Thursday, June 11, 2009

Page finally gets a challenging track

I was going to lay a TDX track today for Page and then give her a VST track tomorrow. However when I got 110 yards into the TDX track I'd planned, I was in water above my ankles. I was already soaked and had a few hours to go that morning, so I abandoned that track and rethought my plan.

We tracked with a friend for the rest of the morning, then I headed back into town. I had decided to do a field drill with Devon at one of the schools, and it would be a great place to lay a VST track for Page and give her some age. Below is her track:

I laid this track at 1 p.m. and ran it at 2 p.m. Page had been in the SUV traveling around and watching other dogs train since 7:30 a.m. It was a muggy day with humidity in the 60% range all day. This morning it rained off and on and there was very little wind. When I ran the track the sun was breaking through and it was in the upper 70s. The track was 387 yards with 119 yards of non-veg, or 31%.

Every time I throw something at Page I think is going to be a tracking challenge, she handles it well. So, I decided today she would get her first lesson in curb work.

The first "leg" of the track curved around the edge of the building. I wanted to start her with some alternating veg and non veg on the sidewalks. I laid hand prints every 3-4 steps on the veg to give her help and continued this throughout the track.

On the second leg we angled across the sidewalk and dropped into the curb. Here I added a piece of kibble to the hand prints about every 10-15 yards. I also put an plastic egg filled with kibble in the curb behind some grass that was growing up in the cracks.

Page got to say hello to a woman and her daughter as she was getting out of the SUV. This really fired her up and she was ready to take on the world! Page came off the start flag dead on the track. I gave her only a softly angled approach to the article, and she was nose down pulling right away. I was very glad to see her start just as strong on short grass as she does in heavy cover.

Page handled the first "leg" very well. She put her nose down and sniffed the non-veg where the hand prints were, taking the sidewalk crossings in stride. She was very confident through this soft curve around the building, pausing only long enough to sniff a drain pipe coming off the building.

She handled the angle from the grass across the sidewalk very well. When she got to the curb, she didn't drop down into it at first. She started to track up on the sidewalk above the track in the curb. I decided to follow her here to see if this is where she stayed. After about 10 yards, she dropped onto the parking lot and explored out away from the curb, sniffing the pavement. After satisfying herself it didn't go across the parking lot, Page came back to the curb and for the first time put her nose in the curb and really sniffed there. I could tell by her body language she got a strong scent and "found" her track. She was rewarded a few steps later with a piece of kibble.

Once in the curb, she tracked well to the plastic egg. I thought she found the egg, but then she seemed to track past it. I held the line and she sat next to the egg. I asked what she found and gave her the kibble from the egg. Was that sit an article indication? I wasn't sure.

This is where Page hit her first difficult spot: how to restart on non veg. She was so focused on the food, she found it hard to get restarted. I had to point to the curb several times and say track, but she just kept coming back and sitting and staring at me. Finally with some water, rescenting and steps forward and repeated pointing to the curb saying "track" she got started again.

She handled the angle back up onto the sidewalk very well. Page did a great job of checked all spots for scent before committing to the grass. Once in the grass, she tracked very strong to the metal article. Here she gave me a paw tap on the article and then sat beside it and looked back at me. Seems like the sit at the egg was an indication.

The restart at this article was much easier. Off she went again, easily tracking over a couple of more sidewalks to the last turn.

I was very interested what she would do on this final leg. Right after I laid this leg of the track, three girls rode up on their bicycles and ate lunch at the picnic tables and played on the equipment. They ran over to pet Devon before her field drill. I figured they wouldn't stay long after their lunch, and I was right. But what would their scent all over the playground do to the freshly laid track and a very green tracking dog, er puppy? And while I laid extra scent with hand prints, I didn't put any kibble down for her through this section.

Page tracked onto the concrete well and into the circle where the picnic tables were. Of course, being Bizzy's daughter, she had to check out all of the picnic tables to see if there was even a crumb left for her! Someone had a picnic and didn't invite Page! What a tragedy!

After scouring the picnic tables, Page got back on her track and tracked it well into the mulch playground. I think she would have tracked easily through the mulch had it not been for the empty McDonald's cup that once held a chocolate shake. That was simply too much for Page, and she stuck her whole head in the cup and started drinking the contents - YUCK! You can guarantee I will never drink a McDonald's shake after this experience!

I grabbed the cup up and told her to get back to work. "Are you kidding me??" was her only answer to that! Holding the cup over my shoulder wasn't fooling her; she was jumping at me in protest that she wanted to finish her find! So I walked back and threw it in the trash can. That was not a popular decision according to Page. She got mildly interested in tracking again, but only to go back to the spot of the cup and start eating pieces of mulch that had leftover shake on them. UGH!

I finally shortened up the line and walked her a couple of steps past this spot. Then I asked her to get back to work and wouldn't allow her to go back where the mess had been. It only took her about 20 seconds to give up and get back to work. At this point she was really hot and getting tired, so I wondered if she would actually be capable of tracking to the glove.

I shouldn't have worried. Not only did she pick up the track in the mulch, but she worked the concrete curb out of the play area and back into the grass. She tracked strong all the way to her glove, where she gave me another sit at the article and then a down when I walked up to get it. What a good girl!

Although this track challenged Page, she never gave up on it. She only had two rough areas, and they were difficult challenges. It's simply amazing to watch this little puppy track like a mature dog. I can't wait to see what I have the next time she runs VST. She learns very quickly, and the time in the crate on the way home, then a nap after a late lunch when she got here should have solidified her lessons into her little brain.

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