Thursday, July 28, 2005

still tracking, and heeling

Laev is very erratic. She did a horrific puppy square on Tuesday, so bad that I actually took her off it and crated her while I tracked Shakespeare. (A second food drag for him, by the way, and he was so thrilled that a few hours later when I turned him out to run, he ran to the tracking site and ran the track again just to be sure he hadn't missed anything!) Then I brought Laev out to do her puppy square again and then to run a short, straight track. It was hideous -- not unfocused, as the puppy square had been, but high and fast, and if I held her back she became frustrated and just lay down, alternately trying to stretch forward and looking back at me with confusion.

I know, I know, it was also ungodly hot, over 100 degrees and near total humidity. We've been having record heat; a funnel cloud could have formed if someone opened a freezer door. (Yep, we get a lot of tornados in Indiana; we average 20+ touchdowns a year and I don't even know how many funnels that don't touch down!) I'm sure that affected tracking conditions. But it was depressing.

Then Wednesday, yesterday, we tracked again. It was raining lightly -- yippee! a cold front, and no tornado! -- and Laev's tracking was lousy. Any pressure on the line caused her to strain forward with opposition reflex. She ate only two pieces of food on the entire track. I came inside and called Debbie; I didn't want to allow Laev to rehearse bad tracking.

Debbie and I debated and finally decided that I had to be more careful about light pops (half-halts, I think of them instead, from my equestrian days) to slow her rather than steady pressure. I also upped the value of the food, back to using Simon & Huey's, and I put more than one piece of food in a footstep when I baited it.

I laid two short tracks and a puppy square. We ran a short straight track first; she was eager and pulling, but willing to slow when I showed her the good stuff in the footsteps. Then a puppy square, which she did with more focus and presence of mind than she had before. Then the second track, which featured two right turns. Laev started strong and then settled right down, checking for treats and keeping her nose low enough to even dig out crushed treats from the grass. By the end she wasn't dragging at all.

So I'm going to continue using good food at the beginning and fading to mediocre bait at the end of the track, to reduce her desperation to reach the end. And I will start using articles very soon. But at least, as Debbie said, I have an enviable problem of a dog who loves the track more than anything else!

Meanwhile, I bought a hula hoop at a garage sale and have been clicking her for going to stand inside it, sneaking in some distance while we work. She's not nearly as adept at this as Shakespeare would be, but I'm giving her some allowance for being young and inexperienced. :-) We'll get distance work yet.

On the good side, her heeling is looking quite decent for a five-month-old dog. She likes to be a little wide, but I can polish that later. Her shoulder is right beside my leg and she keeps nice eye contact. Good girl!

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