Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A new Tracking Dog!

Today has been quite successful. We all got up in the dark to head up to the Gnangara Pine Plantation for a tracking competition, it has already been one year that I have been involved in Trackwest. Maybe that was my good omen for the day.

When the sun decided to peek from the horizon, it was a stunning clear day. Could not have asked for a better day to attempt Blake's track 3! A dog must pass tracks 1, 2 and 3 to be deemed a Tracking Dog (TD), then tracks 4, 5 and 6 to be a Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), and finally the enormous track 7 to receive their championship. As you get further on, the tracks become more challenging.

For my track today, there was three corners and two articles (socks that the track layer had delibrately dropped). A track layer (unknown to Blake) walked the predetermined circuit and hid about 45min before we set off looking for her.

My Judge giving me a quick chat about the track, Blake is raring to go!

He started well and headed off in the right direction, then he dithered a little and didn't commit to the scent straight away. However, we were soon heading up the first leg - which was huge! A T3 is 800 metres long and I'm sure that most of that was on the first leg. We then came to the first corner and he mucked about. He overshot the corner, he told me that he'd lost the scent and then started arcing around trying to find the scent again. Unfortunately, this section was a bit scrubby and Blake did a great job of tangling me up in dead branches, grass trees and tree trunks.

He found the scent again and decided he didn't want to commit, so arced back towards me, in doing so he spotted the Judge, the steward and Jason. Of course that meant they needed a big bull terrier bum wag and wide grin. However, he indicated the track again and off we went.

Blake circling back so his adoring public can admire him.

He found the first sock and told me it was there very nicely, so he got a little game of tug with it. We continued down the track towards a fallen tree, which he jumped over, then told me the track wasn't there. Of course, in doing so he tangled the lead in the tree trunk. Once untangled, I cast him around me and he picked up that the 'lost' person headed down to the right. The next article (sock) was not too far from that corner, which he indicated beautifully again. When you are on an unflagged track, those socks are such a welcome sight!

The third corner he went right around to the left with no concerns - perfect! By this stage I could see that he was getting a little foamy around the gums and he'd need a drink soon, I chose not to stop him as he was really powering, he knew he was close to the end.

By this stage, I had forgotten how many corners we'd done, I thought we needed to go a little further and there was a fence right in front of us - either a left or a right hand turn. But wait! Blake's hips and tail are going, he'd found the tracklayer! She was tucked in behind a bush on the right. What a good boy!

Tracking gradings go as follows: fail, pass, good, very good and excellent. Blake was graded 'very good' for this track. He has now completed 1, 2 and 3, and the paperwork for his title is ready to be posted,

Blake TD - I like the sound of that!

Monday, 4 July 2011

The last few weeks have been quite busy with five different trials in two different dogs sports in the last fortnight. Joc had his first run in Masters Jumping (JDM) at the Gosnells Obedience Dog Club trial on the 25th June. Silly me forgot I was in JDM and not Excellent Jumping (JDX) anymore. I'm happily walking the JDX course after helping set it up, then realise I'm walking the wrong course - but not only that masters is already running, oops.

So I dash over to JDM to try and study my first masters course by watching the other competitors run their dog. Thankfully, it was quite a flowing course and most people ran it a similar way. So, I quickly assessed how I was to do my run when they were changing the heights of the jumps.

What did I learn from this attempt? Walk the correct course and invest in turf shoes. Joc was doing beautifully, then I tried to execute a rear cross and skidded on the slippery ground (winter condition and a grass surface). This sent Joc way off, and resulted in him quickly checking out the steward's table on the way past just in case he could get a treat or a pat from them. I got him back quickly enough to only run more cautiously and pull him off a jump. He did exactly what my body language told him, so I was happy with what he gave me.

The previous week I slipped when doing a rear cross on fell on my bum! Joc run over to me, gave me a kiss, then took off to check out the canteen which was on the other side of the rope. Hmm, there seems to be a pattern forming. Note to self, invest in turf shoes.

                                         Photo credit to Jonny Walks
The next week at the Shetland Sheepdog trial we did very well, maybe it was the new turf shoes. Joc got a 2nd place in Excellent Agility (ADX) and a 3rd place in Open Jumping (JDO). I've only been competing with him in JDO for the last few months, so I was VERY pleased with him. He even got the distance challenge in open agility (ADO) and the discrimination obstacles, but his contacts let him down. Or rather, my training of his contacts let him down.

Enough of agility, onto tracking! My "old boy" Blake passed his Track 2 in tracking. In a track 2, a dog must follow the 30 minute old scent trail of a known person over the distance of 800m, normally with two corners. My lovely husband was Blake's known person and Blake indicated his two articles very well.

When the track layer leaves the scent trail, they must also drop a predetermined number of socks at set locations and the dog must tell the handler where the sock was dropped. Blake amused me with his second article, he picks it up, prances with it (look what I found mum!) brings it over and we had a little game of tug. Good boy!!

After the second article another corner presents, Blake showed me the right spot first, but then we got tangled in a large fallen tree branch. So we muck around there for a bit before he shows me the right path again. So, we are now heading in the direction of a big fenceline towards a main road, so there is only so far we can go in a straight line and I am starting to worry - Blake was tracking well, his head was down and was giving me no indication he had lost the scent trail, but the fence!! I breathe a sigh of relief as we start to curve around and track parallel to the fenceline and road.

We power on, I am now scanning for likely places for Jason to be hiding. There are some lovely big dead fallen trees that would make perfect hiding spots, we pass two or three of them - no Jason. I found out later that the Judge had though of ending the trail there but was 100 metres short. So, we powered on again. Finally, behind a innocuous Pine tree there we find my lovely husband - hooray! I never tire of that big bum wag that Blake gives when he has found his 'lost' person.

He passed with a grading of 'very good', he would have received a grading of excellent had my handling been better. However, I was used to Blake working the edge of the scent plume, but his time he was working the footsteps - clever dog and naughty handler for not recognising it. I was very pleased with him. I am very lucky to have a natural tracker as my first tracking dog.