Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sarah: Working Variables: Persistence


One of the most important skills your dog can have in the sport of AKC tracking is a calm persistence about seeking the track once it is lost. And in AKC tracking - especially at TDX and VST levels - the track will be lost.

Having a dog who hunts for it independently and happily for five or more minutes makes refinding a lost track much more likely.

The challenge is - how do you create this situation without risking demotivating or stressing your dog? This is one way - play fetch in the snow. The toy disappears from sight making nose use key. Your dog is not in harness so stress is less likely to transfer to tracking and can be addressed away from the tracking fields.

It's pretty simple: When you have snow, toss the toy and let your dog hunt for it. (This can be done in tall grass as well but snow is ideal as visual searching is all but impossible). As long as your dog is happily seeking - be silent. If your dog becomes stressed or gives up - go to the general area and encourage them to look for it by pointing to the area and looking downward yourself.

Even if you see the toy, do not point to it but excitedly encourage searching and then throw a praise party when your dog "discovers" it on their own.

Don't have a toy motoivated dog? Toss a treat.

Now... while your dog is hunting observe yourself. How long can you tolerate this without becoming stressed? ....Relax.... Let your dog work.

Playing this game will increase your dog's searching behaviors and your tolerance for searching behavior - both are valuable assets in tracking.

Now please note two things: One, I thought she was on to the toy early but... I was wrong, oh well, in tracking get used to being wrong....and two, no command was given. This is not a "tracking exercise" but rather just an informal "keep trying" exercise.