Yesterday Nadine and I met at Flaming Geyser for some field tracking.
Two of her girls were in season and their minds were trailing their noses by a few feet, so I set up an article circle for them. It was big, but very simple. There were 12 legs, 30 yards each. It was interesting to watch her girls, they each started out okay, and were doing well.
Gimme would have done the whole thing several times through - as long as I didn't run out of cheese. Nadine's girls each made it to a certain point and then it was like the brain was used up and they suddenly could barely track and stopped indicating articles. Nadine doesn't pay very well for articles. Gimme gets 15-20 treats for each article; Nadine maxes out the pay at 3 treats. There's a reason Gimme loves articles, eh... I suggested she just stop, ending the track on a good note, but she went through to the end. Made me wish I'd laid a much shorter circle.
Nadine laid the tracks we needed for Gimme's remedial work. We kinda ran out of space, so the second track was not quite according to what was on the plan, but it all worked for the good.
The idea was for two tracks with three legs each; 60, 90 and 90 yards. The first leg would have a start sock and flag and another flag at 30 yards. There were no corner flags. Legs 2 and 3 were essentially the same, with a glove at 30 and 50 yards and flags at 40 and 60 yards. As a handler I wasn't supposed to be looking for the flags, but they were there to confirm a leg when I thought she was on it. If she was accurately on the leg, then the two flags would line up. If she was to the left of the track, then the first flag would be to the right of the second flag. If she was to the right of the track, then the first flag would be to the left of the second flag.
[If you can't wrap your head around this description - put your hands in front of you, extending your index fingers pointed to the ceiling and line up the two fingers so they overlap. Then move your head left or right and you'll see how the near finger moves relative to the farther finger.]
Gimme didn't do very well with the first track. There were some changes in how I was handling and it threw her off a little bit. For one thing, I was waiting for her to pull out to 20 feet and this made her uncertain. I've gotten in the bad habit of following her too soon and when I didn't she was not sure what to think. We first resolved this last year at one of Sil's seminars by doing article circles and using the pattern of an article on every short leg to encourage her to pull ahead without me. We may need to do that again. Then again, maybe she will get back to it on her own.
But, more importantly, I was trying to pick up flags and load them in the tube, while quickly following Gimme at a walk-trot. So my attention was divided and I'm sure she sensed it. At one point I bent over to give her treats at one of the articles and the little wire flags all fell out of the tube onto her head. As if this wasn't bad enough, then there was the hold-up and break in our rhythm while I picked them all up. I at least had the good sense to drop the flag holder and extra flags at the start flag for the second track so poor Gimme didn't have to put up with it any longer.
Gimme can be very patient, but this nonsense was all too much for her and it showed. She couldn't figure out what the heck she was supposed to do when I was being so weird. When she lined out on the track, she was her usual self, though a bit slower. Most of her uncertainty showed up when she needed to search for the corner, she just didn't want to go out at any distance. On a positive note, through all this I was able to focus on walking myself up the line after each "corner which might go straight", so I had line to play out when I saw her change of behavior. The other cool thing was being able to glance at the flags and see where Gimme's change of behavior and my stops were happening relative to the actual corner. Gimme does clearly go past every corner, at least 15 feet. For this track I was able to get stopped before I passed the corner. Sil would be so proud...
As I said, we ran out of room on the second track, so there was an extra leg to get us across the road and around a bend. Nadine put in 3 extra flags to get us over the road and around the bend without disrupting what we were actually working on.
Gimme did much better on this second track. She was still over-running the corners, but was sticking much closer to the actual track, about 2-3 yards. She goes pretty fast, so maybe she will always overrun corners. Without me acting oddly, she went back to searching more confidently when there were corners, whether they went straight or not.
One thing I didn't expect was for her to just zip across the road like she did. She never lifted her nose at all. Recently I'd noticed she was having a lot of trouble with transitions, so I was surprised to see her handle this like an expert. It was beautiful to see.
By the end of this second track, it was clear she knew there would be lots of gloves (thus, lots of cheese) after the turns. This is important if this process is going to work to build motivation and enthusiasm for staying close to the actual track.
It was fun to see her having such a good time. I had to laugh because she was so mad when I removed her harness when I took her back to the car. When the harness comes off, she knows she's done. She's used to getting to do two tracks and in this case she had done two tracks. She made it very clear (loudly), she does not consider two short tracks separated by a play break as two tracks and I should be ashamed of myself for trying to cheat her.