Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chiggers and back aches and training, oh my!

I see it's been about 2 weeks since I've posted! Goodness time flies! We've been up to a lot of training lately and too busy to spend much time blogging.

We have had beautiful cool weather to train in this summer. July has been the second coolest on record. The down side has been chiggers. I really hate these little devils and never remember being so affected by them! They really love my feet and ankles when I'm doing so much field work and tracking!

The other down side of the last two weeks has been back spasms. I think after two weeks I'm finally over the worst of them. Thanks to my good friend Sheree who is a master at releasing muscles, I could actually walk again last Wednesday and I was able to travel to Ohio for some field training.

Field training
Speaking of field training, it's going really well. Devon and I have worked hard, and last week it really showed when we visited Mitch. Devon did a really hard lining drill, which worked suction from buckets that were closer when sending to farther buckets. You were only allowed to handle to each bucket once, then the dog had to line it.

The next day we did an over into the water drill, which is done before swim by. I was really proud of Devon for looking great and nailing this drill. Mitch said all our hard work on land showed with how well she did on this drill.

Page is officially field training now. She started her hold work on the table and was collar conditioned. She did a marking drill in the big field. Even though she was distracted by all the great smells, she did mark each throw and step on the bumper going out. We can fix bringing it back with her force fetch.

Our tracking continues with mixed success for both girls. After doing a fantastic job on a blind track one evening, Devon has been loosing confidence over the last few tracks. We've increased the difficulty by no chalk or hand prints. I also haven't been working pieces of tracking through the week; I've only been working tracks laid by someone else on the weekends. Put this lack of "training" together with "testing" on the weekends and a lot of field training, and Devon's lacking confidence. We're going to solve that by putting her back on fresher veg tracks and really getting tracking again.

Page is continuing to learn VST and retain TD tracking. She's doing a good job on her VST tracks, putting a lot of information in her "Rolodex" for future tracks. She's a fantastic problem solver, and leaving her to it is my best option.

I have to put a note in here about Devon's agility. She is really looking fantastic in her weekly class. Because of our emphasis on field and tracking, this is all the agility training Devon has each week, and it seems to be a nice balance.

It used to be if we did any type of field drill in the morning, Devon would melt during agility that evening. However, that doesn't seem to be the case these days. I'm not sure if Devon's new attitude has anything to do with Page having a class right before hers or not, but whatever the reason, I'm really enjoying the fun times!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Devon the library dog goes to preschool reading time

This month Devon is the "library dog" again. We haven't been to the library since April, but I was pretty sure she wouldn't forget how fun it was. I was right.

This month we're attending the preschool reading time. We arrived 10 minutes early, and we met a family of three children in the entrance. Right away they said, "Hey it's her! It's the library dog!" Devon was in heaven. She "talked" to all of them and got her first pets. Once downstairs in the Children's area, she was swamped with kids wanting to pet her and talk with her.

Chrissy introduced Devon and we sat at the front of the room. The kids were in a semicircle around us. Chrissy talked about how reading to dogs is beneficial, and then I told a little about Devon. She sat quietly through all of this talk, wagging at each child and "smiling."

Once Chrissy began to read, Devon started working the crowd in front of her. She went forward and sat in front of the kids and they gave her lots of pets. But Devon had an even better idea! She laid down and put her head in one boy's lap, then put her toy in the next boy's lap and rolled over into the laps of three kids sitting in the front row! I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, the three kids who were rubbing Devon's belly, the proud boy who said Devon asked him to hold her toy for her, or Devon whose eyes were closed in pure joy. I'm not sure there's any dog who loves a belly rub more than her!

After a few minutes, one of the girls got my attention and pointed to her foot with big eyes. Devon was laying across her leg, and the poor girl's foot was going to sleep! Guess I have to watch out for that in the future!

Then another boy from the other side crawled over to tell me his side hadn't seen her as much as the other side had. So I got up and we went to see those kids. After reading two books, Chrissy said we could sit up front and each child could have their special time with Devon and then choose a dog book to check out of the library.

Devon greeted each child specially. She was so good with the few who weren't really sure of dogs. The thing that impressed me was how she handled the children who wanted to hug her. I knew she could handle this because it was something that she was tested on. And she thought it was great, even when one boy laid his head on hers and gave her kisses.

And the kids weren't the only ones who wanted to see Devon. The adult volunteers all made sure to pass through the room to say hello. One volunteer even gave Devon a hug, and when Devon melted into her, the volunteer said, "She's hugging me back!"

Two boys stayed after to read to Devon. She enjoys the one on one time, but I think she still believes she needs to "do" something with them instead of just settling in and listening. Next time I'll tell them it helps her listen if they pet her and see if she'll settle with that.

I've never had an hour go by so fast or had Devon enjoy something more ... okay ducks are high on her priority list, too. But Devon is a gifted therapy dog. It made me realize that if all this competition stuff goes away tomorrow, Devon's real joy in life would be to visit people. Devon wouldn't miss any of it as long as she could go do her therapy work and make people happy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"I'm Page and I'm here for my training time!"

I haven't blogged much about Page's Tuesday night beginner obedience class. We're enjoying it a lot. There are only four dogs total: a Dobe, a Weim, a Sibe and Page. All but Page are adult dogs and much bigger than her, but she fits right in with her attitude!

This week was an introduction to agility equipment. We walked in the door just as the class was starting. Page took one look at the ring with equipment she recognized, and she headed right for it! You could tell she thought this had been done all for her, and her alone!

Once I got her headed to the seating area, it was the same as the previous weeks. Alicia sets up two chairs for each team. One chair is for your training bag, and one chair is supposed to be for the trainer. But in my case, I stand and Page sits on my folding chair. As Alicia reminds me, I'm the one who clicked and treated because I thought it was cute! I must say I'm impressed that Page will jump up in any metal folding chair and sit, even if it is slick and she keeps sliding backwards!

Once we were released out to the equipment, Alicia took the two newer students to the back to work with them individually. The other woman in the class and I have more experience so she knows we can work on our own. Alicia had a ladder, plank on the ground, stool to use as a perch, barrel for a chute, two jumps (just the standards and no jump bar) and a plank angled up to an 8 inch table.

I headed to the first "station" which was the ladder. Page trotted through the ladder and then immediately turned and headed for the plank on the ground. It's agility isn't it? You go around a course don't you? I really put a cramp in Page's style when I explained she had to repeat the ladder and couldn't move on quite that fast. Apparently I'm not going to have a problem with her being handler focused with obstacles on the floor! She was all about "conquering the course!"

Page did a great job working on all the equipment. I must confess we aren't doing as much in the building on foundation work with all the tracking lately. I need to get back to working her regularly on obedience and agility foundation. However she hasn't missed a beat!

After we did all the equipment, I brought her back out of the ring to work on other things. I got a tug toy out and we started working stays with releases to tug. As we tugged, the toy came out of her mouth - an as it did a puppy molar flew through the air, too! Only a couple more puppy teeth to go!

