(Please visit Dino's on-going blog at: http://dinostraining.blogspot.com/)

(Please visit Dino's on-going blog at: http://dinostraining.blogspot.com/)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 28, 2008

I have one more post to catch up on for a track I did with Dino a couple of weeks ago, but I have had to not do a lot of tracking training with Dino in the past couple of weeks. I had to spend a couple of weeks finishing my book to send to the editor. That is called "Renting with Rex." The website is www.rentingwithrex.com. The blog is www.rentingwithrex.blogspot.com. I finally did that today so I can start some more tracking training. Plus, it has been raining and snowing non-stop for over two weeks. Tough to want to get out in that weather. It has been so frigging cold. But that is also good practice for the both of us, so really no excuses.

I ordered Ed Presnalls's "Mastering Variable Surface Tracking: The Componet Training Approach" (book and workbook. I am looking forward to getting that. I think that is best to focus my training on VST with Dino. If he can master that, he can do any location.

Onto 2009. Should be a great year. Lots to look forward to!

I would like to mention that Donna lost Loki on Christmas Day to an accident, which she has not explained yet. What a big loss. He was a great dog with a lot of training and experience behind them. Donna needs to figure out what she is going to do without a dual purpose search dog. She has Anubis, but he is only cat detection. I don't envy her position at all. I don't know what I would do if I no longer had Dino. Way to tough to suddenly go through that. Way to young. Dogs shouldn't die young. Their lives are too short anyway, even if they die of old age.

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 14, 2008 From Discussion on PetHunters Yahoo Group List

December 15, 2008

Very good ideas. I like the three second rule, especially in training to give the dog a chance to check things out and explore, and to give him the benefit of the doubt during a case. I have been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt since the has the nose and I don't, and that is why I am training him for this work. He has skills I don't have. I want to build the trust I will need to give him eventually on casesHowever, when he pees on a bush or goes to visit somebody who, he feels, might have food, I use "get to work," in a firm voice, which I got from Donna. Thank you very much for your feedback. I appreciate your time.

Jackie Phillips

December 15, 2008

Hi Jackie,

Larry Allen told me when I was working Buck that he uses the three second rule. (this was a lot of years ago so he may have changed since.) He made a good argument for it.
It is consistent so hopefully the dog will develop it as a pattern
you can use it on searches or training
you want the dog to maintain momentum
you don't know what the dog is smelling it could be something bad for the dog. He used fertilizer as an example that you would not want your dog sniffing.
My friend Lisa Harper worked with some folks and came back with the take home lesson that you should not let them stop at all. They told her to use a zero second rule.
I think you want to do what works for you and your dog and the situation. For example if I am at training and the dog is off the track I probably will not give her the whole three minutes to process. Likewise if we are looking for a track or working a cat and she suddenly decides to visit the local fire hydrant she gets zero seconds to process. On the other hand if we are running a track suddenly the dog hooks and stops to sniff something I give her a few seconds check the area visually and / or ask my walker to check the are area carefully we have found some nice clues that way.

Training is the time to experiment with what works for you and your dog. Be consistent with what you are doing and monitor the results.


December 14, 2008

I like that idea. I need to remember that we are both learning this. I have tried to keep the tracks at an hour old, and I have tried to just work on one thing at a time, like indicating that there is no scent, which is our current project. I may need to go back down to shorter times and shorter tracks. Thanks for the reminder. Thanks for the feedback.
Jackie Phillips

December 14, 2008


I'm not very experienced with dog training as Dakota and Montana are the first dogs that I EVER had in my life...So I have done a lot of stumbling along the way. But here is what worked for me when Monty was getting distracted. I simply went back to short fresh trails to remind him what he was supposed to focus on...it worked for Monty and I.
Now when he get on the scent he gives me a bark that says to me "I got it Mommy....it is this way!"

Some of the more experienced trainers may have better suggestions...but I hope you find this helpful or at least encouraging.


From: Jackie Phillips
To: pethunters@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 3:28 AM
Subject: [pethunters] Training Question

OK, I have a training question. And this may apply to both training and actually working a dog on a case.OK, first in training, when you know where the scent is. Say you walked the dog laying the scent along a path or sidewalk and off the path are various parking lots, yards, etc. How much time do you allow a dog to check out each of these areas before you pull him back to the track. Since you know the scent is not there. Several minutes? Or do you not pull him back at all? In a real case, you won't know where the animal went, and you want to encourage the dog to check all these areas thoroughly. On a real case, you would allow the dog to check the area for as long as they choose, or until they give the indication of no scent. How does that translate to training when you know where the scent is? Dino is real good about checking various areas along the track, and I don't want to discourage him from this at all. But he is also easily distracted, so I don't know how much time to give him to check out all these areas and try to keep his focus. Does this improve with his maturity on tracking?Thanks.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wednesday, December 9, 2008

Lowden Park, Weaverville. Weather was clear and cold. Started walking Dot around 3:30 PM. Many people in the park including a couple of loose dogs in the playground.

I walked Dot around the back corner, near the fencing and then out to the street. We crossed the street, walked down the sidewalk and then crossed again back toward another opening into the park. This part I thought might be tough for Dino because this spot goes off into three directions. We took the turn to the right, around the baseball diamond and then through a gate, into the field, across the field and then back out and through another smaller park. The car was off the the left in another parking lot.

I put Dot into the car and then I took Scout out and walked her on a cross track across Dot track just coming out of the baseball diamond. We walked around a bit in that area, and then we walked back again across the same track and back to the car.

I waited about another 15 to 20 minutes so the track would be about an hour old. I took Dino out, put on his harness, got his bag of treats and his rawhide bone. We walked another way into the park not near Dot's way into the park. We came across Dot's track, I showed him the scent pad, said "Take Scent" and "Search." He lifted up his head just barely and then put his head down and immediately started searching. He followed the track along side the wall up to the open field. Prior to getting to the field, he went into the fenced field about 15 feet, stopped, turned around and came back to me. I had him sit and clicked and treated because I felt he indicated on his own that there was no scent in that area. I said "check" and pointed to the ground, and he followed the scent as it continued around the outside of the fenced field.

He followed the scent into a completely enclosed pitching practice area. It was small, and he got to the end and turned around on his own and went back out without a hesitation. I thought about clicking and treating but I didn't want to distract him. He went back out to the open field and there he seemed to get confused which way. He started to back track and then came back to me and looked up at me. I said "check" as I pointed to the ground. It took him a couple of times before he picked up the scent again. he followed it around the fencing of the park. Toward the end of the park where there was a left turn to go out onto the street, there was a man walking a large German Shepherd off leash and Dino became very distracted. I don't know if he wanted to play with the dog, or if he was concerned that the dog was off-leash and running around. Since I didn't know what the man was going to do, I took Dino a bit further up closer to the fence and said "check" to give him something to focus on. The man walked the dog away from us in the direction we just came. Dino had a tough time getting back on the track in this area. He kept going off in a direction I knew the scent was not. I brought him back to where I knew it was and said "check." Finally, he got the scent on the way up to the opening to the street. He seemed very focus again. Then the man with the GS came back in our direction inside the park, and Dino lost focus again. He missed the turn off the sidewalk and across the street. I had to bring him back a couple of times to where the scent was and restart him. Finally, I just brought him across the street and said "check" and he picked up the scent.

He seemed very focused along the sidewalk, and he "check" several spots along the way and then came back to the sidewalk. Then he went right past the spot where we turned to go back across the street. I let him go around 15 feet, and then brought him back. Just before the turn to go across the street, Dino stood still and turned his head and body toward the park just at the spot where I had crossed with Dot. I was ecstatic. I clicked and treated and praised the hell out of him. He seemed pretty happy. We went across the street back to the park.

He followed the track back into the park around a set of restrooms to the right side. This is where the footpath goes in three directions that I noted earlier. He didn't want to go to the left, but he was insistent to go further, which was a concrete set of bleacher seats. I had to stop him at the end of the leash about three times. I couldn't click and treat because he wasn't indicating that the scent was ending. I brought him back to the spot into the park and tried it about three times. He seemed confused which way to go. I told him "check" as I pointed at the ground. He was going around and around. Finally after a couple of minutes, he got the right directions. I verbally praised him.

He got the track into the baseball diamond, across the field and back out. At this point, he could see the truck and started to go toward it, which I thought he might do. I brought him back to just outside the field and said "check." He picked up the scent as it went straight, through a smaller park and picnic area and he got the left turn to go back out to the parking lot. He got lost just inside the gate. I brought him back and said "check" and then he got it out the gate and toward the truck. I let the long line go, as he ran to the truck. He ran back to me and then ran to the truck. When I got there, I had him down (his signal when he finds the scent source) and I gave him his treat bag and played with this rawhide for several minutes.

I think what I will do from now on is to open up the truck and make him go into the truck to where either Dot or Scout are to go actually to the scent and show the animal, not just the truck. He may get confused that he is going to the truck and not the animal down the road.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weather was clear, sunny, no breeze and a bit chilly. Ground was dry. Area is surburban residential combo with some sidewalks and some areas with no sidewalks. Houses and buildings are right along the edge of the street. I specifically wanted to work on spots where Dino would run out of scent and train him on that area. Time was around 11:30 AM.

