By day two the ear infection was worse (been to the ER twice as of today) and the pain was really intensifying. I was able to gear up for the fun of working with Gimme, but much of the rest of the time I was a total blob.
We started the day by meeting at Barkley Village (appropriate name, eh), a cinema parking lot for some hard surface tracking. I paired up with a lady and her lovely Bernese Mountain Dog. I laid their straight curb work. The handler's timing was excellent and the dog caught on verrrry quickly.
Then she laid an island hopping serpentine for Gimme. Island Hopping Serpentine video Gimme did a beautiful job sorting out the direction for the first hop. On the second hop, I may have messed her up when she steps up over the edge of the curb into the dirt and only a foot from an article. I didn't immediately go with her because she wasn't down by the curb (subtle line tension, made not so subtle because the line had gotten completely loose just before then), but in hindsight, she was probably cutting the corner to an article she could smell and was confused by me holding her back. At the third hop I couldn't see the chalk arrow and I think Gimme might have been momentarily distracted by me talking to the tracklayer/videographer. The fourth hop she nailed it.
Overall Gimme does really well with hard surface. Where she struggles is the transitions between hard surface to vegetated surface and back to hard. Its hard for me to wrap my mind around this, but Sil says it is a hard challenge. I was reading his proposed manuscript for Modern Enthusiastic Tracking and he was talking about how some dogs struggle going from upwind to crosswind and back to upwind. He proposed the idea of these smelling enough different so the dog isn't sure they are the same track. So it makes sense the big difference between vegetated and non-veg would be even more of a difference and the dog could easily think they aren't the same, until experience teaches them otherwise.
I didn't want to put Gimme up without doing something closer to the kinds of things we are working on in our urban tracking practices, so I talked my training partner into laying a simple two-legged track with a turn against the curb. She placed the article across a gap. Gimme completely aced this. Hard Surface Turn Against the Curb video
From there we went back to the training center for more lecture. Gimme had one more track in the afternoon, which was set up like a TD track, but with extra articles. It had a total of 4 turns, 5 legs, one start sock, three articles and 455 yards.
Jon laid it and I have here a picture of his map. He makes really good maps and aces the tracklayer-exercise-from-hell. I didn't do well at all on the tracklayer-exercise-from-hell, so I'm really impressed with his ability. Its one thing to know exactly where a corner or leg is when you have lots of time to consider it. Its an entirely different thing to know when Gimme is flying down the track.
4/10/16 Track video While the video quality is better this time, we are missing the first leg of the track - I think I may have accidentally deleted it when I was deleting trash off my camera. So what you don't see is the time where Gimme flies off the start line, then is distracted as we passed the barn on our left. A cat had rushed past us a few minutes before we started the track and it was headed toward the barn. Gimme may have seen something move to our left, or just looked to be sure the evil cat-thing wasn't lurking nearby. She let go of the idea by herself and then got down to tracking again.
This video starts partway into our second leg. I'd asked Sil to stay closer to me and give me more immediate feedback on handling and/or change of behavior I might be missing from Gimme. So when I heard him, I thought he was talking to me. One of the things Sil mentioned a couple times over the weekend is how I take several steps even after I see a change of behavior from Gimme. Since she is going so fast, this often puts me past the corner and may make it so, even using all of our 40' line, Gimme doesn't have the opportunity to cross the track during her searching, so she can't find it. This leads to her picking up a fringe from the track, which in this case was about 25' on a slightly diverging path (note the wind direction in the grass). She was probably going to lose it, but they stopped and redirected us before this happened. Once we were back where we should be, she did a great job on the next turn.
The final turn was a bit of a challenge because she got out on the dirt patch and hasn't really worked this surface, much less a transition to it. She did get the turn and did well on a very long leg of 150 yards. There was a "corner that might go straight" in a place where there was a change in cover as the silage thinned out. Gimme did find the final article and it was pretty much right in front of her on approach.
Sil thinks Gimme is entirely too content to take a fringe track and even quite a distance off the actual track. In thinking about this, it makes sense, because she's been rewarded for it. Her love of articles and prodigious air-scenting ability, means she can be 40-50 feet from the actual track and still smell the article and then drive right to it. When she finds the article, then she gets a lot of rewards. So by her way of thinking - she's doing what she is supposed to do.
Sil laid out a plan for us to build motivation and enthusiasm about being committed to the actual track. In his first book Enthusiastic Tracking, this is plan 7f. In the new book, Modern Enthusiastic Tracking, its plan C. We'll be doing a series of 2-turn zig-zag tracks, two tracks per session. These tracks won't have corner flags and instead will have two flags close to the center of the 2nd and 3rd legs, which are separated by 10 yards. When I see the two flags overlap, I'll know we are lined up on the leg. Ordinarily he uses a series of five food drops separated by 5 yards, to build motivation and enthusiasm. Because Gimme will readily leave a track to drive straight to food, we are going to use two articles 10 yards apart instead.
Normally she is going so fast she overruns the corners, but I'm concerned she might cut corners to drive to articles since the legs aren't very long. Sil said I could let her cut the corner by 15 yards (45') to start with, but to tighten this up over time. He said in a tracking test, she could cut a corner by 15 yards and be okay because even at the farthest point, she'd still only be 7½ yards from some part of the track and judges won't be concerned by this. I never thought of it in this way. In any case, I'd like her to be a lot closer.
I've been thinking about why I take so many steps after I see her change of behavior. I think its because I'm not consistent about walking back up the line to the 20' mark after a corner. So its entirely possible I'll be quite close to the end of the line when we hit the next corner or one which might go straight. Since I don't have any line to let out and don't want to give her an unintended line check, I'm unconsciously taking extra steps to soften the stop. So the first part of the solution is to be more consistent about walking myself up the line to the 20' mark so I have line to play with. Then the second part is to become more aware of what I'm doing with my feet when I see the change of behavior.
Sil says we are really close to being ready for certification. My goal is to get certified by the end of these four seminars (the last one is in September). With this plan in place to tighten up our skills, I think this is very doable. Can't wait to go tracking later this week.