Time for a review! Eight weeks have passed and Rigby has been training every week for the TDX level of tracking. I've been keeping a journal and I thought I'd take time to do some contemplating on how we're doing and what we need to work on next.
What did we do in the first two months?
Length: 440 400 650 650 835 730 650 700
Age: 45 30 90 90 70 100 135 90
Articles: There have been at least 2 intermediate articles on each of Rigby's tracks and she's found them each time. She retrieves the articles to my hand and gets a nice reward, usually salmon, for her effort. Her restarts took some time to develop, but she now seems to understand that the track doesn't end with the articles and she happily heads back down her track. Articles have been in open fields and in the woods. So far all articles have been cloth or leather.
Obstacles: We've worked change of cover, short grass to tall; woods; dirt roads; stone roads
Starts: We've consistently worked our starts at different angles and Rigby seems to have no problem finding the track. Her toughest day was the track that was over 2 hours old, and that makes perfect sense. On a day that is good for aging I'll work starts, laying three short tracks each one getting gradually older, to extend her ability to find older scents.
I've put in 2 of her 8 tracks, which is nice when learning something new, I know where the track goes, so I don't have to guess if she's right and can praise her at the optimum time.
Of her 8 tracks 3 have been totally unmarked, adding another challenge for me and helping me in reading her tracking behaviors and indications. I love working the unmarked tracks and, because she is tracking so well, we've had very little need for help to stay on the track.
The biggest improvement I've seen, especially the past two weeks, are Rigby's restarts after finding an article. At first she would go back down the track and stop at the point where she found the article and then return to me. I had to encourage her to start to track again. With one small aid, a piece of hot dog placed about 10 yards past the article, she now knows that the track is not over and she eagerly moves off again after receiving her treat for finding the article.
Some short notes taken from my journal for the first two months include: Nice start; Happy and enthusiastic; Eating deer poop - BAD!; Great start; Be patient, let her work things out; Slow her down, especially in the woods; Nice job in the woods.
What have we achieved so far? In my opinion, Rigby has learned most of the components of TDX tracking: She's done the length, works well in the woods, finds her articles and restarts after and is doing well with the single flag starts.
What do we need to work on for the next few months? My goals for the next two months will be to increase the age of the tracks and work starts at older ages, to introduce cross tracks, introduce more varied articles and to track on some different surfaces, such as paved areas.
Although there's usually one place each track that we need some aid from the track layer, I can't say she has had a bad tracking day yet. Rigby always works hard, never quits and gives it her all. She quivers in anticipation at the start flag and seems happy after every track . So another goal will be to keep her attitude at this level and continue to make tracking fun by introducing more challenges.