Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Our Tracking is Full of Fail -- Minus 2%.

So, that didn't start well.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that Laev's tracking is full of fail, because she is just too darned enthusiastic about the track. So I have a new de-revving program for her, and tonight I laid two tracks. The first, for Laev, had lots of food, angles, serpentines. The second had no food except at the start pad but had three articles in its short length.

I returned to the house -- I'd used my own field -- and brought Shakespeare out to track the second one, leaving the first to age. Laev screamed in protest; apparently she'd seen me laying the track from a window. Shakespeare did his track happily, enjoying his treats on the articles. I returned to trade dogs.

"That dog is wired," my husband warned me of Laev. "It's crazy. It wants to track."

Yep, Laev had been mightily offended that she had watched me lay a track and then been left behind as I took the other dog. I knew I was going to have to ride that out as we went through our new calming routine before beginning the track, but I was prepared.

Or not.

I asked Laev to sit on the porch as I put her tracking long link on. She sat, for a short time, and then she exploded. She ran away toward the field where I'd laid tracks, hearing nothing at all of a recall. By the time I got there, she was galloping along the track, air scenting frantically and ignoring all the food.

I stood at the head of the track and called her. She came to me but then bolted again when I asked her to down. Repeat. She came to me, I treated and grabbed her collar, and then I downed her.

Right. Calm starts. Good one, Laura.

I put Laev's equipment on and stroked her for a long time. I also reflected that perhaps mosquito happy hour was not the best time for calm long downs.

I treated Laev, petted her, and tried to get her to relax enough that I could rub her belly. Not a prayer, she knew the track was there! But after a while, she was willing to eat treats off the ground as we walked and I dropped them, so that was a good sign.

We edged toward the start flag and I dropped some treats on the ground, working slowly into the scent pad. She ate treats, sniffed, ate treats, realized that she was on the track, and launched.

Fortunately she was frantic for only a few steps before she settled into sniffing and eating again, about four footsteps' worth. After that she looked pretty good, 'til she got to a corner, which for some reason sent her back into air scenting again. She got a bit wired -- it hadn't been that far under the surface -- and I had to down her on the track, which really peeved her. I treated her in the down, stroked her, praised her, and when she was calm, I soothingly whispered, "Track." I even dropped a treat just ahead of her as I cued.

Okay, so, memo to self: "Track" is a very loaded word. She launched right over the treat and landed on the track.

Recovery was pretty quick again, however, and she seemed to settle into a better working mode. She still didn't eat all the food on the track, but she did better. She was hesitant to down on the single article at the end, but I fed her on the article for a while, trying to ease out of the track as well. Then I took off her collar and line and went to collect my flags while she wandered the field, wondering at this weird finish.

So we might be on to something, but it's going to take some better management to know for sure. We'll try again and see what we get!

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