Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Our Tracking is Full of Fail

Laev loves tracking, but she doesn't love 100-point tracking. Laev's idea of tracking is to move at maximum speed over the footprints, air-scenting except where needed, and getting to the end as quickly as possible.

Well, that's not exactly true. That's how she starts, yes, and then she settles into very nice accurate tracking. But I would like to see nice tracking the entire time!

I don't know exactly why this is -- I have never made the end of the track very fun in comparison with the track itself. Friends will play tug at the end of a track, or finish with a pile of food, or chase a ball in the field; Laev's tracks end with an article and then a sit at heel. There is no hurry to reach the end, except in her mind.

For competition, she'll need a deep nose and accurate footprint tracking, so I'm trying to get her more focused. After talking with my club, I decided to go back to serpentines, lots of food in the starting scent pad, and food in nearly every footstep. Tonight I went out to lay a track, and I chose to lay it in ankle-deep grass with lots of inches-thick grass clippings; no racing down this track! To get the food, she was going to have to go slowly and dig a bit for the pieces. This would slow her and require concentration, certainly.

I brought Laev out and dropped her into heel position. Laev loves tracking; I can ask her to heel and work to the track and the cue to track is the reward. She gave me lovely focus, begging for the track, and I cued her to start.

Right off the bat it was ugly. She snatched a single piece of food from the scent pad and rushed off it, already veering off the footprints in her hurry. But she realized her error and got back on the track, and after a moment she seemed to be working better, eating most of the treats and following the track. We were doing all right 'til the first article, which was a piece of PVC I hadn't used before. Laev wanted to skip it, not recognizing it as an article, and when I gently insisted that she should indicate it, she seemed to fall apart. She couldn't really concentrate after that, and she had a terrible time finding and following the track. Even right on it, she skipped every treat -- it was as if it was too much work to pick them up. She (and I) missed the second article, and she was ugly all the way to the end, where I encouraged her to down on the third and final article.

So. If she can't be bothered to eat on the track, then she's clearly not hungry. We went back inside and prepared dinner -- I had even tracked her at dinner time -- and Laev is on short rations. Tomorrow we'll try the same field and see if it's still too much trouble to concentrate to find the food....

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