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Date Posted: 20:17:47 12/05/08 Fri
In reply to:
's message, "Re: tracking article 4 parts/crosspost from longwood" on 20:16:19 12/05/08 Fri
THE SIXTH LESSON SERIES : increasing the angle of the turns
The goal of the sixth lesson series is to increase the angle of the turns untill the dog is doing 90 degree turns easily. The first day , I would start with a track with the same 20 to 25 degree turns done in the previous series. The second track would have turns from 35 to 40 degrees, ie about 2/8 of a right angle turn. The third track would be shorter and would have two or three 45 degree turns, ie half of a right angle. On all these tracks the first turn or two would be followed by a stretch laid heel to toe and the remaining turns would be followed by normal stride track. If the dog had difficulty on any of these tracks, I would step back and lay the next one with the turns being followed by instep to toe tracking. The next day, the first track would have 35 to 40 degree turns, with the first turn having a stretch of heel to toe and the rest laid in normal stride. The second track would have 45 degree turns, with the first turn having a stretch of heel to toe and the rest laid in normal stride. The third track would have 65 to 70 degree turns, with the first turn having a stretch of heel to toe and the rest laid in normal stride. The third day would have the first track having 45 degree turns, the second one having 65 to 70 degree turns, and the third track having the full glorious 90 degree right angle turns. Throughout this sequence most of the turns would have articles placed 30 feet or more beyond the turn. On my drawings , due to lack of space, everything seems croweded together but in reality each straight section (called a "leg") would be much longer, ie the turns further apart. If the dog is a young puppy or an elderly dog or a dog who for any reason seems to be finding doing three tracks too much to do with enthusiasm, then cut back to two tracks and take more days to cover this same material.
After completing this sequence , you might want to do a few days in which you only run one track but it has a variety of turns in it.
Johnson's method of laying and running the "acute angle" turn to teach dog and handler how to handle situations where the next leg is located to the rear is a method that could not be improved upon. It is an essential lesson for teaching the handler how to line handle if the dog should overshoot a turn, which can easily happen with a strong tailwind. This lesson is usually introduced after the dog is running multiple turn tracks with some age on them.
The START : taking good scent and finding the foreward direction.
I also go over to single flag starts and approaching the flag from various angles to the track relatively early. I do it pretty soon after I am convinced that the dog is handling corners (changes of direction) well and is really tracking. I would also do some of my tracks without making a "scent pad" (well trampled area) at the start, making only a slightly trampled area or none at all.
As mentioned above, an important goal is to have the dog pick out the foreward direction of the track to follow. In a TD test the two flag start tells you the handler which direction is foreward; but in TDX the single flag start and unknown angle of approach gives you no idea. You have to rely on the dog. That is why I prefer either Brown's method of circle back so second lay is foreward method or my own instep to toe heavy lay method over Johnson's out and back double lay with conflicing directions method. There is no doubt at all that dogs inherrently can distinguish foreward from backward , as any predator that could not do so would miss a lot of potential meals, but some tracking people are concerned that we could confuse the dog about which direction we want him to follow. So I want the dog to start choosing the foreward direction from day one. For competition , he will never be asked to choose anything other than the foreward direction.
Dogs also have the ability to backtrack and may well use this to find their way home again or back to some other area. (By the way with a really smart dog, it is possible to teach a second command for backward tracking : I taught Bones to "look back" and backwards track on command, but I waited until after he had earned his TDX and FH. )
THE SEVENTH LESSON SERIES : single flag starts with varied approaches.
For the seventh lesson series, the goal is to get the dog used to finding the direction of the track no matter where it might be relative to the angle from which the dog and handler approach the start flag. To do a lesson on starts, I would lay several short easy tracks and approach each start from a different angle. During most of these lessons , the wind should be blowing the track scent away from the direction of approach, but at some point the dog should also experience having the wind blow the scent right towards him. After several days of lessons on this , the dog should have mastered it. Indeed, you may have noticed during earlier lessons that the dog often has picked up the track long before you arrive at the flag. I often start varying my approach to the flag during earlier lesson series if I can see that the dog is ready for it.