So that's a recap of this week's training class. Page really enjoys them, and I'm going to be disappointed to see them end in a couple of weeks. Who knows what I'm going to challenge her with next!

People, dogs and discipline casting!

Well, when you train at a new place, you must be ready for new things. At first glance this new park was a great place to train. It was quiet and big with open flat spaces to lay out a nice double T. In fact, there was a mound for a driving range where I could handle from and Devon could see me easily. It's so cool to look down on a perfect double T drill ... ok, I'm a field nerd.

Devon did a good job with this double T, except for her overs. After two days of blinds, she started coming in on her overs again. This is going to be life-long maintenance. I see double T drills every Monday after tests in Devon's future.

At one point I had sent Devon to the back pile set at 100 yards. Sat her on the back over intersection which was 70 yards out and looked to the right over bucket only to see a man and woman walking hand in hand directly for that over bucket. Huh, guess she was getting a left over instead! I sent her to her left, and she easily took it. The couple realized they were about to walk through my training drill and changed course.

In the meantime, Devon got her bumper and came running back into me, clueless about the two walkers. At least she's focused on me! When I asked her to mark her back pile, Devon sat straight up when she watched these two walk right behind her back pile! She went straight back and never missed a beat.

Next we worked discipline casting. We had to work through some no sits on whistles. This was frustrating, but I learned if I walked out to her and told her she must sit, it fixed the problem.
The next thing she did was refuse to go back with a bumper in her mouth. This was quickly fixed with a collar correction when I sent her back. This correction worked because it's one she understands. After one correction, Devon repeatedly drove straight back without turning around until I whistled.

Finally, the coming in on overs came out again with the discipline casting. I had to walk out and tap on the over buckets to get her to go straight. It was during this time that we had or second distraction session.

I looked up and a woman who had parked near my vehicle rolled out of her car with three dogs and no leashes. She had two medium sized dogs and a small dog. She saw me and I stood near Devon (who had a bumper in her mouth) and watched as the woman did her best to call the dogs in another direction. Once I thought she had them out of range, I left Devon and walked toward the over bucket.

Unfortunately, this is when the youngest of the group saw me and started running to me. I know he wanted to say hello, but I didn't know what he'd do when he saw Devon. I told the woman to call her dog and get him under control. She tried, but he wasn't coming. I headed back to Devon, who was still sitting perfectly with the bumper in her mouth. The dog kept coming and was coming fast. I ran the last few feet to get to Devon first. Thankfully 10 ft. short of Devon, the dog broke off and returned to his owner.

Whew! I was relived. And for some reason I took the bumper out of Devon's mouth. This was a mistake. Devon thought she was released from work, and she took off after the retreating dog. I yelled and she came right back. That bumper went back in her mouth so fast! Lesson learned: when Devon has a bumper in her mouth she's working and she's under command. No bumper, not working!

That little break in action must have given Devon time to think about her overs, because she did them well. I sent her to the back pile one more time, and she did three perfect casts and she was done!

I think the session was a great one for Devon. I learned how to correct her with a couple of different methods, and she respected the corrections and stepped up to the task. I don't use corrections unless I believe she knows her job. On this day she improved her performance, leading me to believe they were the right choices.

I doubt I'll use this park again during the summer. It has too much doggie activity for me even before I set up the drill. I can tell it's a place people let their dogs run, and I'm not comfortable with that. The three off leash dogs invaded the playground area on the other side of the park as I was cleaning up our drill. As much as this woman probably believes she has control of her dogs, she proved to me she really didn't. I'm going to seek out other places to train for a while!

Page's TD track on July 14

On Tuesday we headed out to do a field drill with Devon at a local school. I figured I could put in a VST track there for Page while Devon was working. However, when we got to the school, two groundskeepers were sitting out front with spray equipment. I pulled up and asked and sure enough, they had just treated the lawn. Great! One good location was out for a week or so!

The good news was they wanted to meet the dogs and asked what type of training I did. They told me about a park I didn't know of in the next town that they thought would be a good place to work the dogs, so I headed that direction. On the way, I found a new TD tracking field! My goal is to keep working TDX and VST and keep up with TD every week to 10 days, so it looked like today was TD day!

The great thing about this field is it's right across from a bank that gives the time and temperature. I know I started the track at 10:53 a.m. When we came back to run it, the time was 12:35 p.m. The track was 490 yards long with four turns. The cover was short clover.

Page had an outstanding start and pulled me hard. I forgot to mark the first turn, but it didn't matter. She had only a very short search a few feet from where I knew it would be. A short leg and another beautiful turn put us on the third leg.

Here, Page suddenly went off the track to investigated something in the grass. I told her to leave it, and she plucked something in the grass and retrieved it back to me. It was a dead baby bird - YUCK! I got it out of her mouth, told her to leave it and track - and she did! What a great girlie! And now you know why I carry antibacterial wipes in my vehicles!

Frankly, the dead baby bird was the most eventful thing on this track. Page nailed her turns, was dead on her track and even handled her 160 yard leg very well. When she got to her glove, she gave me a sit on the article and we were done in 11 minutes (that clock was handy!).

Devon and blinds

After the break throughs from last week, I was anxious to get to more blinds this week. On Sunday, I gave Devon her first truly cold blinds. We were at a fellow Golden Retriever club member's home, and there was a lovely tree standing alone 80+ yards out in a field. A perfect target! We put orange bumpers under it and a bird house about 60 yards away on another line.

Devon was incredible! She lined both of these cold blinds the first try! I was jumping up and down I was so excited and proud of Devon!

Of course, I couldn't just let the training session go with a perfect blind. I asked Steve to take a white bumper and throw a "wipe out" mark across the line of the blind. He did and Devon retrieved it. They aren't called "wipe out" marks for nothing! Sure enough, the mark completely wiped out Devon's memory of the line of the blind and caused suction when I sent her.

On both blinds, the second time I had to handle Devon to the blinds. Once she handled, she lined them the third time out without the wipe out mark. I was really pleased with this session.

On Monday, I went to another location where I could set out blinds at a distance. I set one at 125 yards, one at 140 yards and a third at 130 yards. I marked all three with a black post with bright pink streamers. I know from experience I can see these posts and Devon cannot until she's right up on them. However, they gave me a good target to send to.

Before I got Devon out, I got my "fairway" to each blind, so I knew how far to let her drift. I lined her up for the 125 yard blind, sent her, and she went out in a straight direct line just as she had the night before. I was thrilled! She definitely has learned what she's to do on blinds!

She ran straight for 90 yards before she broke down and drifted left and I had to whistle sit her. She turned and sat like a dream. Awesome, one over and one back and she'd have it. I carefully put my over cast out and yelled "over" and walked to my right. Devon sat like a beautiful statue and watched me walk. Nothing. No movement at all. HUH? I've never seen that!

So I repeated my over command and again nothing. Three times and I knew I'd have to do something different. I'm not sure if she had never handled that far away from me, or what. I walked up closer, about 30 yards, and said, "Devon! Over!" Well, on her name, Devon came it. Darn it!

