Friday, June 11, 2010

This week's VST tracks

It's after June 1, so it's time to hit tracking a little harder if we want to meet our goal of fall tests. Both girls track well, but we need work. I've had a few people tell me they think it would be hard to prepare both girls to do VST at the same time. Actually, it's much easier to lay two similar types of tracks, versus one VST and one TD or TDX track. It's also lots easier to find good VST tracking areas then TDX grounds. I am again very thankful Page passed her TDX last fall. She did me a lot of favors when she did that!

And as I've said so many times, Devon and Page are so different, it's easy to treat them as individuals. Devon's strengths are the experience she has in tracking and her article indications. She also tends to track "typically" of must dogs. Devon's weakness is confidence. Page's strengths are her nose-down footstep tracking style. She is atypical in that she works until she solves her problem; she doesn't lack confidence. Page's weaknesses are article indications and her lack of "mileage" or experience under her tracking harness.

We've tracked twice this week. Page usually runs first, so I'll start with her tracks. Unfortunately the places I used for both girls on Sunday were too "new" to be on Google Maps or Google Earth, so no images. Page's track was very good; it was aged about 2 hours and 20 minutes. I did a very short track with grass, sidewalk, grass, curb, grass. I'm also trying to "wean" chalk with both girls. I'm making my chalk marks smaller (only 1-2 inches long) and placed on cracks or on paint lines where it's easy to get scent anyway. I'm hoping to teach the girls to look to these "scent holding" places for clues on their tracks.

Page worked her track well, and she worked her turns meticulously until she found the correct new leg. She shows no favoritism to vegetation versus non-veg. either on straight legs or when working turns. She tracks nose down no matter what the surface. Unfortunately she tracked right by a plastic article hidden just off the track under a bush even though it had kibble in it. More work on articles!

Tuesday's track was even better than Sunday's track. This is a track Devon ran a few weeks ago. It was aged 3 hours and 15 minutes; the track was 334 yards long with 37% non-veg. Page started strong and continued strong. She tracked nose down on the sidewalk, only getting distracted when a worker rolled a wheelbarrow within a few hundred feet to unload mulch. She wagged and barked at him as I explained what we were doing. He shrugged his shoulders and went about his work; and as soon as I told Page to do the same, she did.

The orange lines on the map show his various paths during his work related to Page's track. I was simply amazed how Page worked as if he hadn't been there. The only sign she was distracted by his scent was when she worked the turn and tracked toward the distant pile indicating she did check out his path once.

The nicest thing Page did on this track was the non-veg turn off the sidewalk into the curb. She worked this like she was working a vegetative turn; it was beautiful to watch. As soon as she found the new leg, she was off nose down in a straight line.

The worker did pick up her metal article (which I retrieved later). She did not give any indication it had been there, but then again I had to hold her to get her to acknowledge the bright white plastic article in the grass she wanted to track by, too.

The only part of this track that gave Page any problem was the angle across the last leg of parking lot. Angles are hard for dogs to work in field or in tracking; they want to square up. Page worked hard to adjust herself along this line and did a fairly good job.

I must carry high value treats and hold Page until she finds her article, indicates it and reward her. She will indicate the articles if I make her. I now have to convince her how valuable it is. I think Page is ready for me to introduce MOTs on her next track. I'll be interested if her turns in curbs help her transition to MOTs.

Devon worked well on Sunday. Her track was similar to Page's: short and only 2+ hours old with grass, parking lot under a roof (bank drive thru lane), grass, parking lot, grass. Devon struggled a little at the start. She also worked hard in the parking lot under the roof. She also overshot the veg turn before the second parking lot run. Her article indications were lovely, and once she was solidly on the non-veg legs she tracked confidently.

Devon's track on Tuesday awas 3.5 hours old. It was 423 yards long with 53% non-veg and two MOT turns. This track was much tougher than the one she had earlier in the week.

Devon really struggled to start in the short, sparser grass which was dry. Her first turn was also a real struggle. However, once she got into the curb, she worked the long non-veg section well.

As Devon works non-veg, she tends to track straight then lift her head and circle, checking out other options. I don't know if this is a confidence problem or if she's double checking herself. I've learned the rule of three with Devon. If she circles more than three times, it's time to call her in for water and a rescent.

Unfortunately the two MOTs were too much for Devon. She tracked well to the turn and indicated loss of scent but struggled to find the new leg. In addition, I had forgotten to bring water and she was thirsty. On both MOTs I finally pointed out the new leg, and once she found it she worked the new leg well.

Devon also struggled on the last vegetative turn, spending way too much time on it. I've heard this is typical of VST dogs, as well as forgetting how to start strong which Devon also exhibited. Because I want to keep Devon's confidence high, I plan to work starts the next time we track. I'll lay two to three 125 yard tracks that start, have one turn and end on non-veg.

After some work on starts, I'll next move to more transition work and build in some turns into curbs to build more confidence. As her confidence builds, I'll put the MOTs back in.

Generally both girls look very good in tracking. They love to track and get very excited to see their harnesses come out. I'm enjoying our work, so I look forward to working on this journey this summer.

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