On May 7th, I started with another practice track. In an effort to get her nose down, I put out a food drop every 5 yards. It was a simple "c" shaped track and should have been very easy. About two-thirds of it was through long grass.
Right away I noticed Gimme seemed less interested in tracking and keeping her nose down and more interested in air scenting. The only time her nose was consistently down was in the long grass and then she went faster and ignored most of the food drops.
In thinking about this, it seemed the food drops were actually a hindrance and they caused Gimme to be less focused on the task of following the track. As I thought about it, it came to me - they were like a distraction. And it also occurred to me, when she smelled a treat her head went up to air scent which direction it was. Since all her work in nosework and barn hunt is done with air scenting, it made sense she would use the same skills to find food drops.
So when Nadine went out to lay our track, I told her I wanted to experiment and have no food drops. Instead I wanted to have an article right before every turn. Gimme loves finding articles, so I thought putting them right before the turns would help her to drive all the way into the turns (i.e. no cutting corners like last week).
This turned out to be a breakthrough moment for us. Gimme kept her nose down most of the time, probably 80-90 percent of the time and she was very focused on her job. And she was much faster too.
I emailed Sil Sanders about my thoughts about food drops acting as a distraction, essentially dividing her focus. He concurred and said for some dogs it becomes a hindrance instead of the help we intend.
I told him how much Gimme loves finding her articles - which I think has to do with her nosework and barn hunt experiences where finding things is highly rewarded. So it makes sense she thinks finding articles is great fun - in her mind it already has a strong reward history. Sil suggested, since she loves them so much, we could use articles as a reward for solving a tough puzzle, by placing one 30 yards after the challenging spot.
This is so exciting, to see Gimme really knuckle down into tracking like this. She really is a natural, especially when you consider how little tracking training we've done. This is only her tenth formal tracking session since we've gotten back into it and she takes big leaps in understanding every time we go out. Before we only tinkered with it from time to time, but not knowing what I was doing, it was hard to be really invested in the training.
I'm really stoked and looking forward to the three big tracking workshops we've signed up for late July into August. I signed up for 3-day weekends with each one. They are with Sil Sanders who is the author of Enthusiastic Tracking, and is known internationally as a tracking guru. I feel blessed to live so close and have this opportunity to train with him. I'm also blessed to have Nadine to train with. Having a training buddy is always a good thing and Nadine is so nice and supportive and she has quite a bit of experience. Boyoh I really lucked out with this.
And, of course, I feel doubly blessed to have the amazingly talented and eager Gimme to show me how much fun this sport can be.