Saturday, September 5, 2009

Melissa: A Plan Applied

Every time I track with Sarah, she asks me beforehand what I’m planning to work on that day.

Hmmm… I used to just lay a track then run it without much thought, other than some vague hope that my dog would do well following the track and indicating the articles. As with many other educational situations, the lack of a plan usually led to a lack of progress or, at best, limited progress with some confusion and frustration thrown in.

Today I found a new place to track—Val-Kill—the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, that has a huge field that is currently sprinkled with big round hay bales. I’ve been shy about trying new places, but I asked a ranger and was told that on-leash dog walking on the land is fine. Hurray! A beautiful place to track not far from home!

As I gathered my gear so I could lay the track, I suddenly heard Sarah’s words echoing in my mind: “What’s your plan for today?

I paused and thought about our last track. Remembering that Milo had had a hard time at the start, perhaps because we had almost started then I stopped to get a glove, I decided to pretend to be confused and fumbling at the start flag. I want him to learn to overlook my confusion and still start the track with confidence, especially since I'm likely to be nervous and fumbling on test day.

Then I figured I’d lay at least one leg along the side of a hill, which would cause the scent to flow downhill from the track in the hopes that Milo would get pulled off the track and have to find it again.

Finally, because the big round bales were right there, I planned to walk between some that were close together. Milo sometimes gets a bit stressed in close quarters and new situations, so I like to give him positive experiences with walking through narrow spaces, especially since I’d like to work toward a VST with him.

I laid my track, let it age, then ran it with Milo. He did FABULOUSLY! I fumbled and acted confused at the start flag, and he just waited for me to get my act together and tell him to “Go Track,” which he then did with confidence.

On the hillside, he stuck right to the track, never drifting downhill at all. Good for him, though we didn’t accomplish my goal of trying to get him to stray from the track and need to refind it.
At the passages between the bales, Milo slowed down and went forward cautiously, but he never entertained the thought of stopping.What a good boy and what a good worker!


  1. He IS a good boy!

    People may not know he started out life as a food trial dog in an indoor facility. He arrived at 10 months of age having never stepped foot outside. Terrified of the world.

    He has come a long, long way, but some things still throw him a bit. He moves past them for all sorts of reasons not the least of which is his attachment to and trust in his handler.

    Go, Milo, Go!

  2. Good boy Milo! The Einstein of dogs...