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Friday, October 16, 2015

Urban Tracking (2)

Yesterday was our second day for urban tracking.  We used the same location. 

We did curb tracks of 25, 40 and 75 yards, with a start sock, food drops at 5, 10, 20, 30... and so on, and a glove at the end.  Gimme did much better with the food drops than she did the time before with articles in place of them.  She liked the grab-n-go aspect of the cheese, though she missed a couple because she was going so fast.  All the dogs did very well.

Nadine had a burning desire to try the "island hopping" exercise.  It won't come up for us for awhile, but she really wanted to do it.  I said I was okay with letting the dogs do a sample of it, but I thought it was very important to work through the exercises as Sil has laid them out.  IE we may sometimes dabble in stuff ahead of where we are, but will still work through the early work to be sure we are laying a good skills foundation.  There's no point in jumping ahead if we're going to have to do remedial work later.

Islands are those cement landscaping planters "islands" you see in parking lots.  Skookum and Cricket got three islands and Sugar got two as the end of her 75 yard curb track.  This is the layout for the island hopping track we laid for Gimme. The blue rectangle is a car parked near the islands we wanted to use.  Gimme had done this at the tracking seminars we took with Sil Sanders.  The key thing is to hold back and play out line to let them sort out the puzzle as they go across the gap to the next island.  Use light, comfortable tension when they are right and increase the tension a little when they are wrong.  The idea is to make the wrong decision less attractive (not as easy) without making the decision for them.  Gimme did really well. She had a little challenge sorting out her first gap, but the other two were easy peasy.

I'm continuing to lay "article circles", though they are tending to be short lawn tracks on urban days.  Gimme loves to find an article on every leg.  Here we are throwing in some transitions, simply because we have no choice at this location.

We started on grass over on the narrow strip and went up toward the bushes.  We passed right next to the trees just like last time.  I placed a glove right across the road and sidewalk as a reward for crossing the road.  Then we crossed another sidewalk with a glove right on the other side.  From here the track went right up next to the building, hugging the walls, with one glove in the second bark strip.  This involved crossing and tracking on narrow sidewalks, but my intention was to use the building as a curb.  From there we turned again, crossing a sidewalk and then a 45º turn toward the last flag and article.

Last time when we tracked so close to the peed-on trees, the dogs all found it challenging, but this time none of them paid any attention to it.  Gimme found it hard to do the road/sidewalk crossing and she was hampered when we got our line wrapped around a sign post.  She finally crossed it, but had her head up.  She made the turn and then again had a spot of difficulty crossing the sidewalk.  Her tracking along side the building was brilliant, though she did have to check out each little door/alcove where the turn was - especially after she saw workmen through an open door.  You know how much she loves men.  She had a much harder time crossing the sidewalk the third time, seemingly unwilling to commit.  She finally did and then made the turn to the final glove.

In hindsight I realized the gloves at the first two crossings were acting as a lure.  She had her head up as she crossed pavement and now I'm sure she smelled the articles and just went to them - she wasn't actually tracking on the ground.  For the third crossing there was no article right across from her, so she had to figure it out on her own.  Transitions are way beyond the skill level our dogs have for urban tracking, but they are all doing okay - with Skookum doing the best.  Clearly Gimme was having difficulty with them.  By our human way of thinking, crossing a road or sidewalk shouldn't be hard if the dog can cross an open space in island hopping tracks.  But, Sil says transitions are really quite difficult for most dogs.  Next time I will make sure there are no article-lures and will put a food drop or two to help her keep her nose down. 

I was recently asked when I thought I would try to finish her Rally Obedience title (she has one leg).  I couldn't really give a timeline, saying I don't really have anyone to practice with, who I can count on to reliably control their dog.  Then it occurred to me - I have Nadine and she does obedience too.  So I asked her if we could practice stays together (not required in Rally).

Nadine brought Skookum out, who is very steady and reliable.  We followed Nadine and Skookum "into the ring", from about 10 feet away.  Then we set up for sit-stays.  I kept Gimme a comfortable 12 feet away.  Nadine went out to 30 feet, but I stayed within 12 feet (the length of my leash).  I went back and rewarded Gimme a couple of times and we ended with a nice 30 second segment.  Then we set up in the same place for a down stay.  When I was out at the end of the leash, Gimme got up in a sit, though she didn't move from her spot.  I went back to her and got her to down again and couldn't help but notice she moved herself 2 feet further away from Skookum.  I took this as her way of making it easier for herself and noticed she was very careful to not look at Skookum.  I've seen her do this before - the not looking thing when a challenge is hard.  We got a nice 30 second down stay and I rewarded her a lot after it.  Then Nadine heeled Skookum back and forth near us while I gave Gimme a steady stream of treats. 

We ended with this.  I could tell it was hard for Gimme and I appreciated her efforts, rewarding her with her comfort food (peanut butter) when it was hardest.  She was dead to the world afterward.

I noticed she was better in this situation than she has been for a long time with strange dogs during our walks.  I usually move us 20-25 feet away and/or use barriers.  I'm just not comfortable with all the unknowns from these strange dogs and strange people.  So if it isn't comfortable for me, then it won't be for Gimme either. 

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