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.

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