Saturday, November 28, 2015

Beginning Variable Surface Training

     On Rigby's first week of tracking after her TDX I decided to keep it easy, make it fun, but introduce some new things, as well.

      I laid her a track on the other side of the road from the fields where we usually track, in an area that has more traffic and some different surfaces for us to work on.  Her track was mostly on grass, but also went through some mulch, under a swing set; across an asphalt road; through a 20-foot creek and straight across a parking lot.  To keep it easy I only aged it a half an hour and left plenty of hot dogs for her to find.

     She ran the track well, figuring out out each of the different surfaces and found the article I left, an Altoid's tin, a plastic vitamin bottle, a cloth pouch and a cloth glove.  She had fun and seemed to handle it well.

     Week 2 I put her track mostly in the fields where she was used to tracking over the years, but brought it down the horse path to exit the field, crossed the road and finished the track on the more contaminated grass where more people and dogs walk, including crossing the asphalt walking trail.  I let her track age about an hour and a half before running it.

     She did quite well with the track in the fields, although she didn't recognize a plastic article as an article, but when encouraged to pick it up, she readily retrieved it to me.  She had little trouble on the horse path and crossed the road easily.  The tough part was the shorter grass where lots of dogs and people walk and play.  She did work through the challenge and found the glove.  I reminded myself that I need to put the tougher challenges earlier in the track so that she's fresher to work on the harder areas of the track.

     Week 3 was Thanksgiving week and I chose to track her on Thanksgiving day when stores were closed and parking lots available without traffic.  I went to a local strip mall area where there were many types of surfaces available in one place -- this is a newly developed area and has a lot of rough area with little to no grass with lots of remnants of construction still existing.

     Her track started on a short patch of grass and, after about 35 yards, crossed an asphalt entrance to the parking lot and then across an area of very hard dirt and stone with no vegetation, and a sock article left along the way.  The track then crossed another asphalt entrance to the parking lot and went into an area of mulch and some decorative plantings.  About 30 yards into the mulch there was a left turn to cross a 2-lane road and into a field that, again, was very hard and had some weeds here and there, a right turn and then a right turn back across the road and into the parking lot where after about 60 yards there was a left turn on the asphalt.  On the second asphalt leg there was an article, a small change purse, and then a curb to a field and an immediate right turn to go across that field.  This was the longest leg, around 180 yards and was a mixture of stone, weeds and long hay-type grass that was mostly dead.  About midway through the field I left a cloth article.  At the end of that field there was a right turn to nice green grass, a crossing of an asphalt entrance to the parking lot to another 50 yards of grass and the glove.

     We ran the track at about 45 minutes old and Rigby handled the various surfaces quite well.  She had hardly any trouble on the first stone lot and found the article.  At first the mulch threw her, but once she actually started tracking she did well and found the turn.  The field with weeds was harder for her and I had to hold her at the turns till she worked at it and found the turn.  The second turn in that field was much easier for her.  

     The asphalt parking lot with the turn was the hardest for her -- she doesn't understand yet that she needs to actually track on the asphalt, she thinks she just crosses it, as she has the roads to this point, but she'll catch on in time.  She stopped at the turn point and did make the turn, but I think she was air scenting the hot dog that was a ways down that leg, rather than following my scent.

     The long leg across the stone field with the grassy weeds she did well and she found the article with no trouble.  She easily made the turn at the end and tracked the lusher green grass easily, crossed the asphalt and then found the glove.

     I was pleased with her performance and could see some things we need to work on, including slowing her down on the tougher surfaces to make sure she doesn't miss the turns.  I think once she catches on to the idea of scent on the asphalt, concrete, etc., she will quickly learn to follow those tracks.

Next week we'll go back to grass and the woods and add some age to her track to keep her sharp and happy.  

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