A barrier to tracking for so many is lack of access to fields. I am very fortunate to have a good friend who lets me use her 25 acres as a place to train (THANK YOU!), and there is another field just two miles away that I have used for years.
Yesterday we tracked at the friend’s place, which she calls Dragonfly. The snow was over a foot deep and let me tell you — that is quite the work-out!
I laid Claire’s track at about 10:30 after going to the post office to apply for my passport, which is needed for the Spring breeding of Sparkle. This was to be done weeks ago but when I was to leave for my passport appointment last month I discovered that my Birth Certificate file included everyone else’s but not mine.
Thanks to people who apply for fake birth certificates, getting a duplicate now requires a series of hoops. I jumped through all of them and received my new birth certificate, which I found strangely touching and especially my mom’s signature.
However, my passport photo precipitated a bit of an identity crisis.
How can I keep saying I have blonde hair, which I have said for all of my life, when the photo seems to suggest otherwise?!
My Perfect Sister solved this identity crisis by suggesting the real issue was bad lighting. #blonde
Back to tracking.
When I realized that the snow was kicking my backside (about two feet into the track) I decided that a slightly shorter track would be perfectly acceptable under the circumstances and that instead of super long, I would add cross tracks.
A cross track is when someone else walks across the track — this is a component of a TDX test track, and since I had Suzanne coming later to track with Sundance, this seemed like a good plan.
The track was still quite long and included seven turns and six articles. Two hours later, Suzanne walked across the track in two places about eight feet apart — usually this is done by two people but since Suzanne = one person, we improvised.
We ran Suzanne’s dog, Sundance, on his two training tracks while Claire’s track continued to age. Sundance is preparing for a TD. His two tracks were relatively short with two turns each and a covered food bowl at the end of each track.
On each of his tracks we also practiced article indication — one article was placed on the third leg, midway between the second corner and the covered food bowl. Finding that article is rewarded heavily with treats/praise party and then the dog keeps tracking to find the bonanza at the end.
There is really no reason to end training tracks with an article — covered food bowls are the way to go.
This is Suzanne’s first tracking dog and it is so fun to work with her and Sundance — they are doing amazingly well. His first attempt at a certification track is coming up, and then we hope he will get a track at the Specialty. Paw crossed for Sundance and Suzanne!
And then it was Claire’s turn. After doing Sundance’s two tracks in the deep snow, we were tempted to just let Claire run her own track while we watched from the heated van but we realized that probably would not meet the training goal and so we puffed along behind her.
Suzanne follows because watching a dog track is a great way to learn how to read a dog, and dogs need to be used to other people following since that is what judges do in a test. However, Suzanne was more likely just trying to stay upright rather than watching Claire — the snow was something.
Claire found all of her articles and did a great job on her track, completely ignoring the cross tracks.
I planned those cross tracks carefully — they were on the same leg as the finish (which OF COURSE is the covered food bowl) and so she was reinforced for her successful crossing of the cross tracks by her lunch — but the lunch was far enough away that it did not pull her over the cross tracks.
In other words, I planned cross tracks in such a way as to reinforce correct performance — but not lure performance. Training a dog is a thinking thing — always.
And then Suzanne and I crumpled into exhausted heaps in the snow. Okay — not really, but we agreed that our post-tracking dog walk would only be on the road and not in the deep snow of the field.