Sunday, April 26, 2015

Anything's Fair When It's Saturday Tracking

Tracking practice days for the group I track with take place on Saturday mornings, most every Saturday morning -- usually it's only frigid cold or dangerous road conditions that will keep us from meeting up at the park.

Since most tracking tests take place on Sundays (with plotting days on Saturday) there's always been a saying amongst the tracking group that anything is fair on Saturday, meaning if the track you put in for someone would not exactly be considered legal for a test track it's all good, this is training, not testing and we accept deviations, such as short legs, an article close to a turn, etc.

The past couple months most Saturdays have consisted of just Phil and I tracking together.  Phil is known for putting in rugged, challenging tracks and, because he's been doing this for a while and is very familiar with the park, all tracks he lays are blind -- no markers to indicate where there are turns or articles.  So having Phil lay your tracks is a great way to learn to really read your dog, because the dog is all you've got to find your way.

Quite often when we meet back at the cars after putting in tracks for each other's dogs Phil will say to me, "Remember, it's not personal, it's just training." 

On those days I know I'm in for a wild ride, probably lots of woods and steep, slippery hillsides in the woods.  Over time I've found it fun to put in similar tracks for him and before we run his dog on the track I remind him that it's not personal.

Yesterday when I finally made it back to the cars, taking almost an hour to put in a track for Como, Phil's Dalmatian who is working towards a TDX, I told Phil there was a new name for tracking with me -- Track with Nina and see the world.  

Phil chuckled and said, "Oh, you went to some new places today.  So did I."

So what happened, you might ask, that takes someone an hour to basically walk 800 to 1,000 yards?  Well, sometimes you can get caught in a place where there's no way out and, unless you want to ruin a perfectly good track (at least to that point) you can't turn around and go out the way you came in, you have to find a way through whatever is blocking your path.

I started Phil's track in an open field and all went great for the first 3 legs of the track. I gave him two blind turns and took the track through a short tree line into the next field and then, after the third leg, turned into the woods at the back of that field.  The woods were open, not thick with growth, and I made my way deeper into the woods than we usually go, but it was so green and pretty and spring-like that I was just enjoying the scenery. 

Part way in I left the first article for Como to find, a small faux-leather change purse, with some chicken inside as a treat.  When I got about 20 yards from the article drop I really looked around to see where to head next and that's when I realized that all of a sudden the growth had gotten very thick with lots of thorny growth and I was stuck in the middle of the woods with two choices -- either ruin a really nice track in the woods or blaze a new trail to get back to the fields to finsh the track.  Thank goodness I had brought my clippers with me, I knew what I had to do.

I looked up at the tops of the trees and tried to figure out which way was the shortest way out of the woods.  I decided to go to my left and started clipping thorny branches and forcing my way through the dense undergrowth, forging a new path, battling my way to freedom -- I know, a little dramatic, but, well, it kind of felt that way!  It took a lot of time, because it was so thick, but in time I finally made it back to a path we usually use for tracking and then I was out of the woods in no time.

I then took the track back through the cut at a point further along the field and was again in the field where the track started.  The track then went across the field to the bottom, turned to follow the line of the woods on the far side of the field and then another turn towards the front of the field where I had started the track -- I left the second article on that leg that was about a hundred yards long.  I put in two more short legs and left the glove at the end of the track.

All in all my measurement of the track was close to 800 yards, shorter than I usually put in for Phil, but long enough because of the time spent in the woods and the difficulty there might be for Phil and Como to navigate the close quarters getting through the woods.

The track was aged for 2 1/2 hours before it was run, but Como did a great job.  She found her way to the first article in the woods and then I reminded Phil that he was going to need to use the two words EASY and WAIT a lot before we left the woods, as the dogs can always make it through the brush so much quicker than we humans can, as we're sometimes forcing our way through the thickets and stepping over logs or avoiding vines.  I had marked the path through the woods heavily with clothes pins with pink surveyors tape tied to them so that Phil knew exactly where the track went, and I was so relieved when we were all out of the woods and back to field tracking!

