Yesterday we got together to track at Flaming Geyser Park, the place where we normally track. Nadine had another appointment, so we kept it shorter than usual. It was foggy and cool - perfect tracking weather.
I set a nice track for Cricket. She was slow to get started, but then motored on pretty good. She had a challenge for the short bit where I walked on an overgrown gravel road, but she figured it out and found the corner. There was a good bit in the middle of the track where she really had a challenge keeping the track and finding the corner. When we got there, there was a guy with three large off-leash dogs playing right in the area where the turn was. He nicely leashed the dogs up and started to wait for us to pass through, but when it seemed to be taking awhile he went elsewhere with his dogs. Once we got past this area and the next turn, then she did well again through to the end.
The leg between the two turns was only 70 yards, so its entirely possible the loose dogs ranged out far enough to tramp all over the second turn. While Cricket did have difficulty, she never did quit working. It occurs to me I should teach Nadine what I learned at the Sil Sanders tracking seminars about doing an overlapping search grid. I don't know if it would have helped in this particular puzzle, but I've also never seen her doing anything like it, so it might be useful in her bag of tricks. I'll have to think about how to set it up so she can try it with Skookum.
Nadine laid a shorter than usual track, but it wasn't without its challenges. It was 305 yards. I asked her to put an article in the middle of every leg except the second to the last leg, then naturally end with an article. Other than this, I didn't give her any instructions. I wanted to have Gimme go a longer distance and make a second turn without finding an article, planning to have a big party at the end glove. She usually gets 12-15 treats for each article and I planned to give her 30 treats for the end glove.
There were two long legs and the longest one was the leg without an article. Gimme had to cross from deep field grass across and onto a short mowed path (the curve is going up a steep hill). The area of the last leg was also the really short grass.
This was Gimme's best track ever. Nadine had me just follow Gimme in from where we parked (about 70 yards) and said she picked up her trail and followed it faithfully. Gimme kept her nose down for this whole track. There was a slight breeze in from the left and I'd see Gimme drift out to the right, then catch herself and turn right to the track. So the first and third legs had a saw-tooth look to them. I was very pleased to see her correcting herself, especially since this was a big issue for us at the Sil Sanders seminar. Gimme raced along the second leg with the breeze blowing the scent right up her nose. She took all the turns very neatly and thoroughly enjoyed double-treats at the last article.
It was easily her best tracking ever and I was about to brag about it when Nadine said the exact things I was thinking. Of course Nadine thinks I should certify her right away, but I think we still have a lot of things to work on. We haven't done much in the way of aging tracks for her. And, I'd like to see this kind of performance more consistently. Nadine and I both wondered if the challenge of the urban tracking makes field tracking seem easier to Gimme.
Since Nadine had another article when she laid the track, she went ahead and kept track of her route back toward the cars, another 100 yards with 6 turns. The final article was at the base of a telephone pole, stuck back in a cut out of blackberry vines. Probably the most challenging part was the track on the narrow spit of grass going alongside the asphalt road. Gimme at first thought she should be crossing the road, but then caught herself and made the turn. So with Gimme tracking Nadine in and out of the field, her total track was 475 yards.
Because we were short on time I didn't set up an article circle. I also didn't know where the man with the three loose dogs had gone. Turned out to be a lucky decision. As I was just finishing packing my stuff back into the car, he came down the hill and right across the spot I would've used. I could easily have been right in the middle of tracking the article circle when he and his three loose dogs showed up.