I enrolled myself and CB in an Urban tracking seminar put on by Donna Brinkworth on August 11. Poor CB hadn’t been out tracking for a couple of weeks so I thought that since the seminar was on after the Spruce Meadows Agility trial it would be a good reward for him since he likes tracking so much.
We arrived in Olds in the mid-morning and met up with the beginner dogs and handlers while they were working on their serpentines. It was really neat to see some first timer dogs “getting it” especially since we did this exact exercise ourselves back in April. I had to pick up and hold CB because he seemed to know what was going on and was pulling to go and do the other dog’s serpentines. Hmm – do I need any more clues that this dog likes to track?
photo of beginner dog on a serpentine
Teaching a dog to track scent on veg makes sense to me now that we’ve been at it for a few months. I’m starting to believe that CB is actually tracking since we are using fewer food drops on vegetated tracks. It was really interesting to see the difference and similarity in teaching methods from hard surface to veg and vice versa.
The urban portion of the seminar started with a demonstration of a serpentine on hard surface using water (hydration intensified tracking training). Kona got to be the demo dog for this and my husband (who I asked to come along to learn how to lay tracks for when we start doing blind tracks) laid the serpentine for Kona and then handled him on it. He used water on his bare feet and then baited the track. Kona did quite well for a newbie especially since someone was cheap with the bait – below is a photo of Kona on the hard surface serpentine.
Donna set up the seminar so that each dog did 2 urban tracks. All the tracks were different in that different transitions were covered and also each track had different features that would trap scent (like curbs) or swirl/pull scent away from the track (like doorways) so that each track was it’s own lesson. There is so much to think about with Urban tracking and we covered a lot of bases with this seminar.
Here is CB’s first track. I think in total it was a bit over 200m in length and incorporated a few turns and went around a building.
We started with the scent pad on grass and then CB started tracking. I was thrilled when he took the first corner as we have only been doing straight tracks with the exception of a few serpentines here and there. He wasn’t quite sure what to do when we came to the first transition that required we cross a sidewalk. I had baited on the sidewalk and he eventually made his way across back on to the veg and did the same for the second transition. Where I was really impressed was at the turn on the sidewalk on the west side of the building. He just did it. So cool! He followed the scent up to the next turn and took that as well. He did fringe a little on the sidewalk as the scent can be trapped along the transition between the grass and cement but then he would come back onto the track to find his bait.
Our second track was laid by my husband and then he stayed in the Gazebo instead of placing an article at the end. This track was not totally blind to me but I didn’t pay attention to him laying it as he left and didn’t quite know where the first turn was. Even though this was just a training track it made me nervous. I can totally see how someone could blow a test by not trusting their dog and being super stressed. It’s a lot easier to encourage your dog to go on when you know exactly where the track goes.
We hadn’t tracked in a few weeks and I wasn’t sure how he would do as we’ve only gotten up to lesson 1.1.3 of the Enthusiastic Tracking book. The break was on purpose as he was very sniffy at the PNE trial in July and the break from tracking helped him forget to look for treats on the ground and we weren’t sniffy at the Spruce Meadows show. What I plan to do is have about a two week break from tracking sessions before an agility trial until I get our “Take It” and “Find it” commands solidified.