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

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

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.

October 15, 2008

About a mile away from my place is a ghost town called Helena. There are several abandoned, dilapidated buildings. One day while walking along the road with my dogs, I saw a cat in one of the buildings. It appeared to be a purebred Siamese, until I saw its feet, which were white, so it is some kind of mix. I thought that if I put out dry food for this cat, and another black cat I saw with this Siamese mix, I figured I could create my own on going training ground for Dino to search for cats.

I went to the area to practice on a general area search for cats. I put Dino’s harness on him with his long line, his bag of treats and a clicker. I told Dino “Find Felix” which is his cue to look for any cats. I walked over to one of the buildings, that appeared to be an old barn. Dino walked right up to the door, which was partially ajar. He was definitely smelling something, but was hesitant to walk in. I wasn’t sure why. I say “Find Felix” as I coaxed him to walk into the building. I think he was smelling either other things or a bunch of cats. Something made him cautious, which he is usually not with cats. There may have been other critters like snakes, skunks or possums he was picking up. He appeared very curious and remained cautious. He was smelling the different areas. I praised him, but didn’t click because I didn’t want him to loose his concentration. We walked out and checked the next building next door. We check both front and back, he was definitely interested. I couldn’t walk into the building because there was a bunch of glass in both doorways, plus the second floor didn’t seem stable enough to take a chance something could come down.

I went to an open field across from the buildings. I have seen these cats over there. I told Dino “Find Felix” and he put his head down and starting looking. He was following different trails. The trails went around the old fields where there were more old buildings. I told him “check” in several spots. I did click and treats in some of these spots. He was very eager to keep checking. We continued in these fields for about another half hour, and then we found an old road down to the Trinity River. We walked down there checking different spots.

I certainly want to come back to this spot and hide my cat in a carrier for Dino to find. I think that would be a lot of fun. The field are huge with a lot of great spots to hide Mercury. There are no people in these fields because they are roped off from the road.

I was pretty happy that Dino kept checking and searching and remained eager.

October 13, 2008

With my cat, Mercury, in a crate, I took the crate out to my driveway. Dino already knew “Find Felix” means to find the cat, any cat. I said “Find Felix” and he goes to the crate and puts one or both front paws on the crate. I would click and treat.

I then taught Dino that “show me” means for him to jump on me with his front feet. This is the only time he is allowed to jump up on anybody. He has a very terrible problem with jumping up on everybody, which I have had to stop. He now has to “sit” whenever anybody wants to pet him so he can’t jump up. So, I thought it would be confusing to him to teach him to jump up sometimes and other times it is not OK. But, so far, he gets it. I have also had to teach him when it is appropriate to bark and when he can’t. When he is out playing with another dog and having a great time, he can bark all he wants. When he is at home and should be quiet and calm, barking is not allowed. His bark is very loud and shrilling and piercing and very annoying.

I would say “show me”, he would jump up and I would click and treat. He got that pretty quickly. I then put together the “Find Felix” and “show me” to have him find the cat and then come back to jump up on me to tell me he found the cat.

October 5, 2008

On Sunday, I was on my way to Junction City Park with Scout to lay a trail for Dino. On the road I found a dog running down the middle of the highway. I pulled over and called the dog, and he came running toward me. I put him into the truck and noticed the id tag in Junction City on Redhill Road. I got to Redhill, but I could not find the house. I called the number on the tag, but nobody answered. I called Jean to ask her about the house numbers. She recognized the dog and the house. I went to the house, but nobody was home. I left a note on the front gate that I had their dog with my number.

I didn’t know what to do with the dog. I thought about using him to lay a trail for Dino to track, but I didn’t know how this other dog was with other dogs. I decided to go home and introduce Dino to this other dog.

I tied Elwood up to a phone post in the driveway, and I brought Dino out. I kept them quite a distance away to see the reaction. Elwood seemed interested in Dino and was not displaying any aggression. Dino was curious and wanted to play. I brought them closer, and still they were curious and checking each other out. I let them sniff each other and great each other, but that was it. I couldn’t take the chance that something more could happen, and I was by myself.