Como continued on the track back to the first field, made the turns, found the second article and then went on to the glove!

As for Rigby's track, she had a very nice start on a track that was aged about 2 hours.  She made the first turn and headed diagonally uphill across the field.  

She was moving at a good pace on this second leg when I heard Phil tell me to stop that there should be an article right about where I was, that Rigby had passed up. Missing an article is quite odd for Rigby, I always feel really confident in her ability to find and retrieve articles -- but not this time.  I looked around and just to my right I saw a small, black article.  It was a business card holder made of faux leather.  

I stopped Rigby's forward progression and I backed up and called her to me, giving her another chance to find the article.  She still didn't find it.  I told her to "find it" and she started circling and circling, going right over the article, but still never indicating it.  Finally I picked it up and showed it to her and threw it a few times for her to fetch and bring to me before I gave her her usual treat of canned salmon for finding an article.  Phil told me Rigby and I would be seeing a lot more of that business card holder article in the future, so I'm sure she'll get better at finding it!

Then we continued on her track up to some piney woods that split that field from the upper field.  She did well in the woods, came out turned left and tracked parallel to the woods, to the next right turn that went uphill further into the field.  Another right turn and Rigby found the second article, a leather wallet, which she retrieved to me (and I gave a sigh of relief that her article finding skills were still intact.)  After celebrating the article find with another small container of salmon we were off again and there was another right turn heading us back downhill.

A left turn took us into the woods to the side of the hill and I shortened up my line and slowed Rigby down as much as I could.  Phil had opened up a new path for us and it was mostly downhill, through woods, over logs -- a challenge to keep my footing while holding a tracking line and watching where I was going, let alone keeping track of Rigby and constantly slowing her down.  The slowing her down worked wonders for her tracking and she followed Phil's winding track trough the woods with amazing accuracy and found the final glove resting on the forest floor.  

We must have done at least 75 yards in that stretch of woods alone.  My handling in the woods has gotten better, as the line never got tangled as it has in the past and I was able to keep Rigby from moving at her usual breakneck speeds!

As a reward, and to save me from being dragged through the rest of the woods back to the cars, I let Rigby have some off leash time as we all made our way down a deer trail and across the creek to the edge of the woods.

It was a fun day tracking, as usual, with new trails blazed and happy dogs at the end.

Friday, April 24, 2015


One of my favorite things about this blog is that it's a great way for me to keep track of Rigby's show career and record everything in one place where I can find it so easily.  I'll admit that I write this blog for myself, but I do enjoy sharing it with those who care to read it.

Rigby and I first entered the rally ring in September of 2014 and the obedience ring in February of 2015.  The purpose of this post is to record our experiences in the ring, our successes, our failures, our scores and placements.  Periodically I'll do updated posts in an effort to keep a history of Rigby's advancement in her obedience and rally career.

Our first time in the ring was a total disaster!  We entered Rally Novice B at the rally trial put on by the local German Shepherd club on Sunday, September 14, 2014.  

Rigby was all excited and hyped up and I had little to no attention.  She pulled at the end of the leash and for most of our time in the ring was almost out of control.  I was careful not to pull on her and it was obvious to the judge, Jeff Showman, that the tight lead was due to Rigby's antics and so we were not excused and did make it through all the excercies, but NQ'ed due to the deductions for tight lead, out of position, etc.  

This photo was taken at the GSD rally trial, our first time in the rally ring.  That nice attention didn't last long and we NQ'ed this time, but learned some very important lessons!

It was a bit of an embarassing performance, but I learned that Rigby needs to be crated for several hours at the show site before she is ready to go in the ring -- I had crated her in the car that day and only brought her into the building shortly before going in the ring.

September 19, 2014 Rigby was entered in Rally Novice B in two trials on the same day at Clarion Canine Obedience Club.  Learning from our earlier experience, we arrived early at the show site and I set up the crate and sat with Rigby through the Excellent and Advanced classes, giving her time to settle in and get used to the environment.

