Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beginning Tracking Seminar

Sunday Leo and I headed south to Salem's Chemeketa Community College campus for a tracking seminar with Jill Jones. I chose to bring Leo as he's a little easier to focus on doing something without a completely obvious objective but with a food reward. Quite simply, when we were learning tracking a while back and practicing, he showed more of an interest and drive for it.

The session was organized by Chris Robinette - what a lovely lady! She's so fun and enthusiastic and did a great job putting this together. We enjoyed the morning in a classroom setting with delicious snacks and drinks plus a catered lunch before heading out to try our hand at "day one" of tracking training. On top of all that, Chris had a bunch of goodies we could buy to be "track ready" right away. I picked up a couple of things - a leather glove with a tag that tells passersby to leave it be, Enthusiastic Tracking by Sil Sanders, and a Rite in the Rain notebook (I had never heard of such a thing!). I was telling Chris I'd like to find something to do with the dogs during the umpteen months we deal with rain in the NW. Tracking was fun, thus far, in my experience and I would like to grow those experiences from here.

Jill did a great job of peppering her talk with stories of her dogs, stories of those she has worked with or judged, and kept the humor up. She also brought a lot of the tracking "tools" you need with her so we could see some options and hear about the pros and cons depending on the dog we planned on using them for. One thing that quickly got added to my list to pick up was

After lunch we went outside to the beautiful fields of Chemeketa. Jill had asked us to pair off and she wanted to see each dog work their first practice leg before allowing us to move on and continue the repetitions.

The plan is fairly straight-forward for the first week. She gave us handouts that map it all out and show how quickly you can really get a dog trained in tracking. Our "day 1" exercise was to place a marker in the ground, walk out five paces, place another marker, and to get our partner's dog's attention with the food or toy, place the glove with the treat, and then retrace our steps (thus double-laying the track). Then the dog would "track" to the glove. The tracklayer would follow the dog up to the second marker, pick up the glove, and walk out 10 paces. We repeated the process then walked out about 20 paces. This entire process was repeated three times.

The nice thing was, as simple as this exercise is, we had a slight breeze kick up partway through and got to see the dogs track to the side a bit as they followed the smell, and yet they still found their article.

I need to try to sit down at the trial this weekend and map out a real training plan - for all our activities - to put this in motion as I really think Leo enjoys it.

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