for finding it.  Both times after she was rewarded she came up to track, then just started going crazy running back and forth, searching way off track, and then finally after just letting her run it out settles down and starts to work.  She has had such solid starts until now, so I am going to not reward the start article next time and see how she does.  Doing all the extra running and bouncing really tires her out in the beginning and by the end of these tracks she is really lagging to the glove.  This track she handled nicely, at two of the turns she cut the turn and then came back and did this huge back and forth check to verify she was correct.  I noticed this added a lot more work for her and is not how she typically tracks.  She stepped on and indicated all her articles, then at the end she overshot the glove and had to work her way back to it.  I need to go back and study our notes from the previous tracks and see how she has been.  I don’t know if it is the heat or if she is just going through a phase, especially now that she has been certified and a test is coming up in 2 months.  The next couple weeks I am going to track her once a week with just a simple, motivational track to get her back to herself.  We will have to see what comes next with her.

Flat Top Day

We have had almost 48 hours of rain here, from torrential downpours to light sprinkles.  I have been working on re-charging my exercise routine as it has been practically non-existent in the hot weather we have had this summer.  Since I hit the snooze button this morning, deciding to sleep another hour until 6:00am and not walk in the pouring rain, I took Blueberry to work with me, hoping to get a walk in on my lunch break.  It stormed most of the morning and about noon let up to almost nothing.  I was finally able to head out about 1:30 with Blueberry and we went to the park next door, which has some very nice walking areas and much of the path lies around the edge of Lake Parker.  We made it halfway around the first time before it started raining harder.  By the second time around it was a steady downpour so we were both quite wet by the time we got back to work.  As you can see by the above picture, once Blueberry’s hair got wet, it went flat and curly.  At least she looks cute like that, my hair just looks frizzy!!

Tracking with Poodles & nieces!!

I took Blueberry and Chauncey tracking yesterday in some crazy hot weather here in Florida.  My two nieces, Mac & Bailey, came along to see how I track as they always here me talking about it, but have yet to see me track with the Poodles.  We met up with Joyce and another lady at one of our usual spots, an abandoned subdivision.  This time the grass was well over our knees and fairly thick in most fields, some having sparse areas.

I headed out to lay a track for Joyce as she went another direction to lay one for Blueberry.  We tried to get the longer ones that need more aging in first then we can work with younger dogs and shorter tracks while waiting.  I laid a long, straight track for Joyce’s dog, Micah, with several articles and picked out the spots to place cross tracks.  My nieces followed along from a distance to see what I did.  Once that was laid I had to wait for Micah’s track to age before I could add the cross tracks, so we discussed the other tracks we were going to do and some new/different ideas I was given for training cross tracks.  Joyce went to lay a track for another dog and the lady that joined us went to lay one for Chauncey.  After Micah’s track had aged about 35 minutes, I took Mac and Bailey with me along the paved road until I came to my markers.  I sent them in straight across Micah’s track, then had them walk parallel to it for a ways before turning back towards me to cross the track at another point.  Then we left it to age for a while.

About the time we got back, Joyce was getting back from running a track, so I harnessed up Blueberry and headed for her track.  I gave Mac my camera and told to take whatever shots she could, so all my pictures were done by her.  she got some nice shots, but with the grass being so tall it was difficult to get clear pictures.  We got to the start flag of Blueberry’s track and she started onto the track and then started acting goofy, running back and forth, not tracking.  I think a lot of it had to do with 3 children behind me watching us work.  She loves children and had my nieces and Joyce’s grandson with us.  I just waited for her to stop and think about what she should do and after about a minute, she settled in and started tracking.  I am learning with Blueberry that this excitedness/goofiness at the start line is a way she shows stress when I change the conditions on her.  If I just stand quietly, she settles down and refocuses on her job.  I need to add more start line distractions to get her over this.  She tracked well after that only glancing at the children once or twice, but never letting them distract her again.  At the second turn, it went right away from the orange grove, and Blueberry pulled very strongly towards the grove.  Whether the scent drifted that way or so many times the track goes into the grove when we use that field that she was thinking more than following the scent.  She finally came back and went the correct direction, working the last turn and standing on the glove.  It was so hot out there that her tongue was to her knees, so I took her back and cranked up the A/C in the truck while Joyce went to run another track with her student.  It helped to cool them off before getting Chauncey out for her track and Mac and Bailey cooled off as well.

