Last week we met on Wednesday to do some urban tracking. We are following the program in Sil Sander's upcoming book. So we were scheduled to do both 100 and 120 yard tracks of island hopping. We aged them 20 minutes. The weather was cool and conditions were wet, since it had been raining for several days. This is the first tracking we've done since Christmas morning, a break of almost 6 weeks. Gimme picked right up as if we'd been doing it every week. I could sure tell she was happy to get out and use her nose again.
Today we did the next session and it was a bit different. We were supposed to be introducing 90 degree turns next to the curb, but we'd been doing them all along as they came up when we were following curbs or doing island hopping. Since we are laying 2 tracks each for four dogs, we are sometimes limited in what we can do to fit them all in. Besides we hadn't read ahead and didn't realize we weren't supposed to add them in yet. So since we'd already done this, we decided to introduce turns away from the curb instead. Because its a really busy week for me and I needed to get back to town and work my accounts, we only did one track per dog.
Gimme's track was pretty challenging just as we layed it. She and Skookum are the more talented/experienced of the four, so we set their tracks a bit longer and with more turns than we had for Sugar and Cricket. We intended to have Gimme's track age 20-30 minutes, but it was more like 45 minutes.
On top of the extra age, there was a parking lot sweeper doing his rounds and he went over Gimme's track in three different places as shown with dashed lines. Where you see both grey and blue dashed lines, he passed over the track twice. I believe in a trial if this happened they would abandon the track, but we decided to run it and see how she did.
The first challenge was to see how Gimme would do at the start, if she would follow the track or the curb. It took her a moment, but she figured it out. From there to where she came upon the first sweeper crosstrack, Gimme did a great job. I let her try to figure it out on her own, but she wasn't getting it, so I pointed to where the track was and cued her "track-on". Her look was telling, as if she didn't think it smelled the same. We think the sweeper did more than scatter the scent, possibly altering it in some odd way. Just the same, Gimme followed what I pointed to and got across the gap, making the next turn nicely. The next time didn't seem to be as challenging. She was going steady and I think her momentum carried her across the crosstrack to where things smelled familiar again. From there she did fine until the third crosstrack and then she just couldn't find it again. I let her work it for a bit and then gave her the hint and she picked it up, following the track across the opening and getting to the next article and then through to the end.
We did notice she tended to "go visual" when she was struggling with the sweeper crosstrack. This means she starts to look for little bits of things to go check out, hoping they are food on the track. When I see her doing this, I know she is having difficulty. Also, a crosstrack happened in both places where we had set up a turn away from the curb, creating an especially difficult challenge, so we really don't know yet if she understood the turn away from the curb. Next time we do urban, we'll be revisiting this exercise.
Our next tracking get together will be field work. We still haven't found a good sports field location to practice those exercises. I don't expect it will be very hard for the dogs, especially given all their tracking experience. But there are different contamination challenges they need to experience.
We are signing up for a one-day, two-trial barn hunt in March. I know Gimme will be eager to hunt for some ratties. She'll probably still be in her false pregnancy, but close to the end, so I'm hoping she'll do well. It only took her a day and a half of being on the supplement regimen for the false pregnancy before I noticed her brain was back. However, we are still challenged in respect to self-control.