So I had to resend her to the blind because she wouldn't sit on her way in. This time it wasn't quite as pretty, but she handled to it. The next time she lined it. Good girl!

The other two blinds were much harder because of the suction from the previous blind. The middle blind she got on several handles the first time, two handles the second time and lined it the third time. We had quite the battle on the first send because of the suction from the first blind.

The third blind was a repeat of the middle one with extreme suction from the previous blind. On the third send, I got her to two whistle the third blind and I knew that was the best I would get.

Overall, I was pleased with Devon's blind work this week. She's really getting her job and we're starting to handle pretty well as a team. I think I'm going to stop marking the blinds with sticks and just do cold blinds the next time we train. I do think the blind markers made the suction worse because once she knew they were there, she looked for them.

Devon's 12 hour track

On Sunday evening, I laid Devon a track at 7 p.m. However, after we got done running Page's track, it would have been after 10 pm when we ran Devon's. So I decided to try her on an overnight aged track. I know those on the west coast and in southern states run overnight tracks all the time because of the heat, but this is a new experience for Devon.

I wish I had a map of this track, but the location is too new for Google. Devon did a really good job with the track and found all her articles. She struggled a little with the start and the first non-veg which was a baseball diamond. I could see my footprints from the night before, and I could see added prints from a coyote or dog and deer from overnight.

Once back in the lush grass, Devon did really well through her next non-veg and first article. She didn't struggle again until her real non-veg turn. Once she committed to it, she tracked it well back into the grass and then to a plastic article. It was hidden, but she was on the track and found it easily.

Once in the grass again, Devon didn't want to go back out into the parking lot. She indicated that's where the track went, but she skirted the track on the sidewalk instead. I followed her, but the track angled out into the parking lot and she was soon far off of the track. I took her back to where she lost the scent and told her I didn't go on the sidewalk and she knew it.

Apparently my comments worked, because once she was back to the transition, she worked it properly (although grudgingly) and did go into the parking lot. She worked this surface swiftly, but accurately. She knew what she was doing once out there. Then it was back into the grass for her final article.

I won't do 12 hour tracks very often with Devon, but it was an interesting experience. She worked the track very meticulously, taking three times the normal time to complete it. This track had some extra scent, but no chalk. It proved to me she really doesn't need extra scent. The chalk is still helpful for MOT turns and transitions, but it's also time to fade it, too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Page's "big dog" VST track on July 12

Sunday was really a lovely day, and we spent most of it at the White River Golden Retriever Club meeting. But in the evening, I couldn't help myself. I wanted to see what Page would do on a "big dog" VST track.

I put in a track for Page that I would usually give Devon. It was 577 yards long with 45% non-veg. It was aged 2 hours and 15 minutes. It included curb work and serpentines, which are staples in our VST work. I started with hand prints every 3-4 steps on the first section of non-veg and faded them to every 10+ steps.

I gave Page an angled start, and she again handled it very well. She's locking into her starts better than Devon is! She handled the first turn well, and with only a little searching went out into the non veg.

It took her a little bit to figure out the island work, but once she did she did the serpentines like she'd been doing them for years. Once on the veg, she actually took longer to lock into that leg than the non-veg. The angle across the driveway was simple for her, and she pulled me across with her nose down and back arched.

Page easily handled the track along the side of the building. She worked nose down and easily took the track into the curb and down the back of the building. I had less hand prints through this section, but you couldn't tell based on they way she worked the track. She angled out of the curb, across the sidewalk and onto the grass with her nose exactly in my footsteps. It was amazing.

The only place she really worked was the turn onto the sidewalk before the playground. This took several minutes and a couple of rescents before she locked in. However, once she did, she easily handled this section. I was very impressed she didn't even look out into the playground when she had just tracked through there two days before. She was really tracking and not just wandering and getting lucky.

The last leg of this track was the hardest because there was no light on this side of the building. I always forget that when I lay night-time tracks here. With her less than solid article indications, I wondered if she'd find the last article. She worked hard through this section, getting distracted and bringing me back mulch and wood chips (at least that's what I'm telling myself I was pulling out of her mouth; I really don't know and I don't think I want to know!).

Finally, she locked into the track and did a sit at the final article. Yippee!! Page did an awesome job with her first "big dog" VST track. She really is an amazing little girl!

Devon's VST track on July 11

Devon got a much tougher track than Page did on Saturday night, but she's also way more experienced. Steve and I had a little miscommunication on where we were laying tracks, and this one got interesting for both Archie and Devon!

This track was 512 yards long with 39% non-veg and was aged right at 3 hours.

Devon did a great job on the start. She didn't circle numerous times on the first leg like she has been doing, so I was happy about that. At the edge of the building, she went left and then right. She investigated more right, but then came back to the line she was working and moved forward. I followed her, but thought it was odd to have a cross track right there. About the time her head came up again, Steve said I would be hearing a whistle. Apparently what I thought was a cross track was really the first turn to the right.

We came back and she easily locked in. The second turn took a little more time, since she really wanted to go everywhere but the sidewalk. She finally decided the sidewalk was the right place, and we tracked along with Devon checking out chalk along the way.

We were halfway along the building after the entrance way, when Steve said, "You missed the metal article." Great! Devon never misses metal articles! However, this article was off the track under a bush and right in line with a chalk mark. I remember clearly Devon checking out that chalk mark, and Steve thought the chalk pulled her away from the article. Ok, that made me feel a little better!

Devon nailed the angled turn to the non-veg leg up to the next building, pulling only slightly right. You'll see a purple line through her track here, and this was a purposeful cross track. Steve's getting sneaky on us now! He's throwing articles, he's doing cross tracks! It's all great proofing for Devon, and I'm fortunate to have such an experienced tracklayer!

On this sixth leg, Devon decided to track along the sidewalk when the track was really in the grass along the sidewalk. It was dark at this point, and there were very few lights and they were on the far side of the parking lot. Devon again tracked right by an article, this time a plastic article with lots of holes. It likely doesn't hold scent as well as other types of articles, and it was orange and hard to see. Of course, had Devon been on the track, she would have tripped over it! Being 3 ft. off the track made a huge difference for this article, and I can now see how articles are missed in tests. It confirmed we need to work more on small plastic hard to see articles.

But the adventure wasn't over yet! As Devon tracked past the end of the building, you can see an orange line that hugs her track. This was the track I laid for Archie that we had already run. It was about 15 yards from Devon's track, and this was a tough thing for her to work out. Of course, Archie had the same challenge, and he did it very well.

As we got to the driveway and neared the non-veg turn, I kept hearing a tinkling sound that my mind identified as metal tags on a dog's collar. Sure enough, a guy with a huge Sibe came walking around the next building, about to cross our track. I held Devon up and waited. He stopped and watched us. Steve told me to keep tracking, that it was good distraction, and that he would run interference for me. That made me SO MUCH more comfortable.

