Today I’m turning my blog over to Bailie for an update on tracking since she is our tracking star. Without further delay, here’s Bailie. Thanks, Emms. I promise not to mess up the back end of your blog. Tracking is really my favorite thing in the world to do. I have done it on my own as long as I can remember, and in my beginner tracking class, I picked up the new challenges effortlessly. I’m now ready to think about getting my first title which is the Tracking Dog or TD title. Today, I want to show you a bit about what goes into running a track and getting to a TD test. It looks easy peasy, but there are a lot of challenges. We were fortunate to have Laura along to take some photos of us for the blog last weekend.
First someone has to lay out the track. A TD track is 440-500 yards long, there are specific requirements for the length of each leg, the turns, how many, types, and lots of other stuff, but this post is just for basic knowledge and I’m not going into all the furry details of laying a track. My TD test will be in a field, but I also train on mowed grass fields, asphalt, all surfaces really. We also do short tracks to help me build confidence and work on stopping at the article. I do the running of the track (pulling Mom along behind me) and will bark about how I do that. The first thing I do is to go to a point fifteen or so yards from the start flag. Here Mom puts on my tracking harness with my forty yard line attached, and removes my collar. A dog can tell by what it is wearing what is expected. Every harness and collar has a different feel. I have my tracking harness, and a totally different harness for nose work.
From this same point, I get some water. In the summer I drink a lot, in the winter not as much. The water is another signal for me to get ready for tracking, but most importantly, it clears my palate so I’m ready to take in a new scent and follow it a bit easier. You may also notice Mom’s funny gloves. They have leather on the palms and fingers which helps her keep a grip on my line. Tracking is by no means a fashion show, especially in the winter. The only thing that matters is having all the equipment we need with us while running the track. (Note, Mom even has a poop bag roll on her pack!)
After my drink, Mom grabs my harness and we move to the start flag where the article with the scent I will be tracking is laying. I get the command sniff and lie down to sniff the article. You can use any command you want, bus, sofa, down, whatever, but we use sniff. My goal will be to find the other article with the same scent at the end of the track. An article at this level is normally a glove, sock, hat, something along those lines. Dirty undies would be pawsome, but Mom refuses to use her underwear in a track…party pooper!
Mom says I’m super easy to read with tracking, much more so than with nose work. I don’t know. I simply do what comes naturally. When I have the scent filed in my tracking brain, I put my head up to signal Mom I’ve got it. This part is the hardest for me as I want to get going but I still need to wait. You can see my furry, little butt is already off the ground. (In the video, you can see how I start almost too early, just can’t wait!)
Last weekend we ran three different tracks, so some of the photos are from different tracks but they were the best ones to explain what we do. Before I take off like a maniac, Mom has to pick up the article. For a TD track we shouldn’t need it, but when we get to more expert tracks down the road, it may be needed to refresh the scent along the track for me. It is something to make a habit of doing. Once, the article has been picked up and stored on Mom somewhere, she gives me my command “track” and lets me go. Track is what we choose to use, but once again any word you like is fine. I hit the road with the speed of lightening 99.9% of the time.
One of the tracks we ran was on a mowed grass schoolyard, covered with snow. We had Laura video tape this track as it is the easiest to see us in, and it was only about 150 yards long. Sorry, but once again, with my speed, the video person had to run in a futile attempt to keep up, and it does get all shaky, but it is still fun to see how I track. You will notice my sniff and then track at the beginning. Shortly after the start, I veer off to the left as there was a low flying flock of birds which distracted me for a moment. When I get sidetracked, Mom gives me a moment, then says “track” and I normally get back to work. Note also after the turn I slow down for a second. I over shot the turn by about three yards and slow down to make sure I’m on the right track again. At the end I do my down at the article, and get my rewards.
Here is nice still shot of Mom and I in the taller grass field, about fifty yards from the end article. As you can see, I’m having a blast, and Mom is holding me back because she is so slow. Sometimes she does slow me down a bit, but she wants me to keep my enthusiasm up, so she tries to keep up as best as she can.
When I reach the final article, I have to stop and show Mom where it is. She prefers I lie down and stay when I find it, but sometimes I like to keep going. We are working on this problem. I hang out and wait with the article for Mom to show up, and she then gives me my high value reward. I get the real good stuff like bison jerky or lamb lungs, stuff that is extra special.
Once I finish my reward, Mom takes my harness off and puts my collar and leash back on to signal we are done running the track. In the photo, you can see my disbelief – “Rats, we’re already done?”. I always want to track more.
What is my next step? In order to enter a TD test, a dog must get certified. I have to run a TD track with a tracking judge who will give me four certificates if I pass. I then have four chances to pass a TD test in the next twelve months. TD tests are not easy to find and also on a lottery system. Mom has been in touch with a judge and we hope to get certified in the next few weeks so we can apply for a TD test in March. Why the certification? Since space is limited with TD tests, the AKC doesn’t want dogs that aren’t ready to test taking up spots. Being certified sort of assures the AKC you can run a TD track. I have my paws crossed and will keep you all posted. Hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about my favorite sport! If you are interested in tracking, I suggest you take a track to get you started on the right paw. It really is a lot of fun!