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.