I had John walk Dot along the edge of the street where there weren't any sidewalks. I had him walk up a private driveway, stop at the top and then turn around and walk back towards me. I had John walk along the edge of the next building and around the edge of the small parking lot and back out to the sidewalk. Then he walked along the edge of the next building, which let out to the main street. We made a right at the corner and walked along the main street. At the end of the street the corner had a paved parking lot. I had John walk Dot diagonal across the parking lot to the next street. We made a right up the street. About 50 feet up the street, I had John stop with Dot and we talked for a few minutes, standing in the same spot. I wanted to see how Dino would respond to a scent pool. We continued up the street, which had no sidewalks.

There were a couple of short driveways along the way, and I had John walk Dot up the driveway, stop and then walk back. At the next corner, we walked diagonal across the paved parking lot to the next street. We then crossed the street to a sidewalk that walked along Lowden park. We walked all along the side of the park, a distance of half a city block. At the next corner, we crossed the street, staying on the same side.

At the next driveway, I had John walk up the driveway to the corner of the garage and walk back to me. I saw a cat sitting next to the front door of this house. I wanted to keep in mind if Dino would pick that cat's scent up.

We walked down the street back to the car. Along this street there are several fenced front yards with loose dogs. They were barking at Dot as we walked by. See Dot's blog on that training session. We got back to the car. I had intended to take Dino out and work him on the track, but we had to make a quick restroom break first. We got back to the same spot about 1/2 hour later.

Started track with Dino about 12:45 PM. I put his harness on and got his treat bag and rawhide bone and started up the street. I walked up first the driveway that was the first dead end of scent. Dino walked past where the scent was and kept going toward another field. The property owner came out to ask me what I was doing. I was trying to describe the training I was doing with Dino, but he couldn't understand. He kept saying "I hope you find the lost animal you are trying to find." I did click and treat Dino as I saw him stop and come back to me and sit in front of me showing there was no scent. We walked down the driveway and made a right toward the main street.

He got the scent that followed around the edge of the next parking lot and he came back out and followed the scent in between the poles back out to the street. We walked past the next building, which was on the corner of the street we were on and Main Street. There was a woman sitting just outside the store's door that was also there when John and Dot walked past earlier. I told her what Dino was doing. She said, "For real! That is cool!"

We made the right turn onto Main Street. I was trying to practice in areas of what to do when there was no scent. I would intentionally have Dino "check" areas that I knew had no scent, and then I would have him come and sit in front of me, training him that his indication was to do that when there was no scent.

We walked down the street, and I had him "check" different spots. He got the "around the trees" out in front of the auto parts place. He definitely was following the dog scent and not my scent.

When we got to the corner, he followed the scent into the parking lot and he started to go into their back lot, which had no scent. He did seem to slow down a bit and seemed a bit unsure what to do. I had him come back and sit in front of me and I clicked and treated. I would like to see on his part somehow that something has changed, liking lifting his head, a searching for the scent back and forth in order for him to understand that something has changed in order for me to click and treat. I don't want to click and treat if he keeps going and I have to stop him and take him back. That is not an indication that something has changed.

I walked him back out to the sidewalk where the scent was and said "check" and he followed the track diagnonally across the parking lot and to the street. He made the right turn onto the next side street. He followed the scent up the street and then made a sharp right turn into a type of loading dock. He walked up the short set of stairs and then came back. I clicked and treated. An employee of the gas station on that corner asked what we were doing and I explained Dino's training. She thought that was "a great idea."

Dino continued on his own up the street and went right past the scent pool without a hesitation. There were a lot of ins and outs along this street. The buildings were various distances from the street, so Dino was going around and in and out of the yards checking everything. When we got to the lumber mill when I had John go up a driveway and then come back, Dino went up the driveway and kept going past the spot, and then started check the buildings in the immediate area like he had lost the scent. I had him come back to me and sit and I clicked and treated. We went back to the spot where John had stopped and said "check" and Dino started back down the driveway toward the street.

He made the right turn back on the street and continued the scent along the edge of the building and then made a right turn into another driveway of the same lumber business, which John and Dot did not go. He was checking along the buildings. I didn't stop him or reset him because the scent could have easily floated that way. He did follow into the yard with pretty good enthusiasm so I couldn't click and treat. I brought him back outside the yard and said "check" as I pointed toward the pavement and he followed the scent alongside the building of the lumber yard and continued up the street. There was another driveway and parking lot of this same lumber yard a bit further up. Again, he went into it sniffing around. I don't want to discourage him from checking things. However, since it is a private place, I can't really encourage him and allow him to sniff all over the place where there isn't any scent. I did bring him back out to the sidewalk and said "check" and he followed the scent along the sidewalk. I think I will allow him to check an area maybe for a few minutes at a time and if he doesn't find anything, then bring him back out. I am not sure. Maybe I will post a question to the Yahoo group.

He continued up the street, which was a semi busy street with sidewalks. He got the right turn diagonally through the parking lot. However, he then missed the left turn across the street to the park. Instead, he kept going straight toward a Scout House. He made a right turn into the back of the Scout House and around the back. He then found an old pudding cup and started to eat it. I quickly pulled him back. I brought him back to the spot he got crossing the parking lot. This time he got the left turn across the street toward the park.

He followed the track all along the sidewalk along the park. He crossed the street on the same side and walked right past the house where John walked up the driveway and where the cat was sitting. I didn't see the cat this time. He followed the track down the street, past the houses with the barking dogs and straight to the car. He got the treat bag and I played with the rawhide toy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

From a Discussion on PetHunters Yahoo Group, November 22, 2008

----- Original Message -----
From: Jackie Phillips
To: pethunters@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 11:43 PM
Subject: [pethunters] Training Question

OK, I have a training question. I will admit, that I haven't checked Kat's book to see if this is in there, but I am not at home right now, and I wanted to post this to group before I forgot or got distracted by other things. I promise I will check Kat's book when I get home later tonight.

I have taught Dino a specific alert when he finds a cat. I have taught him to run back and jump on me with his front feet. I say "Show Me" and he runs back and jumps on me with his front feet. I have found myself using this same indication when he runs out of scent (if he has made a wrong turn) to tell me he has discovered this. I say "show me" and he runs back and jumps on me. Should I have different indications he makes to me for different things? What might be the different indications I would run into (for example, running out of scent, finding a cat, finding something else)? What other indications do people use for their dogs to tell them different things? I didn't want to try relying on me reading his body language. I want to use very specific indications he makes to me with all the different things we will come across.

Thanks. Jackie

Victor Totis wrote:

Hey Jackie

The short rule when your are teaching dogs is that you can have as many cues (word, body language, equipment, etc) that represents a single behavior but only one behavior per cue. For example people often use "down" to mean lay on the ground, stop jumping on me, stop jumping on company, get off the couch, get off the counter etc. It is not fair to the dog nor is it a very efficient way to communicate with your dog, and it usually becomes a training nightmare resulting in dogs that choose to do "None of the above." So from a working the dog standpoint yes you can have many things become the triggers for the dog to come back and jump on you. Having said all that I would not do that with my dogs. 1) I want the trained indication to ONLY mean that the dog has found the strongest source of scent of the target odor and worked it to the source. That way, me the handler is not confused about what my dog is telling me. If my dog works to a gate or door or hole in the ground and lays down I can have some confidence that my dog believes that the source is there. 2) If my dog finds the wrong thing and shows interest in a clump of fur or the wrong cat or whatever w/o the trained indication I know it is probably not the animal we are looking for. (Not that I don't walk up and look good an hard and poke at it and just confirm that for myself every time.) 3) If the dog looses the track I try to shape a natural behavior stronger so I turn that cue which may be difficult to read into something less subtle. For example if the dog naturally slows down or lifts her head when she gets out of scent I might praise her and encourage her to stop and look at me. Until I get a dog that stops and turns and that look says "we need to go back and find the trail". Along those lines it may also be telling me that I need to step up to the plate think about what I am seeing and help to get her nose back into the right place. Just the way my dogs and I try to work together nothing is written in stone others on the list may have different ideas/opinions.