I told Devon to get back to work and to track, and the guy realized we had a working dog. Steve went up and told him what we were doing and he was really interested. He decided to watch and to tell us how great a tracker his dog was. He then asked if Devon was a retriever and if she was a girl. Steve said yes. At that point the guy said he'd let us get back to work and he'd go home. I'm thinking his boy was intact, and he was worried his dog would like Devon a little too much! If so, I'm glad he left!

During this conversation, Devon did a lovely job of finding her track at the non-veg turn and getting right back to work, ignoring the guy and his dog. She worked the last turn and made quick work of the last leg, finding her final article.

All in all this was a good track for Devon. The two things Steve noted were the missed plastic article and the nearly missed first turn. We still have work to do, but I felt pretty good about this track.

Page's VST track July 11

On Saturday, Steve and I decided to track Archie and Devon. I brought Page along and put in a short track for her. I was also looking forward to Steve's opinion of where Page was with VST.

This track was aged 1.5 hours. It was 252 yards long with 45% non-veg. I put hand prints every 3-4 steps to start, then spaced them out to every 10 steps in the later non-veg. The weather was unseasonably cool, and it had rained earlier in the day.

I gave Page a one flag start and brought her in at a slight angle. She nailed the start and the first turn. She worked out onto the first parking lot area well. However, when she got to the turn on the sidewalk, she really struggled. She wanted to pull up to the building, and we did wonder if the building was warmer pulling the scent up to it.

After several circles and what seemed like the second or third time I rescented her, it suddenly clicked and she locked in and turn left. From this point, there was no stopping Page. She tracked nose down the rest of the way, including an amazing turn from the grassy island onto the last stretch of parking lot. She tracked the parking lot nose down, back arched pulling in a straight line dead on the track.

Steve felt the goofiness on the second turn was just Page being a 5 month old puppy and lacking focus. Once she locked in, she was fantastic. He encouraged me to age her up to at least 2 hours and 15 minutes for her next track. Scent seems to settle in for VST tracks after that magic 2 hour mark, but it was one I haven't yet broken for my "baby dog." Ah well, every other challenge I've thrown at Page she's handled with ease, so why not this one?

Page's VST track July 10

On Friday, I decided to give Page a VST track. It was 346 yards long with 23% non-veg. It was aged just over an hour and run in the early morning.

I gave Page hand prints in water every 3-4 steps on non-veg except through the rubber mulch. I did not use chalk; my thinking is that I'm going to have to wean her off any "help" I give her, and I'd rather wean her off just hand prints than both hand prints and chalk. If I run into trouble in the future, I always have chalk in my toolbox.

I was utterly speechless watching Page run this track. She was head down, shoulders arched pulling along the line of the track. She got into the concrete playground area and didn't miss a beat.

She nailed the hard surface turn and nose down tracked me through the rubber mulch and back up and through a concrete picnic area. She got the two turns on the sidewalk, and she never stopped until she was around the building and at the glove.

I didn't give her extra articles, because I wanted her to concentrate on the tracking and not stress on the articles. At the end article, she gave me a tentative sit and looked back at me. That was good enough, and she got praise and kibble from my pocket.

This was an awesome track, and it encouraged me to do more VST with her.

Updating Page's recent tracks

The day after Page certified on July 5, she did a TDX track. It was 500 yards long, aged 1 hour and 45 minutes. I gave her two articles on the track. She did an amazing job with the track; but for the first time in her little career, I saw her stress. She stressed at each article. She froze over the articles, then either walked away or started eating grass around them.

Seeing the stress, I didn't force the issue with the articles. I didn't ask what she had found; I simply walked up and picked it up and told her to track again. Once I picked up the article, she relaxed and started tracking again.

I had been saying that I would work the article game with her to solidify those indications, and it looked like this was the time. I gave her a day off, then spent Wednesday and Thursday last week working the article game.

I'd love to report that Page immediately understood what she was to do and everything was perfect ... but she's a puppy and that's not how the story went. I laid out a line of articles, put on her harness and let her loose. She found the articles, but after a sniff, she went onto the next one. So I started standing on the tracking line, not allowing her to move forward. This didn't make her happy, but she finally showed some interest in the article. Once she did, I clicked and treated. Hummmmm ... if this earns me treats, maybe I'll pay more attention ...

So over two days I got her downing on the articles and nose touching them. I decided this was good enough for now. Ideally I want her to retrieve the articles. This is Devon's indication, and for retrievers I prefer it. However, Page has always volunteered the down, so I'm allowing her to do that. I'm wondering what will happen after she's through force fetch and if she'll start retrieving the articles then. Only time will tell!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Update on Devon's field training

This week I've given Devon a variety of field drills and blinds. Not only am I really pleased with how she's doing, I am seeing lots of break throughs for both of us. I am starting to see this goal of running Senior tests take shape!

We started the week with a double T in a large field. It went really well, so I threw in some discipline casting only on a back. Unfortunately the stress of something new and the distraction of kids screaming on the nearby playground frazzled Devon a little. She started pulling up short on her back pile, leading me to give her a couple of corrections.

It was also getting very warm, and ultimately I let Devon end with a successful (but not entirely "clean") run to the back pile. I realized she was getting truly hot and there was nothing to be accomplished by beating this issue into the ground. I again go back to the fact that Devon is an honest dog who gives me everything she has each time we train. I just pushed things a little too far on Monday, so I learned and we ended avoiding a no-win battle.

On Wednesday, I changed things up and gave Devon a wagon wheel. I kept the piles tight at only 8 yards apart. Devon did a very good job on the piles she could see. However, there was one pile she couldn't see; because of the cover I could only see the top half of the orange cone which identified it.

Devon sucked right to the pile next to it. However, she stopped when I gave her a whistle. I tried an "angle back" because this situation set up the "split cast" drill Mitch showed us at his seminar. Although I had never done this with Devon, she read it beautifully and turned right to the hidden pile. I tempted fate and sent Devon there a second time. She did the same thing, and she took the same cast correctly. Although it worked, I'm not going to test that one again until I talk with Mitch!

Thursday we had a really great session. I decided to break down the discipline casting on a back pile only. Devon learns best when you break things down for her, and I didn't want her double T and all handling to fall apart because of the discipline casting. I set out a 60 yard back pile and just worked discipline casting back to it. This worked like a charm and she handled it confidently. I threw in a couple of over casts even though there were no buckets, and she also did those well.

I also set up three blinds for Devon in the fields. The first blind was to a large round hay bale that we had used as a blind for marks the previous week. It was set at 60 yards, and Devon lined this blind on the first attempt.

The second blind was at a tree 80 yards away. When I walked up and asked her where her dead bird was, Devon's head flicked right and left but never straight out. Immediately I realized what I did . I set this blind between and behind two large round hay bales. The previous blind and two blinds we ran last week were to large round hay bales. She would have to push in between these two pieces of suction to get the blind. Wow, did I ever set up a challenge!

