Friday, July 3, 2009

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!

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