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.