I have been training tracking with Forbes for almost a year now, we started off with tracking on hard surfaces using Steve White’s Hydration Intensified Tracking Technique (HITT). I tried to be systematic about bookkeeping in the beginning but since then things have become inconsistent and our training has been kind of aimless. It has been hard to keep up the motivation when training alone all the time. This morning (what a perfect way to spend your Monday morning!) we got a boost as we took a tracking class by Marie-P Babin from Cross Country Tracking Club (CCTC). I joined CCTC in 2007 as soon as I came to Canada and with Dea participated in their Friday evening tracking get-togethers and also took their Tracking Dog (TD) test in 2008. Now it is time to get active again as I discovered the Monday morning classes!
Systematic record keeping is particularly important in tracking because there are many changing criteria. The most important ones are (I’m sure there are more than this!):
- The length, age and shape of the track
- If you use treats on track to classically condition you dog, record the spacing between treats
- Number and positioning of the articles
- Date and time of the day
- Weather conditions: temperature, sunny, rainy, snowy, the direction and intensity of the wind
- Who laid the track
- The place, type of surface(s)
Today we tracked on grass which is the most usual surface in North American tracking tests. I got lots of good advice from Marie for how to lead my dog to the beginning of the track, which is a scent pad (1 meter x 1 meter square) in tracking tests. Instead of just letting your dog to rush onto the track you want to hold them in position and pinpoint where the track begins. I have been really sloppy about this, Dea in particular used to just rush forward and I would happily run behind her. While tracking, it is actually desirable to resist if your dog pulls on the line. Having started tracking years ago back in forests I have been used to having the tracking line looped in my hands so that it wouldn’t get caught in branches. When tracking on even vegetation you should actually let it fall on the ground and you just let it slide back and forth between your hands. And oh boy, I really cannot count my meters!! I was off by 10 meters at least when trying to count my distances.
Marie is a very good and experienced tracking enthusiast, a judge and a very thorough teacher. I look forward to learning more from her classes. It is also such a good experience for me to be a learner for a change instead of a teacher. My ability to process new new bits of information even on a familiar topic AND to execute the exercises at the same time is very limited. After realizing this I must hand it to my Life Skills students who learn clicker training from a scratch in a class environment that can be a pretty stressful surrounding! I cannot wait to be learner at the Steve White seminar coming up on May 7-8 in Guelph.
Here is what our little tracks looked like today. Our goal is now TD test in the fall.