Another aspect of making a good start that may be worth emphasizing in a systematic way is getting the dog into the habit of taking in enough scent at the start flag. In the earliest lessons, by putting a few tiny shreds of food in the scent pad, I encourage the dog to explore and linger at the scent pad. Later I rub food on a few spots on the scent pad but then remove it and place it further down the track. Still another way to get the dog to take in more scent at the start is to require the dog to lie down on the scent pad and wait until you give a word of permission to actually take up the track. This is advised for dogs who take off impetuously and then get lost later on the track because they never took enough scent at the start. However not every dog who takes only brief scent is failing to get enough of it into his brain. Schutzhund judges however will take off a few points for a "hasty" start, so if you want to compete in this venue, do teach your dog to lie down and wait at least a dozen heartbeats. I would wait to teach this down until after I was sure that it would not inhibit the dog from being enthusiastic in tracking. In an AKC TDX , there will be an article at the start flag. Supposedly taking scent from this helps the dog to track, but that is probably irrelevant. Do pick up that article and put it into your pouch to present to the Judge at the end of the track.
AGING THE TRACKS
I basically follow Johson's method of bringing the age up to one hour by doing two simple tracks a day that are about 10 minutes apart in age. Actually the less aged track could be longer and more complex, perhaps four turns, and the more aged track could be a fairly short two turn track. The more aged track is laid first and run second; the less aged track is laid second and run first. The two should be planned so that the start of the older track is fairly close to the end of the younger track.
The first day , the younger track is fresh and the older one is 5 minutes. The second day, the younger track is 5 minutes and the older one is 10 minutes. The third day the younger track is 10 minutes and the older one is 20 minutes. And so on, progressing 10 minutes a day. Now of course if the dog is having trouble at any point , the next day's lesson would drop back 10 minutes instead of advancing ; then for the next four or five lessons , I would progress at only 5 minutes a day, then I might try a 10 minute increment. Eventually the dog would be running one hour tracks with confidence.
Once my dog has gotten to easily running hour old tracks, I would want to finish preparing to enter a TD test. At this point I would probably run just one track a day and alternate (a) days of running one fairly easy track with only one or two articles and anywhere from 200 yards to 600 yards that is an hour old or older (working up to two hours, but only increasing the age about 10 or 15 minutes from one such lesson to the next) with (b) days of running increasingly long (500 to 800 yard) and complex muli-article multi-turn tracks (including the acute angle turn as taught by Johnson) that are aged only 30 to 45 minutes. By this method I would be building both distance stamina and age of track by alternating between the two aspects. This also build the dog's belief that he will conquer the track. (I used this method of alternating between old short tracks and really long relatively fresh tracks when I was trying to build Chelsea's physical and mental stamina for TDX at a time in her life when age and arthritis were impairing her ability to pull hard.)
READY TO COMPETE ?
By the time I enter a test I want to be sure that the dog has expereinced and successfully dealt with every difficulty I could anticipate encountering and ideally has dealt with versions of these difficulties more extreme than those the test rules allow. I want my dog to find the test track very easy and I want my dog to be utterly secure from start to finish.
So by the time I get to a TD test with a talented dog, my dog has had tracks up to 2 hours old (which is the max allowable at a test), at least 200 yards longer than is allowed for a TD, multiple articles of wide variety, changes of cover (changes of vegetation and some bare spots), some obstacles (fallen trees, fences, road crossings, creek crossings if available), and single flag starts from any angle of approach. So the test TD track should be laughably easy for a dog with good olfactory capability. However for a less scent talented dog, like my Sweetie , for whom a TD is as hard a track as this dog is capable of ever handling, I would settle for being able to do a one hour (slightly longer than TD test track is really likely to be) with variety of articles, minor changes of cover and minor obstacles.
To progress onward to TDX tracks, which I would only do with a dog of genuinely good to excellent capability and enthusiasm, the main aspects to be covered are systematic teaching of cross-track discrimination (which I would cover in another article: basically I use a method similar to Johnson's except that of nescessity I have to lay my own cross-tracks or use an unskilled friend to do so by following flags) , exposure to a wide variety of obstacles (every whacko obstacle I can find) and wide variety of vegetations and sparcely vegetated areas, further aging of the tracks to a minimum of 3 hours (minimum TDX age) and preferably to at least 5 hours (the legal maximum for TDX tests), and development of tracking stamina to at least 150 % of the maximum legal TDX length.
Have I CONFUSED you ?
To those of you who are interested in tracking but who find some of this article hard to understand, print it out and re-read it after you have read some tracking books, preferably starting with Glen Johnson. What I have written here will make sense in context.
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