A quarter mile from the training center where we meet for the tracking seminar is a house with these wonderful wood sculpture dinosaurs in the yard.
I don't know the back story behind these creations, but every time I see them I want to take pictures and share them. I am just fascinated by the idea of how he gets from the raw driftwood to the end sculpture.
I did find a link about these sculptures online. Unfortunately, it doesn't say much...
Here also are some other notes I have from the seminar...
Cross tracks are very different from contamination. A dog can be brilliant about contamination and still fail a cross track, so you have to train them intentionally. See the diagram in the day 2 blog for "M" over "U" course design. Of course you would start even simpler, with "U" over "U".
Sil thinks its unlikely all the people and dogs who walk over our tracks at Flaming Geyser would prepare Gimme for a TDX cross track. Its hard to wrap my mind around this. Good news - as handler, I can lay a cross track for Gimme over a main track laid by someone else.
Helping Your Dog
About helping your dog - don't rush in. Let her try to solve it and be patient. If the dog is still struggling, see the levels of help I described in day one blog. Make sure you know the different levels of help.
Start with keeping a training log. And plan each track to teach a specific thing. When doing diagnostics, ask yourself the following questions (get the new book, Modern Enthusiastic Tracking, when it comes out to read the full diagnostic discussion):
- When you arrive at the tracking field or approach her track, is your dog obviously excited to be there and obviously impatient for his track? Sil commented he thinks we can answer a resounding "YES" for Gimme, since she starts getting excited when we get north of Seattle (he doesn't even know about how she is when we drive near Auburn where Nadine and I meet for our weekly tracking sessions).
- In the last five TD-like (or TDU-like) tracks, did you help her find the track more than once or twice? I've almost never needed to help Gimme - day 3's track was the first time in over a month.
- On the best 80% of her opportunities to work a corner, does she find and commit to the new leg quickly and enthusiastically? For the most part Gimme does find the corners on her own and when she commits she drives down the new leg. I haven't tracked this consciously, but could check past blog entries to be sure.
- On the best 80% of your opportunities to read your dog on a a corner (without flags), do you read his tracking behavior and believe your dog quickly and confidently? I'm thinking this is where we fall down. Gimme is still the far stronger member of this team, though I'm happy to say I'm slowly closing the gap.
Going along with what I said on the day 2 blog about what it takes to be a good tracklayer - our day 3 lecture was about track design.
Keep asking the question, "why will this tracking experience help my dog learn to be a better tracking dog?" In the macro sense there are two parts to this question, 1) overall track configuration and 2) each choice made while laying the track.
Consider the following:
- What is the next step in the process?
- Can/should you make the track easier or simpler to bolster confidence and improve motivation?
- How can you use a longer, older, more difficult or more complex track? Lots of strategically placed rewards improve commitment to keep working. Placing reward, whether article or food drop, 30 yards after challenge rewards the dog for effort and accomplishment, while not interfering in problem solving. Placing the reward closer may serve to lure the dog through a challenge, which may not be the best learning experience, especially if the dog is ready for more.
Many things can go wrong either just before or after you lay a track. A field could be mowed, animals or people could be on your track, the track may age too long, a field could be plowed or fertilized, or new structures or obstructions may be in place. You have a choice to make - can this be salvaged for a good experience? You can try it and if its not working, remember - stop early, throw out an extra article and end on a good note.
Near the end of the third day we ended up in a discussion about when judges blow the dreaded whistle. The question was what is the maximum distance a team can be off the track before the judge tweets the whistle. Sil said, Its not just about being a certain distance off the track. Rather, its about "is the team still working the problem?" and "can they still recover?"...
This is consistent with what I saw when I laid track at a local test. As I followed the team running my track, they did very well through the first two turns (statistically most teams fail before the first turn). Then somewhere on the third leg things went awry. I couldn't believe how far off the track the judges let them go. A huge distance one way and then another direction and still they let them go. Then the team got tweeted when they were fairly close to the track, relative to where they had been.
It didn't make sense at the time. Now I understand the reason the judges stopped them was because the dog had stopped actively working the problem. He hadn't shut down, but would have soon. The judges left to do the next track and I walked the team to a place where I could say, "the track is right here". The handler was able to re-scent and re-start her dog and they finished the track by finding the glove.
Sil said, "Tracking judges aren't out there looking for reasons to fail you..."