Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting Back To Work

Tracking has been irregular lately. I'm trying to get the most possible good out of the fewest and shortest possible work sessions, generally between prying the rugrat off my leg. Luckily the rugrat likes watching the dogs do stuff outdoors while he sits in his stroller, and tracking makes a happy change from ball-chasing.

Today was hard-ground cold, which is somewhat unusual down here, so I decided to try a polishing technique that some people use as a primary technique. My dogs are mainly trained to find articles and down on them, and then figure out that there's a line of tracks between -- a sort of connect-the-dots approach that I learned from Mary Adelman. My critique of it, at this point, is that the dogs tend to get gung-ho and launch from each article, or blast past turns and then circle to correct, rather than keeping a close nose from start to finish. Today, since it was too cold for ants to get on the food, too cold for the mice and squirrels to be foraging (and in this yard full of nut trees, it's pretty obvious when they're not out), and generally bright and clear otherwise, I went ahead and put a bit of cheese or dried gizzard into each footprint of a short track for Dustin.

Mind you, I mean a really short track for Dustin. Putting food in each footprint means doing a deep knee-bend at each pace, and it's hard to manage the food bits unless you're barehanded, so forty paces with an article every ten paces was all I could manage, along with a turn at fifteen and thirty-three paces. Then I went in and tended to the child, and ended up running the track about two and a half hours later.

Dustin happily snoodled up the goodies in the scent pad beside the tracking flag and headed off down the line. I slowed him down and showed him that the first footprint had cheese in it. He sniffed, stared, pondered -- and lay down on the human-scented article before consuming it. And on the next one. And the next. All told, he put his elbows to the ground (though didn't always bring down the back end) some forty times.

I couldn't fault him for it, either. Since the goal is to have a dog who will do the VST, which has articles of many different materials, I start off with an "Anything could be an article" approach. I have four Schutzhund-appropriate leather articles from Morgan Struble, and treasure them, as I'm far too poor to go cutting up any good leather I happen to have or buying bitsies. Business cards from Mary, gone ratty in my elderly wallet, seemed appropriate for use. So did a laminated ID from the Four Rivers Canine Search, Rescue and Recovery days, fair game for such use because it gave my now-departed Sunny's breed as "German Sherhrud." That may just be my favorite typo of all time, as Sunny certainly didn't conform to the GSD standard as written by any organization in any country. One of my articles is a dead 9-volt battery; another is a large alligator clip, which is nice for holding together the business cards, badges, and defunct ATM cards until they're due to be dropped.

Today, of course, the track was full of things I had handled. As far as Dustin was concerned, they were all quite tasty scent articles.

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