Laura Totis

Laura put it pretty well. I have Loki trained (theoretically) for a jump-alert when he finds "that specific" scent source--whether that be the live animal or a scent article. He does a return-sit (and nose-poke at the treat bag) for a negative trail indication. We're switching to a stay-sit for cadaver. Those were all his natural responses, and I'm encouraging them. When he loses scent, he hesitates and looks at me--so I'm encouraging him to come back. When he finds cadaver, he actually doesn't like it, so he kind of stops and "loiters". Anubis has different alerts--he has the "pull mommy on her face" alert when he finds a cat, and the "eat it" alert for cadaver. ;-) OK, he's *supposed* to have a sit for cats and a touch-touch alert for cadaver, and he does sometimes, when he's not too busy pulling me down and/or tasting (ewww).We train for perfection, so that when we're in reality, if we get 50% we're doing OK. Do I always, every single time, get those alerts? No. The other day, I was out looking for a cat, and we found five others, plus a dead mouse part and a spot on the street where a squirrel had been hit (a small amount of squirrel fur in the spot), but not the owner's cat. Anubis found one cat from across the street (we were knocking on a door to check a yard, and he pinpointed it across the street, up the driveway, and at the corner of the house...in the dark!). I read his body language on that one--his radar-dish ears swivelled around, he turned into a doggy-statue, and I knew he'd seen/smelled something. Another cat, we were walking by a car, and both dogs tried to make like rabbits and dive underneath. Sure enough, a cat was under there. So I didn't get the "trained" responses, but we still found all five other cats!On a more complicated case--let's take the case of the cat-daver I found along with two others a month or so ago, in the middle of the woods. For something like that, you do need a clear response for each indication. If she was an indoor cat, we'd have wanted to try and follow a trail to get a direction to start the area search. I'd want to be pretty clear when Loki was telling me that her scent stopped, vs that he smelled "live kitty" somewhere nearby, because that would be two very different responses from me. One would set a perimeter of search, the other would set a *target area* of search. Then, when we're searching, and we hit a "hotspot," I definitely want the dogs to be able to tell me, are we looking at a spot under a bush where a coyote has had a dinner, and there's blood I can't see (sit or touch-touch), or are we looking at a spot where that cat was sitting 10 minutes ago, and the scent source is still so strong that it may as well still be there (jump)?So, like Laura said, there's no "rules" on how to do it, but there are things that work better for simple reasons... :-)


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

November 18, 2008

Day was clear and sunny, approximately 11 AM. Track is layed in a surburban location with a combination of sidewalks, no sidewalks, parks, busy streets with heavy foot and vehicle traffic on one side, open parking lots on the edges of parks, empty lots.

I had John walk Dot down a side street with no sidewalks. Regular foot traffic from the main street to a park. I walked on the opposite of the street, directing John where to walk. I had him walk to the end of the street, cross the street and make a right away from the park and along the edge of an empty parking lot. I then had him cross the paved parking lot to the other side. I had him make a left when he reached the edge of the lot and continue along the side of the parking lot. Along the side of the parking lot is open space, green grass and trees. He continued to the end of the lot and then crossed the lot again to a wooden bus stop. He walked past the bus stop and made a right in front of it and continue along side the edge of the parking lot, now a driveway leading out to the street. I had John walk toward a large wooden gate that led into an open space and then walk away from the gate and go back along the same paved street that led out to the main street.

Before we got to the main street, I had John take a left into a parking lot of a retail store. We walked down to the end of the lot and then made a right turn and another right turn back out to the main street. We headed back down the main street, back in the direction of the car.

The main street is heavy vehicle and foot traffic with retail stores on the right side and a sidewalk. I walked as far to the left as I could without walking in traffic. We walked all the way back to the car, crossed the street again and back to the car. John sat in the car while he read his paper and I put Dot back in and got Dino out.

I got out Dino's treat bag, his rawhide toy and put on his harness. Instead of going down the track that John and Dot started on, I took Dino to the park at the end of the street and make a left into the park and walked him around a bit to get him distracted from the track. We walked back out to the street to where the track was. I walked Dino back up the street a bit, crossed over and then we were on top of the track that John and Dot put down. I walked a few more steps and then I showed Dino the scent pad, said "take scent", he reached for it to sniff it, and said "search." He immediately put down his head and started looking.

Instead of following the track down the side of the street where I knew it was, he went off to the right side and headed toward the parking lot. I thought about restarting him, but I decided not to. I wanted to see what he was following. He walked through some short grassy weeds and back out to the parking lot. He followed the parking lot along the right side and eventually came to the the point where John has crossed over from left to right. He was on the right track. I was totally thrilled. I am glad I didn't restart him. He followed the edge of the lot all the way, crossed the lot to the wooden bus stop, check the inside of the bus stop and came back out to continue down the driveway. He found the track leading up to the wooden door/gate and then came back out to the street. He was "checking" spots here and there and I praised him. He followed the driveway out to the street, missing the side parking lot leading to the retail store. Now, I bet he was smelling the scent from the street after John and Dot walked back down the main street, but I wanted to show Dino that the scent was also someplace else. I took him back to the parking lot and said "check" as I pointed to the ground. He picked up the scent in the lot and followed it to the top of the lot, but he had his head raised and was visually checking around, not with his nose to the ground like other times. He followed the scent to the top and out the parking lot, but he made a left instead of a right. I didn't say anything and I let him keep going. He stopped on his own about 50 feet ahead. He head came up and he stopped and looked around. There is where I want to add a new cue for him that I want to teach him. I want to teach him a new indication that he has run out of scent, like a sit or a down. I haven't decided, but it is so common, that I definitely needs a clear signal.

I said "Let's go" and we headed back to the lot where he was correct. I said "check" and pointed to the ground. This time he went up onto the grass in front of the store and then came back toward the lot and the street. He made the right turn in the correct direction this time and was back on Main Street.

All the way down the street, back to the car, I had him "check" areas off to the side like stairs and driveways and any nooks and crannies along the way. I want him to notice the difference of where the trail is and is not. And that is OK to check these areas to be sure it is not there. He seemed to really like this and be very confident. He walked all the way back to the car, crossed the street, but he kept going along the sidewalk past the car. When he was about 20 feet past the car, I brought him back to the corner where the track changed. I said "check" and pointed at the ground. He picked up the track again on a path through some bushes and back to the car. He did something I had not seen him do before. He checked a couple of cars along the way and walked past them and then got to my car. I was really glad he did that. I think I will practice that more often, having him check cars. I have not done a lot of that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 14, 2008

Clear, sunny, cold, dry morning around 11:30 AM. Breeze was very light. Neighborhood is a combination of rural and surburban with a major highway/throughfare on one side and a large empty lot with a house in the back on another. Car was parked on one of the corners of the block.

I had John walk Dot down the short side street away from the car and toward Main Street. At the corner we made a right. I was walking in the street on the side streets with no sidewalks or as far to the left on the main streets with sidewalks and trees and cars in the street.

The Main Street is heavily traveled with cars, semis, RV's and a lot of foot traffic. Along the right is house and businesses with fences right up to the sidewalk. Every house had a fence. We walked up the street and then when we came to a business with a parking lot around the back, I had John walk Dot close to the fence that borders along the back of the lot. There was a large dog tied to a chain barking at us, so we cut from the fence back to the building along the other side. We walked back toward the sidewalk and Main Street. We continued up the street and when we came to the bank, we cut through the parking lot and I had John go diagonal through the lot while I stayed far off the the right. He crossed the lot and then crossed a small concrete barrier with plants and then made a right back out to the side walk and then made a right back in the direction of the car. There were no sidewalks on this street, so I had John walk close to the edge of the street. Then I had him cross the street in my direction, around a power pole and back out to the street, staying on this side while I crossed back over. A little further down, I had John cross back across the street and I went to the other side. John and Dot walked all the way down the street back to the car.

I put Dot into the car and John sat in the car to read his paper. I took Dino out and put on his harness, got his bag of treats and his rawhide bone.

Started Dino at 11:50 AM. I walked with Dino in the opposite direction to go around another block and hit the trail from another direction. We walked around the block and when we hit the location of the corner where John and Dot made the right hand turn onto Main Street from the side street, a few feet before, I told Dino "Ready, Ready, Ready" to get his attention that something was going to happen to get his attention. He was focused on me. I showed him the scent pad and said "Take Scent" and he reached out the sniff and then I said "Search." He immediately put down his head and started looking. He followed the trail up the street. I thought he might catch the scent of the the cat that lives on the corner, but he went right past it.

When we got to the parking lot with the fence that goes behind a business, he made the turn right away and followed it all the way around (no barking dog on a chain this time), and he got the left diagonal back to the side of the building and back to the street. He followed it up the street again. I remember him checking nooks and cranies along the way and I would say "good check." When we got to the bank, he made the right turn, but he went the direction of my track instead which was along the side of the bank, instead of John's which was along the building on the other side of the driveway. I thought about leaving him alone, maybe thinking he was following parts of John and Dot's scent. But then I called him and he came back in my direction. I said "check" as I pointed at the driveway where John and Dot walked. He followed the trail up the driveway and then along the back of the building instead of diagonal. This time I didn't restart him and he followed it back up along the parking lot in the correct direction.

At this point, he got a little confused, and when I saw what I did, I don't blame him. Instead of crossing the small concrete barriers that John walked over, Dino wanted to go straight to the sidewalk. At first I called him back not seeing my mistake. I brought him back to the middle of the parking lot where he was correct and had him going again through the parking lot to the street. He still went straight for the street instead of crossing the concrete barriers. I noticed what he was doing. He was picking up the scent from when John and Dot had made a right back onto the street which went in front of him, though about 50 feet ahead of him. This time I didn't restart him and let him go to the street and praised him. He made the right turn back down the street toward the car.

Instead of being on the left side of the street where John and Dot walked, he walked on the right side where I walked. I didn't correct him because the street was narrow, barely enough for two cars to pass with no parking on either side, so I figured he easily could have been picking up the scent that blew to the other side.

I did walk right past the power power (which had a U shaped driveway around it, and this time I called him back to a spot before the short U around the power pole and said "check" as I pointed at the ground, and he started again onto the driveway, checking various spots around the edge of the gravel driveway. He came back to the top of the driveway and back onto the street again and made the right turn back to the car.

He crossed the street on his own, which is the side that John and Dot were walking on. He was checking various nooks and crannies along the way with me praising him.