Chauncey working through the grass.

Once we had cooled off a little, I got Chauncey out and harnessed up.  As we started her track, I knew she was tracking but not wanting to put her head down into the grass.  She did a lot more air scenting than I like for her, but when she seems to track 5-8 feet off the actual track and then comes back and points out her articles, there is not much I can argue with her about.  At one point the lady (I can’t remember her name) laid a leg the was only 40 yds and an article not too far down the next leg, Chauncey kept wanting to cut across and head straight to the article.  I held my ground and she worked it out.  On the last leg when Chauncey got to the glove, she stood about 4 feet from it, staring at it intently, but not wanting to go into the thick grass to touch it.  She did go to it to get her reward off the glove once I placed the food on it.  Chauncey always knows where the track is, she just doesn’t always want to go that way.  Sometimes it seems like she is wandering or hunting, but she always comes right back to the article or glove.  Probably why she hasn’t earned her TD yet, she has to do it her way.

Blueberry halfway through her track

We had a fun day, even if it was too hot to be outside.  Reminded me why we almost never track in August.  One thing that happened was Blueberry got cactus spines in her foot.  We always have some little cactuses in the field, but they never bother or stop the dogs.  I try to keep an eye on their feet for them or watch the dogs for limping.  Blueberry never showed any limp and I didn’t notice them until we got home and I was taking her out of her crate in the truck.  I glanced down and saw that she had several spines sticking out of the top of her foot and lower part of her leg.  I pulled them out, but she never even noticed even though there was a little blood where they came out.  I didn’t find any in her pads, but felt bad I missed them at the fields.

Certified Blueberry

A short history on my tracking issues (for more details read the old blog posts) with Blueberry.  I was able to get Blueberry certified about three years ago and we entered a couple tests, only she never could get started and barely made it past the first turn both times.  Once the whistle blew and the crowd left except for the track layer, Blueberry would take off and head down the track to the glove.

She was/is crazy for tracking, but as I found out, stage shy and would shut down with a crowd around.  So I started getting her out and into crowds as much as possible, then I found her larger shyness with men, so more work on that.  After a couple of years of really pushing her in crowded and stressful situations she is much better at dealing with the noise and will keep working, both in tracking and obedience.  She is better with men, but still a little wary, once they feed her she will loosen up and like them.   That is the biggest reason why I haven’t tried to have her certified before now, I knew that she would do the track with just a judge following her, but wasn’t sure about a crowd.

One of the dog clubs in my area offered a multiple dog tracking certification day with some area judges.  I was thinking about it and my friend, Joyce, that I track with suggested getting her in as Blueberry has shown in training that she is ready for it.  I thought it might be a good idea as there would be a group of people that she would have to track in front of as well.  The certification was run like a test, so I sent my entry in and had to wait a couple of weeks to see if we made the draw.  As it worked out there were eight openings and there were eight entries, so we all made it in.

Joyce laid a tough track (350 yds, several turns, and very hot by the time we ran it) for Blueberry about 1 1/2 weeks before, Blueberry did really good and I was pleased.  So, no more tracking until certification day and just rest and play with obedience.

We were up at 4:30am yesterday morning to head to the meeting site, the draw for the running order would be at 7am, so the tracks could be run while it was still cooler.  The conditions were perfect as we had about three evenings of rain to wash the dust and dampen the ground making it easier on the dog’s noses.  The draw was done so that each judge had four tracks to lay, one dog did withdraw, so it ended up being four & three for the judges.  Everyone drew and I pulled track #7 for Blueberry, the last one and I wasn’t too worried about it.  So many people like to get the first couple, but I knew the temperature wouldn’t bother her and watching others get to track first would get her revved up for it.  I brought Chauncey along for the ride so it would be like a regular tracking day for Blueberry.  So, we headed out to the fields to get tracking.