I knew she was pulling right, but I sent her anyway when she gave me something that wasn't a dead lock on the hay bales. She indeed sucked right immediately. I let her have some momentum, and then blew my sit whistle. She sat. I gave her an over cast, and while she looked confused, she took it.

Once on the correct line, I sat her and gave her a left back ... she turned left, but then sucked right again. We repeated what I just did and I walked up. Once back on the line I gave her a left back ... and she went left over - must be at the other hay bale!

I kept working this, walking closer to her until I was right in front of her for the left back. Finally, even though she didn't really believe it, she took the left back and held the line! Oh happy day! When she found that blind, she was surprised and I was excited!

I tried this blind again, and this time she really fought me to the hay bale. I let her get closer before I gave her the sit whistle, and she blew it off to hunt the hay bale. That earned her a correct of me walking out and firmly insisting using the tab on her collar that she get her butt back to where I told her to sit the first time. She also decided she didn't want to sit after my left over, again earning me walking back out and putting her where she needed to be. This was all the correction she needed, and she pushed back to the blind.

On the third time, we had several whistles, but she did eventually push back to the blind. At this point, I gave her a break, got her some water and worked Page. I then reloaded the blind with 6 bumpers. I wanted to get this one better. We had such success with her learning to push back, but she was still fighting the factors a lot.

After a water break, Devon came out strong. She nailed the blind in two whistles: she pulled right, but sat and took the over cast; then she nailed the left back to the pile. She got great praise and a fun bumper for that one. She repeated it on the next time, and I ended that blind with a success. I wasn't going to get her to line this blind with all the suction to the right, so two whistles and her obeying my casts was good enough!

The third blind proved challenging because of suction again to the right with trees and on the left with a house. I walked up during my handling and we worked through it. Then she lined it the next two times.

Even though these blinds weren't "perfect," I think we both learned a lot. Devon learned to trust me, that I knew where the blind was and she'd get her bumper if she followed my casts. I learned how it felt to give her momentum off the line, but how and when to whistle her and cast her. I also learned how to read the "fairway" and how she really would get the blind if I let her go on it versus trying to make her perfect right now.

This morning, we again revisited the double T. I didn't want her overs to get sloppy with the handling we'd done on the blinds. I think the double T will be a staple in our maintenance plan throughout her career to keep those over casts strong. The cover in the field was getting pretty tall, and I realized as I set the drill the farther left over pile was hard to see and the nearer left over pile would be impossible for her to see until she was almost on it. Devon did an absolutely fantastic job with this double T. She ran it to perfection! She didn't miss a cast or a whistle. It was amazing! And even when she couldn't see the over piles, she took the cast correctly until she saw the piles.

Because Devon did so well, I decided to throw in more discipline casting. I walked up on her to do it, using only the back over pile so it was really a "T" drill. She acted really confused, but she did a great job of obeying my casts. I had to give her a couple of back casts when she wanted to pull up early a few times. She reverted back to her old habit of coming in on the overs, so I had to correct that and identify the over pile for her once. However, all in all I'd say it was a really good job for only her second try at discipline casting. Mitch warned me it would be rough, and it was. But she generally did a really good job.

As I said at the beginning of the post, I'm really pleased with our work this week. I think Devon and I have reached a new level of teamwork. I know I learned so much this week about how factors work on Devon on blinds and how to overcome them. Devon learned that I really do know where those bumpers (or birdies) are, and if she does what I say, she'll get them. Seeing her finally push thru that wall of suction on her left back will be sight I don't think I'll ever forget. It was the picture of success for us this week!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Page

Field Seminars are BORING when you're a baby dog!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Page is certified!

Certified for tracking, that is! Yep at the ripe old age of 19 weeks, we have our four original certificates, and we can now enter AKC TD tests ... actually, Page has to be 6 months old before she can run tests so it might be a while!

On Saturday afternoon we were making plans to meet to track Devon and Archie on VST, and Steve (our local AKC tracking judge) asked if I wanted to do anything with Page. In the area we selected to track, I didn't think there were any fields big enough for TD work, so I said we could just lay Page a small VST track. Steve and Janet showed up 5 minutes late Sunday morning to our meeting spot, but they were grinning and said they found a TD field and Page's track was in!

I have to say on the way to the track, I was nervous. Steve said later he didn't tell me it was a certification track; but I know him well enough that if he's going to go to the effort to put in a track for a dog that's ready to certify, he's not going to do it twice! I started to get mad at myself and talk myself out of my nerves, but then I figured I'll be nervous at a test and Page will need to know what that "feels" like and work through it. Devon ignores my nerves in tracking and field, and I figured Page would too.

For those of you who like to know these things, the track was aged 1 hour and 5 minutes when we started. Page went to the start flag well, but she stopped 6 inches before the start article. I put my hand on it and then let her smell it and she just looked at me. She's never stopped short like that, so I'm curious about it. Maybe it was my nerves she sensed that were different?

However, when I told her to track, she trotted off like she normally does. Halfway between the start flag and the 30 yard flag, Page got the line wrapped around her neck and I had to unwrap her and restart her. She was a little confused since we haven't really practiced that, but once she got going again she locked into the track.

I think I was most worried about getting past the first turn. Page showed loss of scent as usual and locked quickly onto the new leg to the left. At this point, I knew we would be fine and my nerves went away and we were tracking. On the second leg Page found two large feathers she was interested in, but as soon as I said "track" at the second feather, she left it and tracked on like a big dog, handling the second turn with ease.

The only difficulty Page had was on the third turn. When she showed she had lost the scent, she circled all the way around me twice looking for it. This is very unusual for Page, since she shows loss of scent so quickly on turns she doesn't have to go behind me. When she started working her way backwards on my right, I knew she was past the turn and more than likely I was too.

This is when I was very thankful for our Thursday track when this very thing happened to us and Page worked it out. I backed up, and when she locked onto the track, it was 6-8 ft. behind me and to my right. I could tell by everything she gave me Page was locked onto the track and working, so I stepped in behind her. I was confident, but I also gave a little peak over my shoulder to make sure our judge was following us. Steve was following and was grinning from ear to ear!

Page handled the rest of this track with ease. Halfway along the last leg, she saw a large plastic bottle off to our left. I knew it wasn't an article, and when Page wanted to pull to it I held my ground and she came back to the track so we could walk forward. As soon as I was confident we were on the track but close enough to let her investigate it and rule it out as something she should find, I let her out on the end of the 40 ft. line to go see it. As soon as she got there, she knew it wasn't for her; she turned and came right back to work.

However, the distraction had pulled us to the left of the track just slightly. She got back on it and a few feet from the glove winded it and circled right. Once she was back on the track, I saw the glove about the same time she did.

The track was 490 yards long with 5 turns. The legs were 95 yards, 75 yards, 60 yards, 110 yards, 60 yards and 90 yards. It was low cover and the day was cloudy, damp and cool with no wind. Perfect tracking weather!