Instead of going straight to the car, he made the right turn back down the side street and back to Main Street. Of course, I didn't restart him since that was the way that John and Dot walked. I followed him down to Main Street and he made a left turn where there wasn't any scent. I let him go as far as he wanted to (about one house distance) before he stopped on his own. I said "Show Me" and he came back and jumped on me with his front paws. At this point, I think I need to distiguish between running out of scent or no scent and another indication. But I didn't do anything different with him, I was thinking this to myself.

I did repeat "Search" since we had not found Dot yet. I did see him glance in the direction of the right turn back out onto Main, but then he went in the direction of the car. He walked up the the car, sniffed the side and then jumped with his front feet onto the bumper of the car. I praised him and then gave him his back of treats and played with his rawhide.

The time was about 12:40 AM, about an hour since the start of when John and Dot walked by. I was pretty happy with this. He was very focused and got very little distracted by his environment which he has done in the past. I have stopped clicking and treating during the track and he remains very focused. I think that worked best during the inital training, but now verbal praise is good and the treats and toys at the end since he now seems to understand cleared what he is doing. I will put a post onto the PetHunters Yahoo group asking about the different indications people use for "cats", "end of scent" and "anything else".

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November 14, 2008

Time was about 11:30 AM. Weather was sunny, clear and dry. I had John walk Dot around a neighborhood block. I walked to the far right as I could, closest to the street, away from John and Dot who were closer to the houses and businesses on the inside of the block.

The first leg of the block was on the busy main street with a full sidewalk of about four feet wide. I had them walk almost down to the end of the block. There was a gas station on the corner, and I had him take the driveway just before the gas station which led down to another business behind the gas station and then which led out to the side street. If we had made a right turn just after the gas station, we this same street would be to my left. We walked past the other business on this side street and then down past several houses. The sidewalk did not continue. There was no sidewalk, just a thin, gravel path about two feet wide that led down in front of all the house. At the street at the end we made a right, staying on the same side. We walked all the way down to the end of the block, close to where my truck was parked with Dino. The sidewalk was still a dirt and gravel path with fenced yards on the right and a strip of grass about three feet wide on the left. To the left of the grass was the road, which is a medium traffic residential road.

I had John sit back into the car and I put Dot back into her crate in the truck. I took Dino out, put on his harness, got his treat bag and rawhide bone. I wanted to take Dino away from his focus on the car, so I walked in the opposite direction, crossed the street and walked back up the street. Across from the gas station, I crossed the street again and walked down the side road with no sidewalks. We walked just past the gas station to where the scent track started. I took out the scent pad, said "take scent" and Dino reached up to sniff the paper towel. I said "search" and he immediately put his head down and started looking. He started on the track right away. He followed it straight down to the end of the street and made the right turn. I noticed him doing "checks" along the way, and I would praise him verbally in a light voice so as not to distract him. Down this leg we had some light trouble because three dogs behind their fences raised a huge ruckus when we walked by. I told Dino "leave it" and kept moving along. I had to tell him a few more times because the yard and fencing was about the length of two houses. He did keep going and tried to focus. Once we got past the house, I praised him for "leaving" and told him "search" to refocus him on the track. A person who walked by while this was happening said "He did good there." I said "thank you" because I thought he did really good.

On a couple of gates all the way down this street he would stop and look up at me. He didn't go further inside, just stopped and looked at me. At one house, I saw a cat in the window, so I figured he was smelling cats in those yards. I didn't say anything but "search." He continued down the street, all the way down and crossed the street a bit early from where John and Dot crossed. He may have seen the truck, so I brought him back to the sidewalk and where the track was and said "check. " He continued down the sidewalk and crossed again just about four feet early. He ran to the car, put his front feet on the rear bumper and then ran back to me, jumping on me with this front feet. I gave him his bag of treats and played with this rawhide.

The distance was still pretty short and the age was only less than an hour. He was doing something still new which was having a second scent with the other person walking the dog and my scent nearby. That is all new to him. I want to test his abilities on VST and see where he is and where he needs improvement. I would say I can slowly increase the age of the track and slowly increase the distance. But I will do this slowly since he is still very distractable and I want this to be only positive and fun. Since this is my first tracking/trailing dog, I want to have a chance to evaluated each performance to try a lot of different things to see what works with him and what doesn't. This is very experimental, especially since I am doing this alone. I want to study more VST books to see what I can pick up.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 13, 2008

It was around 10 AM. Weather was clear and sunny. I had John walk Dot around the Tops shopping center before we went to lunch. I told John not to walk near me so my scent would not mix much with his scent and Dot's. We walked down the middle of the parking lot with him walking through the base of the trees. Then we walked past a semi parked and then past another truck and then straight toward the end of the parking lot. He walked through some concrete planters and then toward the end of the lot. He walked behind a stack of bags on pallets of potting soil and then he followed all along the end edge of the parking lot which borders on the edge of an open space with grass. He walked all the way behind the entire center, which is an outdoor strip mall. Then we walked out to the sidewalk and made a right back in the direction of the car. The total time to walk the center was about 15 minutes. I put Dot back into the car and then went to breakfast.

About an hour later we came back to the same spot. I parked the car in the same spot because that is where the track it, plus it is a secluded spot so Dino can't see the car from the track, which has triggered an early run to the car in the past. I put on his harness, treat bag and rawhide bone.

He had a difficult time starting and find the track. Later I figured a few things. Either he was still too close to the car so it was confusing that he knew where Dot was. Or the parking lot where we started had so much traffic that it was too difficult for him since we had not had too much experience on VST. Too much time had elapsed for his level. Or he was very distracted by all the activity in the parking lot: all the people walking around, all the dogs barking and walking around. I think it may have been all of the above. I would like to come back to this spot and specifically work on this parking lot and subsequently walking in front of all the stores, which has more traffic. That would be a good track all by itself.

So I continued to tell Dino "Search" as we walked along the track and telling him "check" along the way and pointing at the ground where I knew the scent was. I did not rescent him on the scent pad. I knew he had the scent. He just couldn't find it or was too distracted. I kept walking along to where the semi had been parked. In this location, the traffic was dying down a bit, but still a bit heavy. He did seem to be looking and searching for something, but not dead on it yet. As we got closer to the edge of the lot and the open space, he seemed to be more focused. Once he got to the pallet of potting soil he seemed to be following something. He continued on the track all the way along the edge of the lot. He got the change behind all the stores from where I had John walk from the edge of the lot to a chain link fence along a loading zone. He followed the track along the outside of the delivery truck that was still parked in the same area. He followed the track straight out to the sidewalk and he made the right turn back toward the car. He followed it all the way to where the car was parked. He jumped on the car with his front feet and then ran back to me and jumped on me. I gave him his bag of treats and played with the rawhide.

By the time we got back to the car, it was over an hour and a half long. Based on his ability on the track once we got out of the parking lot, I do believe my assessment of the parking lot was correct. I didn't realize how different the two locations were until I saw his reaction to both. I do think the parking lot was more difficult for him due to the heavy flow of traffic and all the distractions which were completely non existent behind the center. I will come back to practice just on the parking lot with a lot less aging time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 7, 2008

With my new dog, Dot, I took her and Dino back to JC Park. Now that it was the end of daylight savings time, it was dark earlier. I was at the park around 4 PM. Weather was damp with rain for several days and rain while I had Dino out.

I took Dot out and walked her from the car to the horses and alongside their pasture. She was oblivious to them except for a couple of light barks. I have only had her for a day, so she may not have seen a lot of horses. We walked past the horses and made the right turn into the playground. We walked through the playground and to the far end closer to the main road. We made a right turn up through some trees, crossed the road and then through some more trees several hundred feet to the far south side of the public horse arena. We made a right turn up a short hill and went around the far side of the arena. This would put us past the front of the truck about 25 feet. We made a right turn light we were about to go back around the arena. Instead, I made a sharp left turn down a short hill and then back to the truck.

I waited about 15 minutes to bring Dino out which would make the track about 45 minutes old. I brought Dino out with his harness, treat bag and rawhide toy. We walked past the horse, and like before, he lost focus. We went back about three times to the part just before the horse where he was strong and then continued forward. He made it down to the end of horse corral pretty strong with good focus. At the turn toward the playground he continued forward looking all around at the horses in the corral right past the right turn. We went back along the corral where he was strong and went to the turn again. I said “check” pointing at the ground a couple of time when he finally continued forward, made the right turn into the playground. I didn’t click because I didn’t want to distract him. Instead I verbally praised him repeatedly. He continued strong through the playground straight ahead. He made the right turn back up to the road pretty strong with his nose to the ground.

When he got close to the road he started to veer off to the right away from the track. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. We went back several times and he kept going off to the right. I couldn’t figure it out. I walked along the track saying “search” and “check” on the ground. I was very confused. Finally, I looked off to the right and saw the truck off in the distance. I figured that Dino saw the truck also and decided “I know this game. I know the dog is in the car. Let’s go that way.” I thought briefly about letting him go to the car, but then I decided that would be wrong because he is supposed to follow the track even though he may know the end of the game.

I continued to work him along the track telling him verbally that he needed to follow the track. He did get back onto the track and continued it straight up through the trees with his nose to the ground. I continued to verbally praise him without clicking so I wouldn’t distract him. He went around the horse arena and made the sharp left turn in front of the car to where Dot was. He jumped on the car and came back to me and jumped on me. I clicked and gave him the bag of treats and played with the rawhide toys for several long minutes.

