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.