Once at the fields, the first four dogs to track split into, two headed off with the first judge, Ron Seeley, and the rest of the group stayed at the front field with the other judge, Luci Seeley.  From where our cars were parked we could see the first three dogs run, watching as one after the other got whistled off.  The fourth dog came back and they were whistled off as well.  The judges headed off to the back fields to lay the last three tracks while we waited.  Everyone then stands around and discusses what their dog did and listens while others off suggestions:o)

Off to the back fields we went, track number five started and overshot the first turn so another whistle (actually they were waving and calling names, I didn’t hear any whistles).  Track number six was still aging so judge Ron Seeley rode in my truck to the back corner of the field for our track.  I got Blueberry out and harnessed her up, Ron had us line up the flags and start about thirty yards back.  I let Blueberry get on the scent and start working in to the start flag, at about ten yards out, I sat her and transferred the line from her collar to her harness then let her keep working.  She indicated the start article and was working steadily until about ten yards in, then she looked started casting back and forth, then added a run in a circle around me, came back to my side and stopped, just staring forward and not moving.  I tried to verbally encourage her, but she wasn’t budging.  She then did a couple more runs before coming back to my side to stand and checked back at the judge once or twice.  I could tell I was starting to panic that she wasn’t going to track again with pressure on her from a man.  Finally, I just stood there not saying anything else.  It probably took her about a minute and then she put her head down and went straight down the track working very nicely.  After that nothing stopped her, she worked each leg, checked her turns with nice indications and committing to them very well.  Made her way down the whole track and stepped on the glove.  We had a big party at the glove and she was happy to head back to the truck and get her reward.

Ron let me know on the way back to the truck that he was not happy with her start (which I wasn’t either) and that I didn’t see one of her turn indications as we were both past the turn and she was behind me when she indicated it.  Blueberry did pull strong enough that I knew she was on the next leg and I went with her.  Ron suggested that I turn to watch her when she circles behind so that I don’t miss an indication on a turn.

The last dog did not pass his track, so Ron and Luci did a draw and set up 3 more tracks to re-run the people the won the draw.  Again those dogs tried, but failed their tracks.  It was a great day and I was thrilled with Blueberry’s work on her track and that she committed and finished the whole thing with everyone around.  I know our hard work did pay off and we were ready for the test, now to keep working her over the Summer and we will be more than ready for the tests the Fall.

Kitchen Games

Oh the fun we have in the kitchen and most times it is unplanned for.  My kitchen is a small, galley kitchen, but I love being in there and cooking or baking.  I always have a cooking partner in Jasmine, she is glued to my side just in case I might drop something on the floor.  Chauncey and Blueberry are content to hang out in the living room and watch from there.  Many times I will have some small thing in my cooking that I use for a reward and the cloth mats make good places to practice obedience.

Last night I had a bag of croutons on the counter and Jasmine showed up while I was waiting for the water to boil.  Thinking quick, I started playing with her by getting her to back up a few steps and then fold back into her downs.  She loves this and gets faster and faster doing this.  I had to settle her down as she starts getting goofy and offering other behaviours as well trying to get more treats in a hurry.

Blueberry showed up when she heard Jasmine getting food so she did  a few fold back downs as well and some stands.  Blueberry has a totally different idea of training than Jasmine.  She is much slower and takes her time to think things through where Jasmine just hurries through it all trying to get more rewards.  Often with Jasmine I will just reward with a slow pet on the head and verbal praise as that calms her down to focus and realize that food is not the only reward for doing something correctly.

Chauncey showed up for the food and just got some for being Chauncey.  There are definitely benefits of being the queen and retired from training:o)  Always something to do in the kitchen with the girls.