I don’t know if it was my fault for doing this in a familiar area where he can see the car, or if is OK so he knows that he is to follow the track no matter what. Once he was back on the track he was fine. He did seemed confused when he saw the truck because, I figured, that he was doing the right thing by going to the car.

November 1, 2008

End of day around 5 PM, still within daylight savings time.

I went to the Junction City park and walked Scout around past a horse barn where several horses were, through the children’s playground, up toward the car and then a right turn toward the road, then a right turn up toward the empty public horse arena, right turn around the horse arena and then around the horse arena back toward the same direction. I did take a path away from where I had previously walked through some trees. Once I came out of those trees I crossed the road again and down toward the baseball field. Instead of going through the field, I went around it which took me through some high brush I was unaware of. After leaving the field I make a left turn back up another road and back in the direction of the horse corral where the horses were. I realized that I would cross the previous track, and I didn’t think he was ready for that, especially so close to the horses.

I made a wide right u turn and went back down the road out to the highway. I went down another side road to get off the highway, which led me back to the main road and children’s playground. I figured in the direction I was going I would have to cross my previous track to get back to the car. I blew it. I had to do it in order to get back to the car. I decided to do it and see what happens, if Dino picks it up and what does he do.

I drove to the post office and then came back to the park. It was an hour from when the beginning of the track was started. I put Dino in his harness and grabbed his treat bag with his rawhide toy. I wanted to test him on the live horses again because I have seen how distracted he is on horse, and how difficult it is for him to focus on the track. He got the track from the car and to the edge of the horse corral. Once he saw the horses, and knew they were in there, he got lost and lost focus. I had to take him back to the top of the trail where he was strong on the track several times until he was able to get the right turn away from the horses into the children’s playground. I definitely have to repeat that location with the horses several more times until there is no hesitation.

Once he was back on the trail strong into the playground I clicked and treated. We continued on the trail through the playground and he got the right turn back up toward the parking lot. He continued strong on the straight line. Here is where one of the cross tracks occurred as I walking Scout back to the truck. He hit the cross and immediately made the right turn toward the car which was about 100 feet away. He jumped on the truck bumper and ran to me and jumped on me. I clicked and gave him the bag of treats and played with his rawhide.

I feel like I wasted the rest of the really good track, but he did the right thing, which was to follow the track, which led in both directions.

October 29, 2008

I took Mercury in his crate and walked with him around Jean and Al’s property. Since he is heavy in his crate, I put the crate on a dolly and wheeled him around on the gravel driveway in various directions until I found a secure, safe space around on the driveway where there are various old vehicles and “junk/stuff.” I liked this location because of all the stuff that could cause the scent to go in all different direction. There must be all kinds of different scents because of the old vehicles.

I waited about an hour to bring Dino out. It was just starting to get dark. It was warm out with a bit of breeze. I started Dino completely in an opposite direction of where I knew Mercury was. I even stopped for about 10 minutes with Dino in harness to talk to Jean after she got home from work. I started Dino out saying “Find Felix” and started near another house with a large fenced yard and known cats in the yard. Dino found three locations in the fencing where the cats come and go. At each point I clicked and treated and praised.

Dino also found a dead bird that he was very interested in. I have noticed since starting this training with Dino that he is very interested in dead “stuff” we find on the road and various spots. Instead of eating it like he used to, he now sniffs it and seems to figure out what it is. When I find what appears to be the remains of an animal like blood on the street, I call Dino over to show him to let him know that it is OK to check this stuff out and kind of “keep it in his memory banks.”

This continued around the house, behind the house and around another old building, each time checking various spots. He did seem very interested in various spots, but we didn’t find any cats. He continued behind the house with cats finding a couple entrances and exits, each time clicking and treating and praising.

Dino continued on his own away from that house and to the front of warehouse where Mercury was waiting. Dino followed the trailed of how I rolled Mercury in his crate and dolly around various objects and vehicles directly to where Mercury was waiting. I said “Find Felix” and his pawed at the crate and came back to me, jumping on me. I immediately clicked and let him have the bag of treats and then played with the rawhide.

I was pretty happy with what Dino did. I have him doing searches now at an hour and so far, so good he is able to get them. I am trying to vary doing tracking and area searches for cats do he gets ongoing experience with both. I liked that he remained interested in focused.

October 27, 2008

I put Mercury in his carrier and hid him underneath a vacant house a couple of houses away from mine. I waited almost an hour before I brought out Dino. I brought Dino in from a different direction from how I walked Mercury down to the spot.

From out on the highway, out in front of the house, I told Dino “Find Felix.” He immediately started to look around and check spots. I walked him around the house and up on the porch and telling him “check” in different spots. He was very interested in finding something. We were in the brush and open space in front of the house doing “checks.” We walked closer to the house, and Dino zeroed in on the direction of where Mercury was. He checked the side steps and came back down and then went down the short hill and underneath the house to exactly where Mercury was. I said “Find Felix” and he came back to me and jumped on me, which is his signal when he finds a cat. However, he forgot to paw the crate. So, I said “Find Felix” and he went back to the crate, pawed at it and came back to me and jumped on me. I clicked and gave him his bag of treats and played with his rawhide bone.

I was surprised how fast he found Mercury. I thought due to the time frame of an hour that it would take him longer, and also, since I had walked with Mercury from the opposite direction. The weather was overcast with a light breeze.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October 25, 2008

I took Mercury and Dino out to Helena. It was about 4 PM during the week. I parked down near the buildings, near the post office boxes. I left Dino in the car and I took Mercury in his locked and tied crate down the road to the river. The mosquitoes and bugs were horrendous! I found a nice covered spot under some trees to the right of the bottom of the road.

I brought Dino out and put his harness on and got his bag of treats and rawhide toy. We headed in the opposite direction away from the road down to the river. I told Dino "Find Felix."

First we checked the old barn where we have seen cats before. The first thing Dino did on the trail up to the barn was poop. He was hesitant to go into the barn door, but that is not usual. We had to get over the thorny berry business. We got in, and I noticed that there had been some change to the building. A door was now open that not, and part of the back of the building was now open. Dino sniffed everywhere. I would be telling his "check" in various spots along the way along with clicking and treating. Then we went down to the next building where I put out the cat food, so I know cats come up and down this path. Dino went up the path right where the empty food containers were. We checked around the back of the buildings.

Then we went down the road a bit and into a field where we have seen cats. He went right into the field and headed along a worn foot path, checking spots along the way. We went to the old buildings in the back, checking various spots. Dino was receiving clicks and treats for each of his checks. Every once in a while I will verbally praise, but because he is still learning, he is getting clicks and treats 95% of the time an verbal praise the rest.

We walked along another path heading back toward the road down to the river, checking various spots along the way. The bugs were too much. It was very distracting. Dino followed along this path, and as we got closer to the road leading down to the river, he was very focused and went directly down the road and seemed directly on the scent of Mercury. However, when we got to the both of the road, and the wide river bed which leads to the river, Dino kept going straight instead of finding Mercury to the right. I didn't say anything, and let him explore what was out ahead of him. Who knows. The local cats could have come down here recently. I had no way of knowing. I am sure that all types of animals come down here. I can see a lot of different types of feces all over the river bed. I could see that Dino was very interested in everything around him. He had never been down here before.

Once we got closer to the river, I stopped him and said "Find Felix." He went around and around and was not going any where near Mercury. So, I went back up the road we came from, where he got very positive responses. I tried again and said "Find Felix." He was definitely still looking. This time, when he got to the bottom of the road where the river bed starts, he headed off to the right where Mercury was, but he was still over 15 feet away to Mercury side. Dino walked right past Mercury. I was very confused because in the past Dino has zeroed in on Mercury really well. I was trying to figure out why he was not. Dino was very interested in other smells around him. The river was also loud, which may have been distracting him. I repeated "Find Felix." He appeared to be trying to find something. I thought that there was no breeze. It was still and warm. I thought maybe he really couldn't smell Mercury if all these other smells on the river bed were covering up Mercury. But Mercury was only about 15 feet to Dino's left under a tree. I could hear Mercury meowing from where I was holding the long line.

We went back up the road again and went back down to the river bed with me telling him "Find Felix". Again Dino went to the right and was closer to Mercury this time. After about 30 seconds he went to Mercury's crate and ran back to me, jumping on me, which is his indication that there is a cat. However, he missed pawing at the crate. I didn't say anything except "Find Felix." He ran back to the crate, pawed at it, ran back to me and jumping on me. I clicked and treated. I practiced a couple more times with "Find Felix" and the second time, he actually jumping onto of the crate with all four feet and stood on it for a couple of seconds, almost like he was saying "Is this good enough?!" He ran back to me and jumped on me. I gave him his bag of treats and his rawhide bone.

I will practice in this location again. I definitely want a much faster response to finding the cat. I was concerned that he walked right past the crate within a few feet of it. He even didn't respond to Mercury's meowing. That is so unusual. I thought there had to be some pretty big distractions there like other smells. However, he needs to be able to ignore those distractions and find the cat.