Our first time in the ring that day was quite an improvement from the first time, but Rigby was happy to see the judge, Karen Schroeder, and did several leaps here and there resulting in too many tight leads and, once again, an NQ.

Back in the crate Rigby went to await her second time in the ring that day. Shortly before her class I took her outside and worked with her, trying to get her attention on me, reminding her of why we were there.   

Then it was time to go back in the building and give it another try.  Waiting to go in the ring I got a feeling that there was a change in Rigby, she seemed to be remembering that we were a team, she was actually listening to me and giving me attention.  We scored an 80 and got our first Rally Novice leg!  She would have had a 90, except that I messed up on the second sign and didn't have her sit!

Our final entry into the rally ring in 2014 was at the WCOTC trials in Delmont on Friday, September 26th. Once again that time in her crate at the show site seemed to work for Rigby and she got her second Rally Novice leg with a great score of 94!

February 1st of 2015 was Rigby's debut in the obedience ring.  The local Sheltie specialty was being held at the Washington County Fairgrounds, just a few miles from our home.  Although the rally trials were Sheltie only, the obedience trials allowed other breeds to enter and compete, so I entered Rigby in Beginner Novice B.

We attended the Obedience B match on Friday night at the show site to give Rigby a chance to see the building and acclimate to the venue.  On Sunday I showed her in Beg. Novice and she did a very nice job, earning a score of 193.5 and getting 1st place.  A nice start to her obedience career!

Rigby's winnings from her first time in the obedience ring, a 1st place and $5.00!

Rigby and the toy she won in Beg. Novice.

Just a slight deviation from the show ring, on Saturday, April 28th Rigby got her CGC title at a testing held at Golden Triangle Obedience Training Club.

Rigby earned her CGC title on April 28th, 2015.

Taken at the CGC testing, waiting for our turn.

Rigby anxiously waits for me to return from the out-of-sight portion of the CGC test.

I decided that Rigby's next show would be at the Youngstown All-Breed Club Training Club trials, two rally trials in one day, two chances to get her Rally Novice title.

Three weeks before the trials there were run-thrus held at the YABTC training building and Rigby and I drove to Ohio and spent the day doing run thrus in Novice Obedience and Rally Novice.  It was a long day, but well worth the trip, another good day of training for Rigby.

This video is from Rigby's Rally Novice titling leg at the YABTC rally trials!

On Good Friday, April 3, 2015, Rigby earned her Rally Novice title at the first trial of the day at Youngstown with a score of 97.  Then in the second trial she did just a bit better and got a 98 and a 3rd place!

Rigby earned her Rally Novice title at the YABTC trials on  April 3, 2015.

Ribbons from YABTC on April 3, 2015, new title, two qualifying rosettes, a third place ribbon and toy!

Because Rigby was not ready to compete off leash I decided I would continue to show her in Rally Novice B for a while longer as we also continued to work towards her Beg. Novice title.

Friday, April 24, 2015, Rigby and I traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia to show in Beginner Novice and Rally Novice.  This was Rigby's first time to be shown at an all-breed conformation show run in conjuction with the companion sport events and there was a lot more activity in this building than Rigby had ever been exposed to before.

We were fourth in the ring for Beg. Novice and my nerves were pretty much shot, I allowed too many little circumstances to bother me and get me upset -- a good lesson to learn, concentrate on me and my dog and let the other things go, stay in the moment with my dog and our journey!

Rigby earned her second Beginner Novice leg with another nice score of 192, but she actually lost a point on the recall when she hesitated in coming to me when called -- quite a diference from her usual performance where she streaks across the room into a perfect front.  I really think that my nerves affected her to the point that she just wasn't sure she wanted to come running to me!

Things went a bit better in Rally Novice and we got a 95 and 1st place in the class!

I have Rigby entered in a trial in May where I hope she will complete her Beginner Novice title.  She will also be competing in a Sub Novice class which is like the old Pre Novice class, everything on a 6-foot lead, including a one-minute sit stay and a three-minute down stay.

Plans are for a possible debut in Novice 
obedience in the fall, depending on how our training goes between now and then.