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CAN YOU TRACK YOUR OWN TRACKS

Knowing where your track is going and being able to find the articles is important. So important that it is time for you to go to the tracking field, without your dog, and lay a typical track. Age it for whatever time you usually age your tracks. At the appropriate time return and see if you can track your own track. This is not bad when no one else is around to watch. During the tracking seminars held by Gene England and Mike Rankin, at the Advance Canine Academy in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the instructors and other students watch the often frustrated handlers attempt to negotiate their own tracks. Most beginning trackers and some knowledgeable trainers use many flags on the track to mark turns, articles, and to keep from getting lost. What is happening here is the dog ends up tracking or indicating the marker flags. I have been with tracking teams where the dog indicated a marker flag and was rewarded for doing so. The handler was happy the dog had found something even though there was no article near the marker flag. Do not reinforce unacceptable behavior. If the tracklayer can see a marker flag you can be sure the dog can. The only flag that should be on the field is the flag used to mark the start of the track placed to the left of the scent pad. Rewarding a dog for finding a marker flag is rewarding behavior, which will not be successful in a trial or test. The only time article indication is permitted is when the dog has found a properly scented article that has been placed on the track by the tracklayer. Getting lost or exhausted. When you are tracking and your dog appears to have had enough, or you become hopelessly lost, stop and put your dog on a down stay. Walk ten or so feet in front of the dog and drop an article so the dog does not see you drop it. Walk back causing the track to be double laid and restart your dog. When your tracker finds the all-important article give him praise and a reward, from your hand, on top of the article. The dog has properly found an article and has been rewarded, thus setting up a positive mental attitude. Now may be a good time to break off the track, rest your dog or go home. Even if you and the dog are lost, the dog will finish up with a positive experience, and will be looking forward to the next training session. Over taxing a dog in training accomplishes little other than developing avoidance behaviors. When the training session is over the dog must always feel as though he has won. The dog is going to remember the last important experience of the training session. He needs to leave the tracking field in a positive frame of mind; otherwise, he may display the strangest behaviors at the most inopportune times. How often have you heard people say, “My dog never did that before” after messing up in a trial/test? A well-trained dog is the result of many small victories and positive training experiences, developing a good mental attitude, and finding his security in knowing what is expected. Successful training is an accumulation of many small victories. Breaking off a track because your dog is exhausted or lost may mean loosing the remaining articles. Your dog is more important than your articles.

Dennis Helm

 

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