August 22, 2008

I had to go to San Mateo to pick something up. I stopped in a nearby neighborhood, parked the car and got Mercury out of the back. I walked with him in his carrier straight up the street away from the car, in the direction the car was facing. These are very long blocks. I crossed the next street and kept walking straight. At the next corner I made a right still on the same side of the street. I made a right at the next turn and went down the street. At the corner I crossed the street and, instead of making a sharp right across the street to head back towards the car, I made a diagonal in the same direction between some bushes. I went back down to the corner. My car was to my left half way down the block. I crossed the street again and made a left to go back down the street towards my car. I crossed back across the street to the back of my car and put Mercury inside.

I took Dino out, and headed back down the street, away from my car, and away from where I layed Mercury's scent. I made a right at the next corner, a right at the next corner, crossed the next street, walked down to the end of the next corner and made a right and went down the street to the next block and crossed the street. This would put us at the top of where Mercury's scent was. I had taken a paper towel and rubbed it on Mercury before taking him out and walking him around. I had that in my pocket and showed it to Dino and said "take scent." His eyes seemed to pop out and his head was swinging back and forth looking for something. He turned and immediately went down the street on the route around the block where I walked Mercury. He was definitely following something. He made the turn at the next right and kept going. He did make some diviations to roll on the nice, lush lawns like Loki does. I said "get to work" and stayed behind him on the sidewalk and he kept going.

He crossed the street at the next corner, and started to go straight when he suddenly turned to the right and went down the street back toward my car. When he hit the point where I had crossed diagonal onto the street he started moving faster. He had been going at a pretty fast pace before to make me jog to keep up with him.

The next corner is where he had problems for two reasons. As he approached the next corner, a woman was walking slowly along the same path. He caught up to her. The sidewalk was very narrow, so I didn't want to pass her and it was very narrow. I tried to slow him down without discouraging him or giving him a negative correction. He seemed to get distracted and confused by me doing this and now that person was directly in front of him. He lost his concentration and started to follow the lady right behind her. I wasn't surprised because he has done this in the past. He is so friendly with people that he just keeps following them even though I go in another direction. I let him cross the street because the scent was also in the area. When we got about twenty feet past the scent and he was still following this woman, I gently slowed him down and brought him back to the coorner where the scent went in two directions (where we had just come from and back to the car). He was confused. He appeared to pick up both, and he sat and looked up at me. Without saying anything I started to walk slowly in the direction of the car, and then he took off in a fast pace again. He go to the location just across the street from the car, and kept going. then he stopped and came back. I had to stop him because there were several cars passing by. Once the cars passed, he darted over to the back of the car and jumped up on the tail gate to get inside. I made the tiny mistake of not opeining up the back to let him get to Mercury, but I was so excited about what he just did, i just took out his rawhide and started throwing it. Dino was very excited.

October 16, 2008

I looked on the CARDA site, but did not see any groups in this area listed. I can contact them to ask them. How did they feel about you training your dog to track animals? Did they help you out with training your dog to track animals? Or did you start them out tracking humans and then switched over? That is what Donna said she did.

////// I would be clear with them (if you find someone in your county to work with who does SAR) that you are training your dog to find lost dogs and cats...not humans. They might tell you "thanks, but no thanks" or they might welcome you in. It varies...I've seen teams reject MAR dog handlers (only to have the person who threw Landa out of their group LOSE THEIR BLOODHOUND and wish they had a trained MAR dog in their group to track the missing SAR dog!!). I think problems have occurred when MAR handlers have tried to "sneak" into a training group (Landa did this, and that is why she got booted out) without telling them up front. Just offer that you will lay a human scent trail for their dog if they in turn will let you work your dog on the scent trail of their dog. Groups are almost always wanting volunteers who can go for a walk and lay scent trails (or even area search dogs to find you hiding out in the woods somewhere).

/// I just realized that someone who used to be with CARDA might live near you. Althought I don't know her all that well, Laura Rathe lives near Redding. I heard from her a few months back when we were putting out a plea on how to get Zeke the Bloodhound out of the shelter near Redding and transported here to Seattle. Anyways, contact her and see if you could perhaps take lessons from her or if she has any referrals for people with trailing dogs that you can train with. Here's her info:
Laura Rathe
Pets Without Partners Redding, CA 96001
Phone: 530-243-6911
Email: laura@petswithoutpartners.com

So far, I have Dino already doing short tracks that take me about 15 minutes to walk with the other animal to lay and then the track is aged about 50 minutes old. This is just on animals. And we are also practicing on area searches with cats in an areas I know there are feral cats. so I was concerned about switching him back to tracking humans. I thought that might be confusing to him.//////

If you have my book DOG DETECTIVES, read the chapter on Dual Purpose dogs. I believe I address this and suggest that you use different equipment and commands when you train and work on trailing dog scent verses detecting stationary cat scent.
Keep training... you have the smarts, the experience (as an ACO), and a GREAT dog!!! :)

October 8, 2008

On the AKC site search for obedience clubs or all breed clubs in yourarea. Contact the club and perhaps this might lead you to one oftheir club members who is tracking with their dog.Also search for an AKC tracking judge in your area. Talk to local dog trainers - people who offer obedience classes oragility classes - and ask if they know of anyone doing tracking. If there is a local search and rescue group, they may have members whowork dogs or may know of someone who could work with you.If there is a tracking test within a couple hours of you, go and talkto people. Or at least contact the secretary. You can find trackingtests through the AKC website.If the closest tracking club is in Sacramento, contact them. Theymay have club members who come from somewhere closer to you. Some dogpeople drive a long distance to play the games they are passionateabout. :o)Good luck in finding a tracking partner for you and Dino. Pattie MoonBellingham, WA

September 5, 2008

One of the questions I had is that eventually he will only be tracking animal scent, and he won't be trained again on human? So he will remain specialized? But, you are saying, that, at this point, I should be training him only on animals, except for my own with the food?

Should I be working on simultaneously working on extending the track and the age of the track, like I have been doing?

It certainly wouldn't hurt to ask them if they'd be willing to let you train with them. You could always tell them that, although you want to eventually move to finding animals with Dino, you're considering getting a puppy which you'd start to do SAR for humans. (Whether or not that's true...) That'd make them more likely to be willing to work with you. Each county has their own "personality," and some are much more militaristic and...what's the word...not exclusionary...not cliqueish...not discriminating...not particular...well, you get the idea. There's a word, and I can't come up with it. If you don't want to do things exactly the way they want them done, they won't let you play with them. Others are very relaxed.As far as when to do just animal, and when to do people... For the last 6 - 12 months of his training, you need to do *just* animal, no people. For now, I don't think it matters which you do. At the very beginning, you did just your scent, to keep things very simple and clear for him--he got rewarded when he followed your scent. (Also to keep it easier for you--you could lay your own trails!) Now, it's time to start adding "other people," whether those people be humans or animals shouldn't make a difference to him. If he learns now that "scent" simply means "some individual," whether that individual is human, cat, dog, horse, ferret, rabbit, or whatever, it'll be that much easier to do "Russian purple spotted guinea hen" later on when someone asks if you can. :-) But, for the last 6 - 12 months, no *humans* because it'll be complicated when the owner's scent is all over the scent article, and they've walked all over the search area. If he's spent 6 - 12 months looking for animals only, and getting no reward whatsoever for finding humans (and working problems specifically with contaminated articles, where he gets rewarded *only* for following the animal's trail and not the owner's), then he should be "mostly" proofed against following the owner's trail.As far as age vs length... On each training session, pick one variable to change. So, each session change either age or length, but not both. Or, add in an extra turn. Or, add in a different surface. Or, a different, hotter time of day. Or... But make sure it's just one variable. If he does well with that variable, then you can make that particular variable harder the next time you work it. (So, if he does well going from a 20 minute old trail to a 30 minute old trail, then you can maybe jump to a 45 minute old one, instead of 40. But if he has a hard time going from 20 to 30, then you don't change that variable for quite a while, and you might even need to go back to 25 or even 20 for a while.)As you move on, you'll add in other complications, like contaminated scent articles, negatives, double-backs, split trails, etc, etc. But that's *way* later on. Do be careful for now with laying trails and things like accidental trips to the bathroom. :-)

September 2, 2008

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I meant to look some things up for you, but decided I'd better get an email off real quick before you have to unplug your computer for the move.

Hello. It was good to see you recently at the County-Wide AKC trial. I wish I had the opportunity to stay longer and chat with everybody more.

It was great to see you! Unfortunately we're all so busy at that venue it doensn't provide many opportunities for visiting.

I have a tracking question for you. I have a two year old herding breed mix, and I have been working with somebody here in the Bay Area for a couple of months that has a business that tracks lost pets through the use of tracking/trailing dogs. She has been teaching me how to train Dino to teach him tracking. However, I am moving up to nearby Redding in a couple of weeks, and I won't be able to work with her anymore. I want to continue Dino's tracking training and eventually work him toward the level of training like the AKC tracking because I intend to start my own business in the Nor Cal area of tracking lost pets once Dino is fully trained. I can get tracking titles on him through the Mixed Breed Club, and I would like to do that eventually, also.

