We went tracking last Thursday (Feb 19th, but not this week) after RallyFrEe class. Gimme did well, but we've now identified an issue to work on and another to watch.
Our track looked like this:
This track was beyond what we thought Gimme was ready for - it was more test than training. It was an intense track of 460 yards, with multiple changes of terrain and cover, no aging, turns in both directions (5 left, 1 right), no food drops, food in articles, and following a bitch in season. This field isn't part of the mole farm, so at least we didn't have a vermin challenge.
When Gimme is having difficulty, her head comes up and she defaults to air-scenting. On this course her head was up a LOT. Many dogs are likely to miss articles when their head is up, but Gimme found all of them, regardless. She has a very talented nose. She's always had a tendency toward high-headed searching, which wasn't helped when our old nosework instructor was almost always setting high hides. Back then I placed a lot of low hides in our personal training to encourage her to look low as well. We don't have the problem in nosework now, since Dorothy is pretty conscientious about having a lot of variety and Gimme seems to really understand to check the low areas too.
Still this is going to present a problem to us in tracking, so when Nadine ran the track after us with her second dog, I walked behind her dropping treats in her footsteps. The distance between food drops varied. Most of the time it was 10 or 15 yards, but right after turns there would be two drops spaced at 5 yards. When we did the track again, Gimme kept her head down much better and had a lot less difficulty.
Our plan is to set a number of very long, more or less straight tracks with evenly spaced food drops. By long, we are thinking roughly 300 yards. Over time we'll space out the drops by varying some of them.
I've also noted a tendency in Gimme to track 2-3 feet left of the track. This seems to hold true regardless of the wind/breeze direction relative to the leg of the track. We aren't sure yet what this means, but Nadine did say she'd heard of other dogs who tracked to one side or the other of all their tracks. Provided she doesn't go any further away and continues to get her articles, its just something we'll watch.
Gimme loves her articles and it doesn't seem to matter what its made of. I haven't done any real training outside our tracking... just a lot of excited praise and metronome treats on the article. I'm asking her to lower her front end to it. Nadine wants her dogs to lay down, but I don't want to insist on a down, since we'll often be tracking in wet and/or very cold conditions. Gimme also volunteers some paw whacks of the articles, which is fine.
There is a training game we can do to work on article indication. I'm going to a seminar well north of here this weekend and will spend one night in a hotel with little to do. So we'll have time to play the game and see how it works.
I have sent in my registration for a 1 day tracking judges' education seminar, where I'm sure to learn a lot. I've also registered us for three 3-day training weekends with Sil Sanders. I'm very excited about the possibility.
Between now and then I have already entered 2 barn hunt trials and have another on my list when it opens. There are also a couple nosework element trials on the list, along with an NW3 trial. The NW3 trial is right here in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd enter and see if we get in. I wouldn't expect to pass, but it would be nice to get our feet wet close to home. NW3 trials can only take 24 entrants and there are usually 5-6 times as many entries as slots, so chances are we won't get in. At least this one is two trials back-to-back, so its a little more likely. If I don't get in, we'll just wait until another one shows up close to home and try again.
BTW I am still persisting on the physical training for myself - can't believe I've stuck with it so long. But anything for the Empress of the Cosmos...