Sil says he doesn't do math in his head, he just counts certain numbers twice. So if I ended up at 12 steps to 10 yards, it would sound like, "one - two - three - four - five - five - six - seven - eight - nine - ten - ten." We'll see how it turns out after I practice along my fence.
From my notes:
When looking for places to track:
▪ for urban lawns with paths and roads - use a campus
▪ for contamination - use urban sports lawns
▪ for hard surfaces - use parking lots (barefoot if needed)
If you need to setup a motivational track, make it shorter, younger and/or less contaminated.
Constrained turns are anything which dictates turn direction. Such as:
▪ limited turn choices
When working contamination, you have three choices: younger, older or about the same. Be sure you sometimes set up contamination which is about the same age as your track, so difference in age isn't what the dog is tracking. We don't want an artificial clue. We want the dog to be tracking the actual scent they started with.
Scent trapping/channel is any situation where the wind is moving the scent abnormally, misleading the dog. Said another way, its anywhere the scent gets pooled and is off the track. One example would be when you are on a track toward a gap between two buildings, with the wind at your back, and the track actually turns before you enter the gap. So the breeze blows the scent between the buildings and the dog could easily follow it into the gap, so when there's loss of scent, the handler has to recognize the trapping/channel possibility and organize the search so the dog has a chance to find it again.
Sil has a cool visualization exercise to help handlers understand the challenge their dogs face. We nicknamed it Tracking Twister. He has a large paper panel on which he has spray painted dashed lines representing different tracks in many colors, crisscrossing over each other. Some of the colors are obviously different and some are very similar (3 shades of blue). Each of us gets an opportunity to wear the "snood", be led to the start of a track and then try to follow it. Last year I got one of the dreaded blue lines; this year I lucked out and got the brown track.
Case in point would be my recent mention of deciding I need to set it up so Nadine and one of her dogs is in place to be an "unexpected" distraction. I also made a note to be mentally ready to use the look-at-that game to help Gimme deal with dog distractions. Note: As it turns out, during this morning's track, we had someone walking a dog cross our track close in front of us. Gimme and I did "whazzat" until they were well out of the way. It was still challenging for her to get back to work, but she did. It occurs to me I probably should have done the same thing with the kid on the bicycle. The value of look-at-that is how the dog learns a predictable framework in the context of the game and then is able to dismiss distractions as part of the game rules. I would like to set up some intentional opportunities to be distracted during simple tracks and then use "whazzat" to work through it, so Gimme gets to experience it during a controlled tracking setup.
We spent the afternoon doing the last tracks for the working dogs. There is so much to be learned by listening to people plan the tracks they want to address issues, then to watch how it works out. This is really just invaluable as a learning opportunity. Sometimes what I learned hits me as an a-hah moment, hours or days later.
Because we got done early, the working teams voted on what they wanted to do with the extra time. They decided to do the distraction/contamination exercise again. A couple of people left early, so Sil invited me and Gimme to play. Remember this diagram? Imagine Gimme running the blue track.
Since we got an end track, she only had a dog on one side of her. As it turned out, just before we started to track, a couple showed up with their young child and were kicking a ball with her. So Gimme did the track with a child playing with a ball on one side and a Bernese Mountain Dog tracking on the other side. Initially Gimme mostly noticed the child/ball distraction, then when she looked up from her second mid-leg article, she saw the BMD "ahead" of her. We'd gotten held up watching the child for a moment, so they were now nearly at the end of their third leg and in front of us instead of to one side. Still the distance was good - about 50 yards, so Gimme was able to go back to work. I'd asked the tracklayer to leave us something we could tear up at the end of the track and she left a circle of denim. Gimme thinks ripping denim is a very satisfying sound. I have a lot of old jeans, so will be making her some denim toys to rip up as a reward.
I was really happy to have Gimme show she was beyond the worst of the hormone issues which had been plaguing her. My plan had been to end the summer with her tracking certification and our last chance to do it in conjunction with one of the seminars/clinics was the very next weekend.