Well, I love tracking and am happy you have found someone to get you started. Too bad you'll be uprooted from that, hopefully it's a move you want to make and are looking forward to it. I would encourage you to think about what is the most exciting potential for you in tracking. If you intend to open your own business to track lost pets, I would completely focus on the kinds of tracking skills that are going to be useful to you in that regard. Yes, tracking is tracking...but there are different skills required for the different venues, and I think you would ultimately be working at cross purposes to try to be training for AKC/mixed breed tracking titles AND tracking lost pets. This is just my opinon. You know I like to do a lot of different things with my dog, but I think you'll make better progress if you focus on ONE thing first. Once you've established yourself as a great pet tracker, you can use your teamwork to modify your approach to fit in with the requirements for "testing" venues.I realize that a title may lend some credibility to your tracking dog business, so there's a double edged sword for that reason. Still, I think that your main business will come after you've had some success in actually tracking lost pets. Your fees will be able to increase after you have a solid reputation in that regard. I'm sure you've probably done searching on line to see what resources might be available to you with regard to the specifics of teaching a dog to track other pets.I do not have any experience in tracking lost pets, so can't really offer you much advice in that regard. I've been asked several times to track missing pets, but have declined, since I've not specifically trained my dog to do that. In fact, I've always discouraged my dogs from following animal tracks - asking them to stick to the human scent I've asked them to track from the start. I've heard many stories of people with dogs less trained than my own having "no problem" following the trail of a lost pet even days after it was missing. There is a part of me that wonders if their dog was taking them on a merry goose chase - no one can confirm or deny that the missing pet actually walked that route, just that it was later seen in the area. It's not that I don't believe it CAN happen, I just have my doubts that dogs will just automatically understand what is being asked of them - especially in an urban setting.So if you want your dog to really be good at finding lost pets, I would find someone who can advise you in the training methods that have been successful for them - or find a training partner who wants to experiment with you. How do you lay training tracks? At what point do you have the dog switch from following tracks that you've laid (so you know where they are and can insist on good tracking behavior), to following some type of animal? If, for example, you want to have the dog track a cat, how do you find a cat you can walk on a leash to create a "tracks" and how can you make sure that the proximity of your track doesn't influence the dog's behavior? Do you train the dog to the point of being able to work "blind" tracks laid by a human (tracks not known to the handler) before asking them to then work the scent of other animals?See? I have lots of questions. Other questions for me - how do you deal with the "track" when the tracking dog wants to search for lost pet on private property where you don't have/can't get permission to enter? I see the need to train for "track interruption"How will you handle the search if you have no known starting point (or point last seen)Tracking tests, by comparison, are fairly straightforward. There is a known starting point with a scent article. The tracklayer walks in fairly straight lines. You know you have to have at least one left and one right turn, you know the yardage, etc. On the other hand, you have to follow where the dog wants to go, and can't make the decision to research the area unless the dog instigates the search. For example, if the dog searches in an area, then goes beyond and gets "stuck" (runs out of scent), you can't go back to the spot where your dog showed some interest and then ask the dog to try again from that point. That would be "guiding" in a test. That would be good thoughful handling if you're working a track for a lost pet.It seems to me that the pet tracking work would be most similar to search and rescue work. The style doesn't matter (can switch from tracking, to trailing (following further off the actual footfalls, where scent may have gathered against buildings or bushes) , or airscenting - as long as the pet gets found, the owners won't care if your dog was really "tracking" every step of the way. There are a lot of different ways that SAR groups work/train and my understanding is that they can be quite political just as any human organization can be. I don't know that they would be very welcoming to someone who wanted to train a dog to track lost pets, but you may be able to hook up with a SAR group in Shasta County and observe a training session or two, or make connections that way, with people who may have a side interest in tracking pets. Beware of the "instant expert" syndrome though. We've had several SAR handlers enter TDX tests, thinking it was going to be a piece of cake for their dogs. But it was obvious they a) hadn't read the rules (had food and toys on their person for starters), b) hadn't trained for this venue and c) they made excuses why their dogs had trouble. They complained that the start article left "too much scent" which confused their dogs, who were more used to working older tracks. Again, hadn't read the rules, assumed that since their dog had one set of skills that they could switch to the other without any cross over training. It was sad, and they took spots in a test away from others who had trained for that venue.I suppose that's one reason why I would encourage you to focus on what you want the most and to "go for it" then when you have time to "play" - explore the other venues that are open to you based on those skills. I've known some handlers in AKC tracking who have said they want to do tracking for lost pets once their dogs earn all their AKC titles (don't know any who have actually done it yet). You could approach it from either direction, but I would pick one or the other to start.

My questions are: What resources (books, tapes, etc.) would you recommend I use to continue Dino's tracking training since I will be living in a very remote area, and I will be doing most of the training on my own.

Hmmm....well, that might depend on what direction you decide to take. If you were planning to do the pet tracking work first I would get as much material on that specific application as I could (search on line) I don't have any specific information on that. I would probably look into various Search and Rescue (SAR) materials as well, and see if I could find any methods that would look like they could be applied to pet tracking also. As far as "titling" venues - I suppose I would start with Sil Sander's Enthusiastic Tracking book. REMIND ME and I will send you a document that's part of my tracking seminar with book reviews I have of his book and two others. The other books are Tracking from the Ground Up by Sandy Ganz, and Tracking Dog: Theory and Methods by Glen Johnson. The review will explain what I like and don't like about each book, but they're all worth reading. The only books really available for urban tracking (for titling venues) are by Ed Presnall. Variable Surface Tracking . I have mixed feelings about his books. I was excited to get them, but they didn't help me that much.I saw on the AKC website that there are some clubs in the Sacramento area that offer tracking tests.

Is there anybody in that area that you could recommend I contact that I might be able to work with from a distance and maybe occasionally meet with?

Yes, there are several clubs in Sacramento that offer tests. I know of one person who offers private lessons, but from what I've heard recently, I can't really say that I would recommend her. There's GOT to be some experienced trackers closer to Redding. I'll ask around and let you know if I find someone.

This is the first time I have been in the tracking area, and Dino's enthusiasm is very high, so far. We have been doing short tracks with food. I realize this may take some time to get him trained to the professional level. We have not done any competitive obedience training, but he has passed his CGC and temperament test, and I have been taking clicker obedience classes with a trainer in this area. I have also shown him in mixed breed conformation.

Tracking is something that dogs usually love. I LOVE tracking puppies who don't have any other training - it's so fun to watch them use their natural abilities as you guide them to the style of tracking you want.

I appreciate your time. I look forward to your response. Let me know if there is any additional information that you need. Thank you.

I feel like I've given you a quite muddled response. I hope that something I've said makes sense. I love 'talking" tracking - so feel free to respond and ask questions or make comments, etc etc. I just feel bad that I don't really have the training knowledge you'll be needing for the application to tracking lost pets. Hopefully you'll be able to hook up with a mentor in that field and have fun doing it!

Labor Day Weekend 2008

I was at a three day show all weekend. Sunday and Monday were in the same location. It was a very big area with places to walk on both sides. I had to make sure (or at least I thought I did) I did not place the track where I had been on the field. I certainly learned a lot from the first track.

For the first track on Sunday, I choose to start to lay the track along one of the fences that leads up a small hill to a walking path that a lot of people with dogs use. I had not been up there at all. He followed the track that I eventually got up to nine steps with the food at the ninth step all along the path. He got the right hand turn down onto the back end of the field near another footpath. He was going along the track and left veered off to the left and was adamant about sitting and staying there. I knew the track was not that way, so I guided him back onto the track. A few feet further he did the same thing. I couldn't figure out what it was. Then I remembered. That was the direction of the restroom that I had gone to a couple of times that day, but the place I walked up was further up into the middle of the field, but he was picking it up closer to where we were. I let him go and he led me up to the bathrooms, right inside. I rewarded and played with him like it was the end of the trail.

I decided to just walk back toward the track and see if he picks it up again. He did and then veered off again to the left in another direction across the field. This was direction I had sat in earlier to shoot some of the races. I rewarded him again and acted like it was the end.

We walked back again toward the track and he picked it up again and led me down back toward the parking lot where I had set his treat box. He got one turn along that way back toward the lot. Just before getting to the lot, he veered off again to the right and let me to the direction across the field where I had sat to shoot some races. These spots varied in time from one to several hours in time when I was there.

We got back to the parking lot and he found the treat box. He let him eat almost everything in the box! And then I played like crazy with his rawhide, which he has chosen is his most favorite, even more than the sqeeky toy.

I was hitting myself for forgetting about those spots that he found, but I was happy he found them.

For the second track, I found somebody at the show who let me borrow their whippet and I walked up the sidewalk outside the park. The owner said she had not walked the dog up that sidewalk on any of the days during the show. I walked the dog up to the end of the block. The dog pooped and peed all along the way. We made one deviation on the way up to put the poop bag into a garbage can and then we walked back up to the sidewalk. I wanted to see if Dino could catch that.

I walked Dino up the street on the other side of the street, crossed the street to where the dog had turned around to go back. I showed Dino the paper towel with the dog's scent, and he immediately started to run down the street in the direction of the dog. He ran right past the spot where we (me and the whippet) had come up from the parking from the garbage can. I was able to slow him down and stop so that where I was standing was at the spot where we turned. Dino came back to me and started to look around. He picked up the scent in the bushes where I had walked with the other dog. His nose was down on the ground trying to find the scent. I now think I won't let him run so fast when he gets going. If he is excited like that, I will slow him down and get him to focus more. Not correct him, just guide him slower.

