Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
UWPCH, ADPL3(2), ADPL3(GC), NC, NI, and NE... 41 and counting...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Urban Tracking (5 & 6)

Thanksgiving morning, Nadine and I met at the Auburn theater parking lot for tracking.  It was wet and cold.  The tracks on the program included island hopping again.  We started with an article circle, then we did our two tracks, 40 and 60 yards.  After reading my last urban tracking blog entry Sil Sanders reminded me to include aging information.  Its important to record this information, so we know where we are in the overall scheme of things.

So for Gimme, the article circle was 10 minutes old, followed by the two tracks back-to-back, also at about 10 minutes.  Gimme did okay, but not as well as she has in the past.  Before we were laying then running immediatley, so I suspect aging them is a bit more challenging for her.  There were moments where her talent really showed through, but overall just not as stellar as I'm accustomed to.  I saw a tendency to try to look for articles, instead of following her nose.

Skookum was great.  She's such a solid little tracker.  Cricket did real well too.  We again did a simpler track for Sugar.  She has a lot of natural talent, but she's also very soft and so we want to bring her along and make sure we build her confidence so she stays enthusiastic.  So for her track, we used a really long curb and then just one hop to an island.  She did well.

This week we had planned to go to Flaming Geyser for field tracking, but the weather report included a lot of potentially nasty stuff, so we elected to stay in town.  We repeated everything pretty much like before, except the track lengths were 60 yards and 80 yards.  We again started with an article circle, then we did our two tracks, and again at 10 minutes for age.

Gimme did pretty much the same as last week. Again I saw the tendency to look for stuff (articles and food drops in the gaps between islands), rather than follow her nose to them.  I do plan to bring meaty treats to urban tracking from now on, as they won't be visible on the pavement like pieces of white string cheese.  At one point Gimme went off on a likely path and I thought she was really into it.  She had her head down and was pulling steady.  Then Nadine told me Gimme had turned the wrong way, was well away from the track and moving further away.

She did a very credible impression of tracking and I had no clue she wasn't on the track - and Nadine couldn't see any clues either (and she knew the instant Gimme was off track).  I've gotten better at reading her in field tracking, but it didn't help me today on pavement.  We've decided to tape her tracks next time we do urban and see if we can see anything different.  Since the tracks are short, it'll be easy for Nadine to tape her.  BTW we saw Skookum do the same thing, going the wrong way and looking like she was tracking.  Not sure what this means.

Skookum did well, though I threw her a couple of challenges she had to sort through.  For her start I had Nadine take her to the start article at a 90 degree angle and let Skookum figure out which way to go.  And twice, instead of leaving one island at an angle, so it's apparent where the course goes - I went straight across and she had to turn at the curb.  These were good challenges for her.

We set a different kind of track for Sugar.  I used two long parallel lines of parking "stops", thinking it would be easy.  It wasn't hard, but she seemed to want to work the track from the wrong side of the stops.  She had no problem finding her articles from the wrong side of this little "curb", but we couldn't understand why she did it like this.  In each line, she was on the "wrong" side, so it didn't make sense from a wind direction p.o.v., (really only a tiny breeze). 
Note: As I was just reading this for errors a day later, I think I figured out what was happening.  The parking stops are just 6 foot long curbs.  As I walk along the "outside", I am leaving foot tracks on the outside right next to the stop, however skin rafts and other debris from my body are falling on a wider pattern.  Its likely they were falling on top of the stops and on the inside.  So Sugar was following them when she found them.  We'd move her to the outside and she'd stick there for a bit, but when she was passing from stop to stop (over a gap of about 4 feet), if she angled and got to the inside, she'd resume tracking there.
Cricket actually did the best today and she was the only one who didn't go from article circle to her tracks.  Nadine was trying to make good use of time, so she did the circle with Cricket, then put her up and did it with Skookum while I was laying tracks.  Gimme also did article circle and then tracks.  I'm wondering if the time back in the car to rest her brain, and percolate on what she just did, actually helped Cricket's performance.  So next time we'll try the same pattern with all the dogs and see what we see.

Sugar didn't get to do the article circle, because while we were running Cricket's tracks, someone came along and picked up ALL 8 of our articles!  We didn't see them and have no clue why they did it - since they left other parking lot junk.  Tooooo strange.  Obviously we will be keeping a better eye on our stuff in the future.

I have to say I don't like what I'm seeing with the article circle on pavement.  The dogs aren't trying to track from article to article.  Gimme did at first, but now she's going visual.  My intention was to increase the value in urban articles for the dogs, so at first I didn't care.  I can't get Nadine to break out of her minimal rewards (1-3 treats), so I don't know how much good its doing her dogs, though it does serve as a warm-up.  I certainly don't like seeing Gimme rely on sight.

So I have two ideas:
  1. No more article circles out in the open, since the dogs can too easily see them.  I'm concerned they are learning a bad habit, especially since I'm seeing bleed over with Gimme.  Instead we'll go back to doing the articles on the grassy strip, but using the more urban type articles.  This'll give us the ability to make them less visual, meanwhile encouraging our girls to use their noses.
  2. The other idea is to do a sidewalk article game - much like I originally did when Gimme was a puppy to see what her natural indication would be.  Its just a matter of laying out a whole bunch of articles along a sidewalk, ten feet apart.  The dogs are on leash attached to a collar (no harness) and just get paid for interacting with each one.  By not having a harness, I'm thinking it'll separate this mentally from tracking, meanwhile building article love.
Meanwhile, Gimme is snoozing contentedly...

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