I put Dino into his crate and took out Scout. I put Elwood into the truck. Dino was a little growly. I drove back to the JC park, and took Elwood out of the truck. I walked him around the park, around the horse arena, down the driveway, through the playground and through an old baseball diamond. I walked with Elwood up a dirt driveway which led past a horse farm with several horses running in the big pasture. It was a long driveway back up to the park and to the parking lot to the truck. That only took about 15 minutes.

I sat in the car listening to Car Talk for another 30 minutes. That would make the trail 45 minutes old. I got Elwood out, and tied him to a tree while I took Dino out and put him on a stay on the other side of the truck. I got his treat bag, clicker and rawhide toy. I put Elwood back into the truck.

I walked Dino up the trail to where I walked Elwood, and along the way, I said “take scent” and showed him Elwood’s scent pad. I then said search. Dino immediately put his head down and found the trail.

We went around the horse arena and down a dirt driveway. I clicked and treated a couple of times as he got a couple of turns. There was one turn through the playground that he didn’t get. I stopped at the change point without saying anything. He stopped and looked at me. He came back to where I was and found the trail again. He went through the baseball field. He started to go up a small hill, but then stopped on his own and came back down. He got the turn from the baseball field to the driveway past the horsefarm. I clicked and treated when he got that on his own.

He was very distracted past the horse farm. Dino loves horses and wants to go see them when we have walked past them in the past. Plus the horses were coming over to the fence to investigate the new dog and person. He tried several times to visit with them. I said gently “get to work” and “search” along the way. He did do that. It was a long driveway, but eventually we got through it. I thought later on that I could tell Dino that after the search, we could go visit with the horses to say hi. That might make him feel better about not saying Hi to the horses.

Dino got the turn from the driveway back to the car. I thought he might follow the trail again up to the beginning, but he didn’t. I was happy about that. When we got to the car where Elwood was waiting, I said “show me” and Dino jumped on the back of the truck. I gave him the bag of treats and played with the rawhide.

September 29, 2008

I walked over to Al and Jean’s house and I took one of their dogs, Abby, for a short walk around a part of the property that the dog does not go to. The dogs pretty much stay inside the yard around the house and don’t go anywhere else on the property.

I walked Abby in front of the house and down between some trees and down toward the warehouse. When I got to the front of the warehouse where all the vehicles are, I made a right turn and when up and behind the old house. There is a fire road that goes behind this old house and down toward the other end of the property. I decided to make this a short trail since Dino was doing an unknown scent in an unknown are with no treats on the ground. I cut behind the house and under a wire fence. I went back up to the new house along the main driveway and back up to the house. That took me about 15 minutes.

I had Rebecca hold Abby while I went across the street to get Dino. It took me about 15 minutes to get Dino and come back. I came with his rawhide bone, the bag of treats and a clicker. I cut Dino into the trail near the warehouse and old vehicles. I showed him Abby’s scent, said “take scent” and “search.” He immediately put his head down and picked up the trail back toward behind the old house and fire road. I was clicking and treating in various spots when he got the turns correctly and when he appeared to be focused on the trail.

We both overshot the turn behind the house and under the fencing. I was about 10 feet past the turn when I realized my mistake. I stopped and didn’t say anything. Dino stopped, looked at me and went back up to the trail. He got the turn under the fencing without me saying a word! I immediately clicked and treated.

He got the trail back out to the main road which goes back to the new house. He seemed pretty focused on finding something and was going around and around. He finally found a part of a cookie I had given Abby. He started to eat it when I stopped him. I said “get to work” and “search.” He immediately went back to the trail. He followed it up the driveway and saw Rebecca with Abby on the porch. He pulled me up to where they were. Abby was a little protective of Rebecca and the porch, so I had her bring Abby down to the parking lot where Dino was. She was more playful. I told Dino “show me” and he went to Abby and back to me. I gave him the treat bag to eat the kibble inside. And then we played with his rawhide bone.

September 25, 2008

I did something a little different this time. I took Mercury and walked him around the Performing Arts Center. I walked him around the perimeter of the parking lot. It was very hot, so I knew we didn’t have a lot of time to waste. Mercury was great. I had a can of cat food with me and fed him when he wanted to stop. We crossed the street to the vacant lot, walked down the sidewalk about 50 feet and then crossed over the street back to the parking lot of the center. We walked around the perimeter of the building and behind it to where the AC and heating equipment was and then back to the car parked in the loading dock.

