Monday, December 7, 2009

Trailing: Learning From Marble Cake

Today's lesson in scent theory is a little different. If you have never made a marble cake, step one for this lesson is "Buy a cake mix for marble cake" and step two is "Follow the directions until you have one cake pan of pale batter and one bowl of dark." Take up a small ladle and use it to drizzle a trail which starts thin and ends with a good blob. The thin start is your starting point and the blob is your victim.

Now take a knife and draw it across the line you just made. A deer just crossed your trail -- see what it did to the hanging scent? It's been drawn sideways into a point. If your dog were to follow the scent exactly, you might think she was "crittering." How can you check which she's doing? Let her have her head for a minute and see if she comes back to the line you were on. If she doesn't usually pursue deer, then she's probably not going to start now, and she'll have learned something important about how scent is moved. A car or bicycle will draw scent similarly, so work crossings on low-traffic streets where only one vehicle is likely to have passed between the trail's laying and running.

Now take the knife to a different part of your cake trail and pass it back and forth across the same spot several times. This is a higher-traffic street or footpath. If the scent was hanging heavily to start with, the dog would understandably believe that the person had gone three ways at once. Rather than letting her make an arbitrary decision, teach her to cross the thoroughfare first and check the other side, then choose a path after checking down the straight line. Your training partner should show your dog a straightaway first. Once your dog has mastered a straight-line crossing of a traffic-muddled scent, she can learn that the victim may also turn to travel along the road. If she learns the turn first, though, you may have trouble convincing her that the straight line is possible.

Now finish following the directions on the box and enjoy the results!

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