After we found the glove, Steve's first comment was that she was an incredible problem solver. He said for a 19 week old puppy to problem solve the third turn when she was so far beyond the turn and to work backwards to lock onto the track was impressive. He also said when she was on it, Page was footstep tracking and when she angled off, she corrected herself to right on the line.

Janet brought Page's reward with her when she followed us. Janet brought the feather Page wanted on the second leg, so Page got to carry that back to the vehicles with us. She was very proud!

So we will maintain Page's TD skills for the next 3 months as we work TDX and VST tracks and shoot for a test later this fall. I am super proud of this incredible girl!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Page's first shopping trip

I took Page with me to a pet store last week so I could get some freeze dried raw food for our trip to Ohio. I was also looking for a Raspberry collar Lisa said was perfect for Page. While I was looking at collars, Page was doing her own examinations. Below the collar displays, right at puppy height, was the display of every single food bowl the store carried. And there was Page putting her nose in every food bowl down the aisle hoping the food bowl fairy left her something.

Next Page figured out that if she crawled between the 35+ lb. dog food bags on the bottom shelf, she would find loose kibble for snacks. When I tried to walk to the front of the store, she sat in the aisle and barked in protest at being taken away from her free kibble! This girl found free food and she was NOT going to leave it!

We finally made our way to checkout without breaking any food bowls or tearing open any bags of dog food when the girl behind the checkout counter asked if Page wanted a treat. Oh yeah, she wanted every bag along the way! The nice girl gave Page a treat, and Page politely took it and ate it. Page was impressed, and she sat down looking at the counter trying to figure out how to get the girl's attention to ask for another treat. Before I could react, Page tried to leap on top of the counter (twice!) to ask for another treat. The scary thing is, she almost made it! This was a full sized counter that came to my waist! The girl started laughing and yelled for the other store clerks to come watch her, saying Page was half kangaroo (I was SOOOO proud!).

All I can say is if we ever get to Cape Cod to visit Trix, Page wants her own personal tour of Hot Diggity. However I've already warned Nicole to watch Page for shoplifting!

Page's "field" training

Right now Page is in the pre-force fetch puppy fun marks stage of field training. I throw marks for her on land and water whenever Devon trains. On land I keep the 40 ft. tracking line on her just in case she decides to "trieve" (and keep the bumper) instead of "REtrieve." So far she's been very good about bringing the bumpers back in my general area. I make sure I praise her a lot and pet her with the bumper in her mouth.

This week Janet has been nice enough to throw some bumpers for us, and Page has done well with that. On Friday when we got together as a group and did marks, I walked Page over to where she could hear the duck calls and gun shot, get a good view of the duck in the air and see Zoe and Archie explode out for their retrieves. Page watched intently the first couple of times, but then fell back into the 4 month old puppy ways of finding something more interesting to do (like tearing grass up by the roots).

After the "big dogs" ran, I walked Page very close and had Janet step out from the blind and throw Page a mark. She got the complete duck call, gun and bumper, and she loved it! She flew out to get the bumper! And when she picked it and we cheered, she decided to go see that fun lady that threw for her! Ah well, puppies! I threw the bumper and she got interested in it again. And a second throw by Janet went much better as Page went out, grabbed it and came back to me with the mark.

I'm sure this is just the beginning of a great field career!

Double T

Even though Devon's ready for it, Double T is hard and a big jump. Devon's handling weakness is coming in on "over," so when you add two over piles she wants to come in to the nearest one.

Steve cut a Double T into some cover in the back of his yard, so we gave it a try on Wednesday. A lot of trainers teach the T drill and Double T with mowed paths so the dogs can easily see alleyways to the buckets and piles. I think this is a great way to teach if you can, because it gives the dog a defined path to run and probably prevents some of the coming in and "banana" shaped overs I get.

Devon has been taught T drills on short cut grass at schools and soccer fields, so her first time on this mowed Double T was interesting! She was determined to come in on her first overs, even if it meant jumping the cover to do it. As in the past, her right over is more difficult than left over.

We hacked through it and were successful, but it wasn't pretty! At one point I looked at Janet, who is just starting down the transition road with Zoe, and said, "Isn't transition fun?" She didn't think it looked like fun at all! Transition may be a test of patience, but at least it isn't as dull as pile work!

On Wednesday, I gave Devon a break from handling drills to do some sight blinds. I was pleased she worked through the shorter, 60-yard blind. After seemingly indicating and lining the longer blind when sent from 130 yards, Devon broke off her line for some cover that was close by. I'm getting better at anticipating suction, because I knew this would be enticing. I gave Devon a whistle and she sat. When I gave her an over out of the cover, she didn't take it. When I resat her she did sit, but when I called her in she blew me off again and earned a correction for it. She was diving into an unknown woods line, and I'd seen evidence of coyotes in the area. That correction was for her safety, and she obeyed it.

I set Devon up closer to the blind at 100 yards and taught it to her in two, 50-yard pieces. Once taught, Devon lined it twice. I thought we got out of that training session on a positive note!

On Friday, we ended up with an impromptu field training group, complete with carry out Chinese lunch! How many people can boast that during field training? We got together with the Ripleys for drill sessions in a new location at my parents' old home. At the last minute, Beth joined us with Reba and Denver. Lysiane from the Westie Report decided to hang out and watch the retrievers, too, after a tracking session. It was fun to have an outside perspective on what we were doing and explain how we train the retrievers to reliably do their work so far away from us.

Drills may not be fun, but when they're done well they are worth it and take your training to a higher level. Archie was very successful on his proximity pile with ducks. Zoe did a lovely walking fetch, as did Reba. Zoe did a fantastic job with only her second session on pile work! We were all excited for Janet! Denver, who is in the middle of force fetch, did some progressive marks.

Devon got to do a small Double T in short grass. At first I worked just the back part of the T, getting her confident there first. As I expected, we had problems on the first right over because she wanted to come in to the nearer over pile. I identified the over pile on two different times for her before she was running it well.

When I backed up and added in the second set of over piles, things went really well. I did have to stop Devon on her first right over, identify the correct over pile and resend her. But she got it clean the next time, and she got both left piles clean on the first try.

The other good thing about this drill was Devon's focus. She had four people watching her and talking off to the side, but she worked through that. And as she started her full Double T, two guys brought in a hay trailer for unloading into the barn in the other field. This was a lot of distraction for her to work through, and I was really proud of her for doing so well with it.

My mom was a great "host" and offered to run into town and get carryout Chinese food. How many training groups get food delivered into the field? What a great Mom I have!

After a lunch break, we did a "Mom and Pop" double mark concept. We used a big round bale of hay as our blind. Zoe just nailed the marks, and Archie and Reba ran them as singles and did a very nice job. Devon struggled on her memory bird and wanted to search the first fall location. I reran the memory bird as a single, and she lined it the next time as a double.

Later Zoe and Devon ran it again as a walk-up. Zoe again did a fantastic job. Devon again struggled with her memory bird. This time I tried to handle her to the mark, but it was a disaster. I finally called her in because she was so confused and she wasn't handling.

