Been tracking like mad here in New Hampshire - both enjoying the glorious fall weather and hustling to get as much work done as possible before the heavy snows fall. Since I am developing Pip's article indication now, thought it might be a useful discussion.
There are two main styles of indication in AKC work: Stationary (downing or sitting at the article) or retrieving it. Here are the pluses and minuses of both:
Stationary indications are useful because, if you drop the line when your dog indicates, your line is probably lying right on the track itself. You get to move up to the dog, praise there and restart the dog - absolutely confident that the track is right where you are standing.
In training, this is a fairly straight-forward and easy thing to develop. Leave something mildly interesting in the articles and then reward with something MUCH better from your hand. Since I lure train a down on my pups early, I just walk up to the dog quickly as they nose the article - praising warmly as I come - then put my fist, treat in hand, on the article. I wait. The dogs generally nose the fist for a moment or two and then down. When they down, I smile, praise and open my fist. Yum!
If the dog doesn't offer a down I will gently say the word - as a support - never as a "correction" of any kind. Articles are fun. Articles are easy. We love articles!
As the dog progresses, I take all food out of or off the articles - moving to rubbing them with something prior to placement and then to nothing. Always rewarding with great delicious treats from my hands.
Easy for most handlers to build
Uses behavior most dogs have (or can have quickly)
You know exactly where the track is.
You get to move up the track to your dog.
Doesn't work if dog isn't food motivated.
Doesn't raise many dogs energy much (which the playful retrieve can).
Retrieving the Article
Here the dog picks up the article and brings it back to the handler, where play or food is given as a reward. The dogs who I have seen do this, seem to really enjoy it. The play that follows revs them up and they go back to work with an excellent attitude.
Fun for the dog.
Relatively few dogs have a reliable retrieve.
Even dogs with a reliable retrieve may not have them on every article used - metal, plastic, etc.
If handler isn't paying attention, can lose the track.
Okay, okay - my bias is showing isn't it? I do a stationary indication for all the reasons above. Mostly because my German Shepherd Dogs just didn't want to play when they tracked. They were w-o-r-k-i-n-g - couldn't I see that? They played long and hard off the track but on the track? Not interested.
Pip, however, is a more open-minded gal - she takes her fun anyway she can find it. So I ask for stationary indications at the midtrack articles that are rewarded with food and then, after the last one, we have a Kong-on-a-rope-fling-a-thon which she adores.
There is no one way and no "right way" - only the way that works for you. As long as you are consistent and relaxed about it, encouraging your dog's every effort, chances are good your dog will develop a decent indication.
There a plenty of games and steps you can take along the way as well as approaches you can take with a track happy dog (Ask Melissa about that one!) I'll cover some in a future blog.