Titles Achieved to date...

Monumental A to Z High On Liberty
ADPL4(2), ADPL4(GC), ADPGCH, ADPL5(2), RATCH, CZ8S and AI... 54 and counting...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Urban Tracking Clinic

We left right after tracking with Nadine on Friday to head up to Bellingham for a TDU/VST clinic.  Clearly we are part of the TDU crowd.  Each of us lay a track for someone and then get to run a track laid by someone else.  We spent all day Saturday tramping around on 8 out of 9 sites, following Sil as he plotted the tracks and explained the why/how of it all.

Gimme's track was supposed to be TDU light, with transitions from vegetation to non-vegetation and back to vegetation.  When they got to the site on Sunday to lay our track, it had to be changed from what was plotted because there was an event going on and using part of the area.  This really wasn't an issue.

What did turn out to be an issue was how late in the day it was.  It was getting hot, mid-to-high 70's.  Usually it wouldn't be a big issue, but Gimme had basically been in the car for two days straight (other than nights in the hotel where I was excessively boring).  Plus the age was only supposed to be 30 minutes and it was nearly an hour.

Gimme did really well on the first leg, but overshot the turn and just went right across the little road, then turned to take up a parallel path.  (the red line is the path she took).  We were only about 15 yards from the track, and Sil wasn't sure if she was following scent which had drifted over there or a jogger.  When she went steaming past the third leg without even pausing, it was clear she was on a jogger.  So Sil called me to bring her back and take her over the little road and get her back on the track.

I re-scented her and then she got to find the first article in the sand pit.  From there she made the second turn.  She really struggled with getting across the road this time.  Sil said it was probably because she was slightly off the track, so only had a few yards from the corner to the transition.  Once she did decide to cross (with a lot of encouragement), then she got to the article easily.

The rest of the third leg went well and she made the turn and drove to the next article.  When we got to the road again, she angled somewhat and went across the road at a 90º angle.  The actual track sliced the corner as the road turned.  From there Gimme picked up a diverging line, staying in the shade of the trees.  Right on the other side of the trees was a chain link fence, which Sil says is famous for pushing or pulling scent and leading the dog astray.  I don't quite understand how this can be, since chain link doesn't seem to impede airflow, but I accept Sil has seen the connection often enough for it to be part of our tracking reality. 

As Gimme passed the area of the glove, Sil had me hold her back.  When I did she caught the scent of the article, then she figured out she needed to go across the road again to get to the glove.  She was happy to get her treats, but declined to play tug.  Idiot me forgot to bring her water bottle - I set it out, but then walked off without it in the rush when everyone showed up 20 minutes late.

While this wasn't a stellar example of her abilities, I did learn some things.  First, Gimme still doesn't understand the question part of corner communication, "Is this the good track?"  Sometimes she is quite content to be off the track and lead me astray.  If she pulls hard, I follow and in these situations, she thinks this is good enough.  Second, she likely believes all hard-surface crossings are 90º.  Third, and most important, she seems to think her job is to simply go across and find the track again on the other side.  Sil recommended we back up a bit in our hard surface work, do more island hopping, and ensure she is following her nose across the gaps.  She has to get this skill or we won't be able to progress.  As it would happen, I had just read this in his manuscript the night before, in the chapter on the Canadian TDU.

So we have some work to do.  Its going to be especially important for me to know where our urban tracks are in the near future, thus they'll need to be well marked.  Then when Gimme goes out in a false direction, I can hold where I am and play out the whole line and allow her to sort out what she is smelling, without following her myself until she gets on the right track.  Gimme interprets me following her as reinforcement for what she is doing - essentially saying what she is doing is good enough.  Indeed I've known its rewarding when I follow her and I've used it purposely to reward good work.  So, now I need known tracks so I don't unintentionally reward not-so-good work. 

Sil also wants me to work urban tracks with my longer field line (40 foot).  I'd heard we could use a shorter line for urban tracks and its less likely to get caught on all the extra stuff in the urban environment, so I'd been using my 25 foot line.  He thinks it will be better for me when Gimme needs all the extra line to sort out these challenges, so I'll just have to become proficient at keeping it from getting tangled.  Fortunately the Biothane doesn't tangle as readily as some other lines.

Tomorrow was supposed to be an urban tracking day for us, but Nadine had another commitment come up and can't get out of it.  So we are going to head to Pawsabilities for a quick RallyFrEe practice.  After our last RFE practice, Kathy wants me to put a special effort into getting Gimme out and about for some quick practices of just a few minutes, focusing our efforts on attention.  A few years ago she told me she often goes to a parking lot, gets Wesley out to work briefly.  Then she puts him back in the car, drives 50 feet and does it again.  She gets three short attention practices in a parking lot this way and to the dog each time out of the car is a new location.   The other thing she wants me to focus on is tightening up Gimme's 180º turns.  I think this may be symptomatic of her 360º circles around me, which are also loose.  So I'll be working on those tomorrow as well.

BTW one thing I forgot to mention - on Saturday during some downtime, I got Gimme out for a little bit of set-up and RFE training.  She was distracted briefly, but then got right to work.  We even worked on our side-passes, which she is just learning.  I think she was so happy to have something to do, she was giving me her best effort.

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