Sunday, December 27, 2015

Article Indication

Willie and I have worked on quite a lot of slopes since the last post, and I think he is finally getting the idea that sometimes the trail just disappears and if he casts about he can pick it up again.

He's doing pretty good at finding the articles I drop on our tracks, but he tends to acknowledge them and then return to tracking immediately.  I thought I'd do a little work today on increasing the value of indicating the articles a little more strongly.

This morning, the wind was out of the north, which made it ideal for working in the hay field to the south of our property.  The first track I laid was a straight 300-400 foot leg with 12-15 articles dropped on it.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to use a leash instead of a long line, so it was not a very effective training session.  Willie downed when I told him to for each article, but unfortunately since I had no tension on the line, he turned and faced me first, covering the articles with his butt!

Then, I laid a 50 foot track for Belle using six articles and no line.  She was a very good girl--downing at my command at each article with her front legs on either side of them.  I came back out with Willie and tried two shorter tracks using a six foot leash instead of a long line, and I was really pleased with the result.  This time, he downed facing the articles!  Also, instead of tossing his reward to restart him tracking, I simply delivered it at the source (i.e., the article he was indicating), and then told him to track again.

Since we're expecting a winter storm tomorrow with strong winds, we went out one more time in the afternoon.  The winds were a little stronger and more variable.  I laid a 100 foot track with eight articles for the dogs to find.  Here's the video.  Interestingly, Belle did a better job orienting to the articles when she was off-lead this morning.  I can't wait for another mild day to see if this results in Willie giving a stronger article indication on a "normal" training track.

P.S.  12/29/2015  I laid a 300' track on the snow with two white articles.  Willie did a great job of finding them and he also brought them to me.  Bringing the article to me interrupts the flow of Willie remaining on track, so I think we will repeat Sunday's exercise a few times and see if I can get Willie to switch to downing for his article indication.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dogs Don't Generalize

Winter is here and we're not doing a lot of agility.  I was hoping to actually not do any agility for a month or two, but so far the nice mild weather keeps me going back out to the field with Willie.  We are taking a two-month break from trialing though.

I enrolled as an auditor in an online nose work class, I've been spending time every day working with Belle and Willie on the foundamentals.  One thing I really like about this class is that it tackles the dog's alert behavior from the beginning.

I'm also doing some tracking with Willie.  We hadn't done any in ages and it's not like I really know what I'm doing.  We're just out there to have fun.  Monday, I set a difficult track around one of the buildings on an abandoned campus.  Willie was absolutely awesome.  So Tuesday, I had my husband set up an easy track in the agility field and discovered DOGS DON'T GENERALIZE!  Willie was pretty clueless that if he followed Ed's track there were goodies to be had.

Since my husband is a very unwilling participant in tracking activities, I enlisted the aid of my grandnephew.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, we laid short, straight tracks in the field so that Willie would get the idea that it was possible to track someone other than Mom.  I had to resort to having Dakota drop hot dogs on the ground, but Willie did get the idea.

It's real windy today so, I took Willie, Dakota and Dakota's cousin, Shane, to the park where there is some shelter from the wind.  We warmed up by having Willie track a new person, Shane, and he nailed it!  Next, we went up (and I do mean up) into the woods, and I had Dakota lay a track with three articles, plus the second glove, and no food.  Will did a pretty good job with this track also.  He found all three articles, and did a good job of remaining on track until the last leg.  For some reason he kept going off the trail on the last leg.  Perhaps, the track was a little too long for him at this stage.  Or perhaps, the combination of wind and a downhill slope made this leg more difficult.  I did observe on Monday that the only spot on our track that gave Will a problem was when the tract went down a steep slope.