Monday, September 17, 2012

Trying Out Tracking

Early on in my career with dogs it became apparent that these awesome little furry creatures are much more scent oriented than I had ever anticipated. I didn't pay enough attention when I was merely a dog owner/guardian but as a trainer it was a clue that we could be using scent work for much more than we do.

I started integrating scent work into private sessions with fearful or aggressive dogs as well as in my Confidence Booster Program. Scent helps dogs calm down, explore and habitualize to new things in their environment and can also be an activity that reduces stress.

More and more training schools are now offering Nosework classes or Find It classes. There are some tracking or search and rescue groups around that owners can join. Unfortunately Nosework and Find it can only take you so far and the tracking/search and rescue groups both require an enormous time commitement on the part of the owner.

Where's Your Sit will be offering a Find It class that incorporates basic nosework skills and then beginner tracking outside (including laying out a trail and teaching your dog to follow it). We're going to organize this class in a handler friendly way. One dog will participate at a time (so reactive or dog aggressive dogs can participate too) and we'll teach you how to lay your track at home for practice in your neighbourhood.

What's the goal? To teach your dog self confidence, some useful tracking skills including finding a toy in the park, and introduce both you and your dog to the world of scent work.

My friend and fellow trainer Stephanie worked very hard with her young Golden Retriever in Search and Rescue for several years. She and I have started working with her dog Willow as well as my aussie Marco and GSP Ari. All three dogs are at very different levels and have different work ethics/temperaments.

Willow obviously had the most experience and was able to hook into using her nose to follow a trail quite quickly (this is different from air scenting which is what she had previously practiced). We were actually able to remove all food lures on the 4th trail (double laid, 10 yards).

Ari the little 4 month old pointer has always been a go getter and has an amazing nose. He picked up on the activity pretty quickly although needed short tracks due to a short attention span. He was very excited to be practicing this new skill.

Marco was the most challenging. He competes in rally obedience and agility. He's also taken his herding instinct test and Canine Good Neighbour test. He is use to A LOT of help from me and tends to wait for me to encourage him on what to do. Tracking was hard for him as he wasn't sure what to do. The great thing was he figured it out! Marco has always been very worried about being wrong (this shows up in agility for us all the time) so trying out tracking is good for his self confidence and independence. I'm very excited to see how all the different dogs who come to class learn how to handle the challenge.

And the best part? Both my boys were mentally exhausted after and took a long nap.

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