I then went to do an errand just about two buildings away. I drove there and came back to when the track was a little over an hour old. I took Dino out and had treats, a clicker, his rawhide reward, put on his harness and long line. I walked him over to where I had walked Mercury, a ways from the car. I showed him the scent pad of Mercury, said “take scent” and then “search.” He went right to looking. He followed the perimeter of the parking lot. He overshot the left turn, but then he stopped, and came back and got the turn. I clicked and treated. His enthusiasm seemed to jump. He went right back to where the scent was on the ground. He got the next left turn. I clicked and treated. He kept following the track. I clicked and treated again. Then he did something strange. We were at the curb to cross the street. He stopped to look at me like he was looking for a click and a treat. I didn’t do anything. I turned in the direction of the scent across the street and I said “take scent” as I showed him the pad and I said “search.” He slowly turned in that direction and crossed the street. I didn’t want to click then because I thought that would be distracting. He made the next left turn down the sidewalk. He overshot the next left turn. I stopped him. He stopped and then came back. He got the scent again crossing the street. This time I did click and treat. He continued into the parking lot and alongside the building and behind the building. He got distracted by some birds flying around a lizard running by. He did keep going straight, but his interest seemed to dwindle a bit. He continued on the track back to the car. He got a bunch of treats, some water and his rawhide bone and a bunch of playing.

I really did see a difference in the use of the clicker in keeping his interest and keeping his focus on what the job is. I think I will continue to use it.

September 23, 2008

I took Dino to a place in Junction City. It was flat with a good variety of different surfaces. It was hot. I laid the food around buildings, up slopes, across paved roads, on gravel, on tan bark, grass and dirt. He was really following the treats. Very focused on finding the treats. I was able to increase my steps up to eleven to 12 steps in between food. Dino did seem to get way layed off to the side trying to find the treats. I would stop and not say anything to him and let him figure it out. If he peed somewhere, I would say “get to work” to get him going again. He did seem to respond and keep going.

I was concerned that he was only following the treats and not the scent, but I did some places where he was definitely following a scent trail and he was trying hard to use his nose and try to find something. He got the corners well and even went under a fence as part of the track without hesitation.

I have been trying to alternate between an animal trail for him to follow and a track with treats for him to following, each time increasing the age of the track and the space between treats.

Jean did say I could use one of her dogs in the future to set a track. Since she has six dogs I can alternate back and forth as long as they are friendly to other dogs.

I didn’t have time to do the track again because I needed to go take care of something else and time was short.

September 16, 2008

While I was at the Tops Supermarket, I took Scout out to set a track for Dino. I parked the car behind a Burger King restraurant. I walked Scout out the lot, across the street and around some buildings and then back onto the street. I then walked up onto the street and along the sidewalk. I walked down the street to the end of the shopping center. At the end of the shopping center I made a right turn, back toward the center. Then I made a right back toward the car. I then made a left heading toward the Longs store. In front of the store I made a right turn and walked in front of several stores, and then I made a right turn back toward the car.

I took Dino out and put on his harness. He was excited and looking around more something to start searching for. I walked him directly across the street and cut into Scout’s trail. I told him “take scent” as I showed him the paper towel with her scent. He picked up the trail right away and started to follow it. He went around the building and out onto the street. He crossed the street and went to the sidewalk. Along this sidewalk he seemed to get distracted and wanted to cut across into the bushes. He did this numerous times. I couldn’t tell if he was getting bored, which he hadn’t done in the past. I couldn’t tell if he thought the trail was in that direction. I did the regular thing, which was to stop him and let him figure out that the scent wasn’t in the direction. When he went straight again along the trail, I would praise him. But then he would cut into the bushes again.

Later on I thought that he was loosing interest because there wasn’t food. I thought about using a clicker with treats in the future when he gets turns and tough spots. I will try that to help him out.

He was having a tough time on a couple more turns. He seemed very focused on heading toward the car in some spots. I thought he might be smelling Scout, but we weren’t near the car. I couldn’t figure out why he was having such a tough time. He definitely seemed like he wasn’t focused on what he should have been doing.

When we finally got to the car, I played a lot with him, but he wanted to just go to the car. It was strange. Usually, he is fine with playing with his bone.