He got the scent down to the garbage can, and then couldn't find it back up again in a "V." Eventually he find it, but he didn't go back up to the sidewalk. Instead he walked in the parking lot back in the same direction where the dog was waiting.

He appeared to be walking in the direction of my car, which was in the same direction where the whippet was sitting. I slowed him down as we got closer to the whippet. He picked up the direction where the whippet was, walked around the set of cars directly to where the whippet was sitting with the owner. He made a right hand turn and made a beeline to the dog and was pretty happy to find her. He was sniffing all over her. I gave him treats and played with the rawhide for several minutes.

Any thoughts or ideas? Should I keep up the rotation of some tracks are my scent with treats and some tracks are dogs or cats? I found that both gave him practice on two different things. Should I have other people lay tracks or just keep him focused only on tracking my scent and animals? Should I continue with my scent at this point or just focus on animals?

The Response:
I think the decision to stick with "just people" or add in animals is going to depend partially on who you end up training with. I'd make it a priority to find a group up in/near Redding, and let them know what your eventual goal is. If they're not comfortable working with animal trails, then just stick with human for now. Once he gets to 24-hour old trails, you're going to need to switch to *just* animal, so that his last 6 - 12 months of training are *no* human at all, so he's not confused at all when he gets to "the real thing." I know Loki still makes the mistake of following the human scent sometimes.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

October 9, 2008

I walked over to Al and Jean’s house across the highway and picked up their dog, Abby, again from Rebecca. I walked Abby down the main dirt road from their house to the middle of the property, across the middle and toward the north end of the property along a fire road. I had not been on this road before, so I was unaware if the road looped somewhere, dead ended or where it went. I was taking the chance that I may have to turn around and head back in the same direction down this fire road back to the main part of the property where the houses were. I thought this could potentially be good training for what happens when an animal double backs on a trail.

I walked Abby up the fire road, and then went on the left fork after about 100 feet. From there the road forked again, and we stayed on the right fork. The road continued up a semi steep slope for probably about another couple of hundred feet. Here the road forked again, and the road was still going steadily up. Since it was hot and getting hotter, and I didn’t know the road, and the bugs were getting more annoying, I decided to turn around and walk back toward the main part of the property.

When I got back to the main part of the property, an older house still stands with a renter. Surrounding the house is a wire fence. The tenant has a couple of old outside cats. I walked Abby on the south side of this house and behind it where an old shed still stands. I walked her in front of the shed, make a right turn onto another fire road and headed back to the main newer house. That led me past a newer two story warehouse surrounded by close to 30 old vehicles and work equipment in various stages of repair and disrepair. I walked through the vehicles, through a small ditch and headed back toward the house going through more dirt, old electrical equipment, tree branches and other miscellaneous tree parts. I walked back to the house where Rebecca waited to hold Abby. I would say this took me about one half hour to lay the track. I got Abby’s scent on a scent pad before I left her.

I walked across the highway to my place, put on Dino’s harness, got a bag full of treats and clicker and his rawhide toy. I walked back across the highway, and as I crossed the track of Abby where we walked first toward the fire roads, I showed Dino the scent pad, said “take scent” and “search.” He immediately put his head down and was on the track on the fire road. We walked up the fire road to the first fork. Without hesitation he went on the left fork. Following that he ignored the additional left fork and continued straight on the main fire road. I clicked and treated when he got these correct directions. He continued along the road, checking different things along the way, seemingly to make sure he was along the right way (my guess).

When we got to the point where the trailed ended and I had turned around with Abby, Dino stopped and checked first the right side, then up the right fork and came back down. I made sure I said absolutely nothing to him at this point. I didn’t hold the leash any different or turn my body any different. He briefly check the left fork and came back. At this point, to be sure, I had him “check” a couple of spots around in different locations where the forks were. He headed back down the road on his own without me saying anything. I clicked and treated.

We continued down the road and he made the correct turns back to the main part of the property, ignoring the other two forks. I clicked and treated at these points.

As we were coming up to the left turn on the south side of the older house, Dino cut across the field on the north side and went straight toward the old shed and followed the track around the other side back to the south side. I figured he picked up the scent in the strong winds that were blowing from the old house toward us. On the south side, he was very interested in a part of the wire fencing and wouldn’t leave it alone. He popped his head up and look inside the yard, and then a cat ran across the yard. I looked closer at the place in the fencing and found a well worn cat path under the fencing. I did verbally praise him and acknowledged his good at “Finding Felix”, but did not click since we were on a track of a dog. I pulled him away from the fencing, showed him the scent pad, and said “search.” He continued back along the track, past the shed and onto the fire road that led up to the newer house.

He followed the track exactly in front of the warehouse, through the old vehicles and machines, across the ditch, through the old tree stuff and up to the house where Rebecca was holding Abby. I had Rebecca bring Abby down to the parking lot, and Dino and Abby briefly greeted each other. I then pulled Dino off to the side, gave him his bag of treats and played with his rawhide toy. By the time I finished, the beginning of the original trail was about an hour and 15 minutes old.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I drove to Lowden park in Weaverville. I had not been to this park before, but I had driven past it and thought it would be a good spot to lay a track. It is a large park that borders on a couple of schools.

At 5 PM I parked in the parking lot and walked Scout away from the car and walked the border of the park, through a fenced in ball park diamond that was covered in straw. Half way through the baseball diamond I made a right turn to walk toward another gate that led out of the diamond. I marked the turn with a line in the dirt. I walked out of the gate, up a small hill to another small building. We walked through the field toward a paved walk way. On the path, we made a right turn. We walked down the path toward the child’s playground. There was a small, square shaped decorative building with open sides that we walked through which opened out to the playground. We walked around the play structures and back out in the same area as the previous paved path. There was a big field in front of us with another baseball diamond. I couldn’t see how to enter the field or where it existed. I avoided going through diamond because I couldn’t see how to get out. I wanted to avoid getting stuck and having to double back. I walked the outside perimeter of the diamond, through a construction site with nobody. From there we walked down a dirt road which led out to the parking lot and back to the car. I put Scout back into the car and rubbed her down with the scent pad.

I took Dino out, put on his harness with his long line, got his treat bag with clicker and his rawhide reward toy. I walked him toward the direction of the trail with Scout, but we didn’t go near it yet. I found another way into the park nearby and started the track from there. I showed Dino the scent pad, said “take scent” and “search.” He immediately put his head down to find the track. The area was thick uncut grass. He was a bit distracted at first. He peed and pooped. I said “search.” He started again. He overshot the next right turn. I stopped at the turn, but didn’t say anything. He stopped to look at me. I said “search” as he checked both directions in front of him. He wanted to go to his left. I stopped the leash. He looked back at me. He came back to me and sat in front of me, not knowing which way to go. I said “check” as I pointed right in front of me. He put his head down and was sniffing around. He then got the direction and kept going.

He kept going along the trail as it went over old tree stumps, around a small building and between trees even with a dog barking at him from the other side of a fence outside the park that was loose. I yelled to the owner to get this dog. He called the dog back. Dino got the next right turn into the baseball diamond and through the gate. He got the straight line across the field. He overshot the next right turn and wanted to go through the gate in front of him. I stopped him with the leash, saying nothing. He came back to me. I said “search” as he went around in different directions. We went back the way we came for about 10 feet, then headed back to the line in field I made. I found the line I drew with my shoe. He was digging at it briefly, acknowledging it even though I had not shown it to him. I said “check” as I pointed to the ground. He turned toward the right, which was the correct direction, but stood still. Again, I said “check.” He sniffed again, then slowly headed to the right. I clicked and treated.

He headed strongly through the diamond field, through the gate, up the little hill and along side a small building, through the small field to the paved path. He got the right turn on the path and kept going along the path. Here I clicked and treated. Along the way, I would practice having him “check” certain area. He seemed to also do this on his own by checking spots here and there and then coming back to the trail. He got the right turn into the small, concrete covered building. He was bouncing up and down on the concrete seats as he got closer to the opening which led to the playground.

When I laid the track earlier, the entire park was almost empty. I didn’t think there would be a problem laying the track in a playground. However, when I came back with Dino, there were several kids and parents. The kids were all yelling and screaming. One came up to Dino, and I had to tell him that the dog was working and couldn’t play right now. He understood and went back to his friends repeating what I had said. I was surprised how focused Dino remained on the track since he adores kids. He followed the track around the play structures and back out. There was a man sitting on bench on the perimeter of the playground and Dino raced over to him. I told the man what I was doing. Dino got totally distracted by this and stopped. I had to show him the scent pad again and say “check” to the ground. After a couple of attempts, he was on the track again.

He followed it around the perimeter of the other baseball diamond, through the construction site and down the dirt road and back to the car without a single hitch or miss of a turn. I could see him “checking” spots along the way. He did get a bit distracted when he saw a cat run across the road as we were nearing the parking lot with my car. I told him we weren’t searching for cats right now and told him to “search.”

We got back to the car, and I let him eat out of the treat bag and played with his rawhide for several minutes.

I was very happy with this because, after laying it, I realized how difficult it would be. When Dino started the track it was 45 minutes old, which is a bit below his previous time, which has been about an a hour. I didn’t want to push to hard because I realized how difficult the track was after I laid it. He did a lot better than I thought. I am confused why he gets certain turns and not others. It must be the surface and possible other smells in the area, or maybe his concentration at the time. Not sure.