The only good thing was she came in knowing there was a duck out there. I've been worried if I have to pick her up at a test I couldn't call her in from the field when she knows there's a mark down. I don't want to have to do that, but I want to have the tool if I do have to.

After re-running the memory bird as a single, Devon nailed it on the double again, and I ended the session with that success. I think Devon's struggle was how close the Mom and Pop double marks were, so that's a concept we'll be running a couple of more times in the future!

This week's field sessions have gone very well. I'm really proud of the hard work Devon gives me, and I'm looking forward to seeing how we progress in the next two months!

Friday, July 3, 2009

How a hawk can change your mind about tracking

I gave Page a TD track this week in anticipation of certifying her sometime soon. We've been doing TDX and VST tracks, so I thought I should again remind her what a good old fashioned TD track was.

The field I used was a little more sparse than I anticipated, but I thought it would still give Page a good lesson. I laid a 500 yard, five turn TD track, and I planned to start it at 30 minutes. I say planned, because Page almost didn't get to run this track after all!

As I took Page to the start line, a Red-Tailed Hawk came soaring out of the woods behind us screaming. This hawk was in full hunt mode, and I thought a little gold dog at the end of a tracking line might look too much like a rabbit for my comfort level.

After a few minutes, he soared off to the next field so I started Page on the track since she was now lunging for the start article. This girl loves to track. However, Page wasn't more than 10 yards down the track when the hawk came back. I held Page and watch him, and he got closer and closer, circling and screaming over head.

That's when I picked Page up! I wasn't going to risk either of us getting hurt for this track. I reset the start flag and article thinking I could come back later and headed for the SUV. Page wiggled and squirmed because she wanted to track. Once she was tucked away in the SUV and I was just about to leave, the hawk left. After waiting a couple of minutes, I realized it was for good.

We restarted the track, and Page was very solid in spite of the weird circumstances. She tracked strong through the second turn, and on the third leg she was pulling hard and wanting to go faster than I've ever seen. But once again she reminded me that "speed kills." I missed the turn marker and she overshot the turn by 20 yards before she showed loss of scent. When she did, I realized how badly we'd overshot it since I was watching her track.

After a few minutes of searching, she got back on the new leg, but she was going slower and I had learned my lesson about speed! She tracked strong through the last turn and about 30 yards into that leg she hit a wall. That's the only thing I can figure happened. She was still "tracking" but she was searching wide and not totally committed. Several rescents and two water breaks later and she still wasn't strong. I let her work through it, and she finally caught sight of the end article and raced to it.

Looking back on her previous tracks, Page hasn't done that much yardage in a couple of weeks. I think the length got to her, but she didn't shut down completely. She worked through it, but she didn't track strong. It was good reminder to vary length as well as time and types of tracking in Page's future.

Gamekeepers Retrievers Field Seminar

Last weekend we spent four days in Ohio doing field training. Friday through Sunday was the Gamekeepers Retrievers Field Seminar. I am a private lesson student of Mitch White, and I offered to help Mitch as his field slave/bird boy for the weekend. I was lucky that he accepted my help; I felt I got more out of the weekend than I helped!

This seminar had more of the basics in it than the last two I've attended, likely due to the mix of participants. Because Page will be starting on the Gamekeepers' Program as soon as her teeth are set, this was perfect for me. I was able to see the basics at all stages and be reminded what I was looking for before the dogs moved on.

On Monday, I had my lesson with Mitch. After 3 years of working with him, I know what to expect. I tell Mitch where I think we are, and he puts Devon and I to the test! The longer I train and the more I learn, I'm getting much closer to accurately knowing where I think we are. This time I was rewarded because we were exactly where I told Mitch we were!

I told Mitch of our good double T session, followed by Devon's "overs" completely falling apart. I told him that I took a step back and for the last 2 weeks I'd been concentrating on "overs" with her. So he put us to the test with a T drill in his field with factors like hills and breaking through cover.

After Devon got her silliness out, she did great on this drill. Devon had been in a crate in the SUV for 3 days, so in her first freedom in the big field working wasn't high on her priority list! But she got down to work and had some BEAUTIFUL over casts! I was so pumped I was cheering and super excited! Two weeks of hard work paid off in that field! Mitch agreed and said she was ready for double T, and she was getting bored with just the T work.

Next up, we did a wagon wheel drill. The piles were pretty close together, so it was tough. However, once again Devon was ready for the challenge and did a great job. She only failed once and she fought hard to stay on her line two other times.

Next, we did five concept mark/blind combinations. Mitch set a white bucket (sight blind) about 60 yards out, identified the pile for Devon and I sent her. Then he sat on a stool about halfway along the blind line and 15 yards to the right. From here, Mitch threw a mark about 50 yards down a hill to the right of the blind. Devon picked up the mark and lined the blind. Her next mark was thrown right on the line of the blind. She again got her mark and lined her blind. The third mark was 25 yards to the left of the blind line, so after she retrieved the mark she had to run the blind under the arc of the mark. Mitch was pleased she lined each of the blinds without sucking into the influence of him as the gunner or the marks. He said these were all Senior level concepts.
Then, he gave me two Master level concepts. The first was a "poison bird" mark thrown to the right of the blind. A poison bird mark is a thrown mark that the dog is lined up for and sees fall; however, you have to pull them off that mark, leaving it out there, and send them to a blind instead. Devon just nailed this without any influence, and she pulled off the mark to the blind and lined the blind easily.

The last concept was a diversion mark thrown short and to the right as I sent Devon to the blind. I whistle sat her on the throw, which she did and she only pulled 2 ft. off the line with the throw before I got the whistle out and she sat. An easy left back gave her the blind and then she got to pick up the diversion throw. I was so proud of her, and I could tell Mitch was, too. He was all smiles and thumbs up!
We ended Devon's lesson with some double marks, which she marked beautifully. I was a little worried, because the one time this season we've done marks, Devon was all over the place in her hunt.

After running two doubles, Mitch set Devon up so I'd have to handle to a mark. This was the toughest thing for us in the lesson. She didn't want to sit on the whistle and stop the hunt, but once I got her sat, she handled with only two overs (yippee!!) to the mark. I could have done it in one over, but Mitch wanted me to sit her again, and she was much better the second time she was asked for a sit.
Our homework is 3 weeks of double T and discipline casting plus lining drills and double marks, then I get to go back to Ohio and start swim by and my water work. Mitch seems confident Devon will be ready for Senior the first of September as long as we keep progressing as we are. We have 2 months of hard work ahead of us, but I'm really motivated to do it!

Page's weekend
Page didn't have quite as much fun as Devon did, but she made the most of her limited time (which is just her style)! Mitch and Maria had a litter of pups a day younger than Page. They kept Purdey, a cute and bold little girl, and they were puppy sitting her brother Drake. Both pups had been in the expen all day Friday and Saturday morning when Maria told me I could put Page in with them so they could play. Great idea since she woke me up barking at 2:30 a.m.!

