The morning was mostly lecture... Key things I learned, this time, are:
- the dog is responsible for leading you down the track, as close to the track as she can,
- your job is to set up experiences so the dog learns what she needs to know to be a successful tracker
- read the landscape so you can stay oriented in the field, so you can organize the dog's search when you see a change of behavior
- if your dog needs help, do so happily
What was interesting was watching how Sil used the different levels of helping the dog, to try to aid her. They are...
- Restraint - hold your dog back when she reaches the end of the line and still wants to go in the wrong direction or down a contamination or cross track,
- Reel-in & Re-scent - bring your dog back to you and re-scent your dog, which may help her refocus on what scent you want her to follow,
- Face in the Correct Direction - dogs are very aware of body alignment and posture, so this is a huge hint about what is correct,
- Reel-in and Point to Correct Track & Direction
- Reel-in & Love the Track - moving forward along the track until the dog moves forward in front of you, focused on this interesting thing
Sil went through all the steps above trying to help Twizzle. When it became apparent she could not benefit from continuing on the track, Sil took the glove she'd found earlier and tossed it ahead of her so she could find it and they could end on a positive note.
In the afternoon, I watched a few of the tracks until the field was cleared and our group could start the tracklayer training exercise. I've done this before and call it the tracklayer-exercise-from-hell. We were each given one start flag and a bunch of small paper tags (½ by 1½ inch) and instructed to lay a track with three to five turns and legs of 50 yard minimum. At each corner we were to leave a paper tag on the ground. The ground cover is 1-2 feet tall. After a delay showing our maps, we were to then go back out and find our tags.
Last year I only found 2 tags. This time I found all of them. The key thing is to record triangulation markers for each corner. One thing which I found very cool was how accurate my pace was. I could see where my footsteps bent the grass from when I laid the track. I purposely didn't look down, instead keeping my eyes focused on my landmarks. Yet when I did occasionally look down, I saw my current footsteps were falling exactly into the footsteps from an hour earlier. I didn't expect this level of consistency. I think the biggest difference is simply all the experience I've gotten laying tracks between last year and this year.
Here's a picture of a map I drew. Its not the one I used in the exercise, but one I did on day 3. You can see all the little pictures I draw out at the sides to remind me where my reference points are. If I were doing this for a track with a longer age (this time was only an hour) then I would have written more notes in the margin.
Sil also had another exercise for us. He had gone out and laid a straight track broken into three segments with flags. We were to walk the track and note our own count and submit the distance we got for each leg as well as the total. I got legs of 29, 44, 28 and a 101 total.
Based on the results of the actual measured distances, I have re-calibrated my stride. I was using 15 steps for 10 yards and now it is 13 steps for 10 yards. On a leg of 100 yards based on my old reference, this would actually be 115 yards. For the track I did with Gimme as described below, what I thought was 410 yards would actually be 472 yards.
We weren't scheduled for a showcase track, but I wanted to track Gimme anyway. She was bored beyond words Friday and I knew we had the group dinner Saturday evening, so I wanted her to have the chance to get out and do something. I had a partner to trade tracklaying, but by the time we could do it, she was too pooped, so I laid Gimme's track myself.
It was very much like the tracks we have been doing, though I laid it all as one track, five legs (60, 80, 80, 80 and 110 [actually: 69, 92, 92, 92, and 127]). Gimme did a great job at this. She really just aced it. There was no infamous "Bow wind", but a stronger breeze than we are accustomed to. It was a great way to end the first day. She has showcase tracks on Sunday and Monday.