Page is really getting into tracking. We did some veg tracks starting at 9 weeks, but she didn't "take them on the road" well. I also wasn't good about my consistency in tracking her. About 2 weeks ago I decided I should track her more often (on short tracks) until she really understood the game. This strategy has worked well.
Page knows what the harness is and knows when it goes on what we're doing. She's immediately looking for her start flag when she comes out of the van. She's also pulling me toward the start article and giving it a good sniff. For the first few times tracking, the flag was a big distraction! It was so much fun to attack the flag and try to rip it apart! But now she ignores the flag and gets right to work.
Earlier this week we went to the local metro park for another new location to track. I went to a spot I like very well for straight line puppy tracks. I put in the start flag and bent to place the start article when something went past me. I didn't think anything about it until a bird swooped by my head. "HEY!" And here it came again!
I was being dive bombed by this swallow! And she was serious; she came at me at least 6 times! I was putting my start way too close to her nesting box. Like I said, I've laid tons of tracks here, but this year I retreated and put my track on the other side of the road! Ms. Swallow preferred my change of location.
This was a 75 yard track, with food every 3 steps for the first 20 yards, every 4 steps for the next 20 yards and then every 6 steps (or every 5 yards) for the next 25 yards and no food for the last 10 yards. Page did an outstanding job with this track and barely stopped for any food drops.
The next day I took this new confidence to non-veg. I laid a track across a two lane blacktop drive. I had 40 yards of veg before the non-veg. I put beef as my food drops every 4 to 6 steps. Then when I got to the non-veg, I used water with a hand print and a small piece of beef every other step across the drive. Once we got to the veg, she only had two food drops before the glove 30 yards after the drive.
The last time Page did this non-veg, she struggled and really didn't track across it. This time, she tracked very strong to the curb. From the curb, she walked out to the drive a couple of steps but never put her head down even with the beef. Finally I pointed to the drive and said, "track" but never leaned over and actually touched the ground. Page turn her head and looked where I pointed, saw the food drop and ate it, contemplated the situation before her and then trotted across the drive on her track to continue tracking in the grass.
Page never dropped her nose to sniff the pavement, and she never ate the food drops on the pavement but walked right by them. I did get the feeling she used her nose. Very interesting.
Today I decided to spread out the food drops even more and go with a low value food drop (kibble) since she was ignoring most of them anyway. I went to a place where I could track across a gravel driveway for another section of non-veg, and on a whim I decided to add in a turn. Usually I train tracking in this order: length, age, turns. However, Page is tracking so strongly, I wanted to see what she would do with a turn.
I put a food drop in a footstep every 10 yards for the first 30 yards to the gravel drive. Then I put a food drop in every other foot step across the driveway. I switched back to every 10 yards until I got to the turn. On the turn, I mashed the grass down so I could tell where the turn was. Then I did an open turn to the left with a food drop in every other step for 6 steps then one more at 5 yards and then back to every 10 yards to the glove. The total track was around 80 yards.
Page did a fantastic job with this track. She didn't get any food drops until the gravel drive. She got the first food drop here, and then used her nose (I heard her sniffing) to track across the driveway. She got the first food drop in the grass, but she didn't get any more across the driveway.
Page also didn't hardly notice her turn. She kept her nose down and just turned along with the track on rails. The first food drop she got was the one 6 steps past the turn! Then she tracked confidently to her glove.
I would love to get video of Page tracking; she's doing so well! And you should hear people's reaction when I say Page is tracking. They cannot believe it! I'm tracking with friends tomorrow, so I'll try and get some video. I haven't yet figured out how to hold a camera along with the leash and get her off the start line. But you can't miss Page - she has a bright pink harness to match her bright pink collar! She glows!