Purdey and Page were BFFs upon first meeting, complimenting each other's coats and the way their fur curled. However, Drake was a different story! This little boy had been getting away with murder at his home, and Purdey had been on him all weekend. Drake thought he could push this little gold dog around since he had a good 10 pounds on her, but he had another thing coming!

Page is a bold, confident girl, and she's no pushover! When Drake started pushing her around, she showed him all her teeth and took him down! Maria said, "Deb, I hope you're watching this!" and Mitch said, "I like this girl!"

Drake was a slow learner. He tried to put his chin over Page's shoulders and then got more pushy with a paw across her shoulders, and out came Page's teeth and she again took him across the expen and down. I'm sure Page was thinking black dogs are really dumb when he tried to hump her a few minutes later. She dashed his hopes and his bad manners by sinking in her teeth and making him squeal before she again put him down.

Finally, after telling him three times, he got the message and was respectful. After that, Page had no problems playing with him. It looked to me like Page was going to uphold the honor and reputation of those Gaylan's girls!

On Sunday, Page got to swim in the Happy Heeling pond and got introduced to decoys. I didn't think Page would be worried about decoys, and I was right. After sniffing a couple on land, she was too busy retrieving to worry about them in water. When she finally did approach them, she did the traditional butt or "tail" sniff of one, then she went "nose to bill" with another smaller duck before deciding they weren't worth her time. Did I mention Page is quite bold?

As soon as Page's adult teeth are set, she'll start on the Gamekeepers' Program just like her big sister Devon did. However, this time I know what I'm doing, so like the tracking it should go much smoother! And Page is a very different dog from Devon, so I'm sure I'll face new challenges along the way!

Catching up: Page's tracking last week

I haven't blogged in a while, but don't think it's because we aren't working! Last week Page did three tracks, one of every type. Last Monday, good friend Beth called and offered to put in a TD track for Page. Hey, I'll always jump at that!

Beth put in a nice four turn track that was probably in the 300-400 yard range and aged between 30-45 minutes. She also put one in for her "grand-dog" Ripken. As I pulled up, I saw a fisherman headed for the pond. When Beth pulled her van up to mine, I wasn't surprised when she said, " of us will have a cross track!" I immediately volunteered Page for that track. I wanted to see what she'd do.

Page did a lovely start even though this was just the second time she'd tracked someone other than me. She cruised through the first turn but got spooked by something on the second leg. It was either the fisherman or the cattails with the wind or both. She ran back to me a couple of times, but I got her working again pretty quickly. Page is in that stage between 4-6 months where even the boldest puppies will shy sometimes. She's only reacted to something strange a couple of times, but it's more than she did before she was 4 months old. We just work through it and don't make a big deal of it. Page got back into her track and even though she was headed closer to the scary fisherman, she was working too hard to give him any attention and handled the second turn well.

On the third leg we had the cross track. It was only aged 5-10 minutes. Page checked it left then followed it back right for about 15 ft., when her head came up and you could tell she was thinking, "This isn't what I'm supposed to be tracking!" She turned and when she hit Beth's track, she got right back on it and tracked strong to the glove. Good girl!

Tuesday was a VST track on a hot humid day. I put in the track at 8:30 a.m., planning to run it in 45 minutes to an hour. However, I got sidetracked with Devon's field drills, and we didn't run it until 10 a.m. The track was approximately 250 yards long, with two smaller sections and one large section of non-veg.

Page did a great job on the first section of non-veg which included curb work. However, after going through some grass and indicating the track went back into the parking lot, Page got stuck on the grass. I helped her to the mulch island where she found an article. However, I knew she wouldn't restart back into the parking lot. I walked her across that section and restarted her in grass.

Once started, Page did well in the grass, finding another article. She turned and headed into the longest section of non veg, back into the parking lot strong, angling across a mulch island, pavement, another mulch island, into gravel, across the end of a concrete loading ramp and finally back on grass. She was rewarded 30 yards later with a VST leather article hidden in an indentation in the grass. She found it easily and had a strong indication. I was pleased with the end of this track, especially since the middle was so bad! She did show me she needs work restarting after articles.

On Wednesday I decided to give Page a short TDX track. I used my favorite spot for TDX work and took her into the woods. This track had a short 60 yard leg through high cover to the first turn. The second leg was 150 yards long through high cover including a mowed path and into woods. She had a turn in the woods to a final leg out of the woods and back into high cover that was 130 yards long.

I gave Page a one flag start and brought her up at 90 degrees. She sniffed her start article and headed off in a straight line in front of me for about 10 yards before her head came up, and I could tell she was thinking, "Where the heck is my track??" She usually goes left with loss of scent, and in this case the track was to her left. When got found it she gave me a clear, "OH! HERE it is!!" and started tracking.

Page handled the mowed path without even showing any indication that the cover had changed! The third time through that mowed path, and she's an expert! Great lessons learned from previous tracks.

When I laid the woods part, I was SURE to put plenty of trail markers after our disaster the last time! As I decided where the turn was, I thought this part of the woods looked familiar. No, I must be imagining it ... until I started on the new leg and saw where I should have come out on that disastrous track the week before. And then I saw a trail marker up ahead! It was the one I'd been searching for when I got lost. Since I was on that line, I just used it again!

Page did an excellent job on her woods turn this time. Interestingly, she sucked left after the turn into the same areas we got lost before. However this time she righted herself and with the extra markers for me, we tracked to the glove.

The other fun thing about this TDX track was that our friend Judy followed us on it. I've only had a couple of people follow Page tracking (besides our blog readers!), and it was good that Page wasn't bothered. The thing that was interesting to me was what Judy had to say about our tracking.

First, Judy was struck by the fact that I was silent as Page tracked. I didn't tell Page to get to work or talk at her. The only time I did was on the last leg toward the end when she got off on some cross tracks and started to follow critters (likely deer) instead of me. I simply asked if we were tracking (she would probably say, "Yep Mom, but not you!"), and she got right back to work.

When Judy made this observation, I realized she was right. I do track silently except to tell my dog "track" off the start, to praise him/her for finding articles and to tell him/her to get back to work if I have to. I believe it's their job to track, and I don't want to be part of the tracking picture at all. I don't know where a test track will be, so they have to know their job and do it. The best way I know how to teach that is let them figure it out, without letting them get into trouble.

Judy's second observation was that she thought Page would be hard to read because Page's nose doesn't come up. In heavy cover, Judy is right. Page tracks head down and on the track most of the time. She's still little and not that fast because she's fighting cover, so she indicates loss of scent within a few feet of the turn.

However, this observation made me think about what I do use to tell me if Page is tracking or not tracking. I can tell by line tension if Page is working or not. When she's searching for scent or crittering, she doesn't pull with purpose on the line ... actually, she probably pulls harder when she's crittering than when she's tracking, but it's not "with purpose." Page does lift her head when she loses scent, but she is more subtle than Devon.

After a successful week hitting all three types of tracking, I gave Page the rest of the week off from tracking!