Indoor Tracking Project Part Four – Laying the track

We will cover three scenarios for you in this section

1.  The handler who is locked down alone (with a dog who is willing to sit and wait) and needs lay their own track

2 The handler who is locked down alone (with a dog who does not yet sit and wait) and who needs to lay their own track

3 The handler who is locked down with another person who is willing to lay a track.

Each of the following videos includes footage of dogs.  This is so that you can see where dogs would be positioned or how they would be managed during track laying.  In order to avoid any frustrations (your own or your dogs) the suggestion is that you read the blog, watch the videos and try laying out the track, initially, without your dog present.  In the videos that follow we have also suggested that when you are ready to track, your dog will come to the start point already wearing the harness with the line attached. This enables you to go straight into the track without interrupting your own or your dogs thought process and concentration at a key moment.  If your dog is not used to wearing a harness s/he needs gentle training as a separate and prior exercise to tracking.  This ensures that s/he is comfortable and not distracted.

1.  The handler who is locked down alone (with a dog who is willing to sit and wait) and needs lay their own track

In the video you will see an over view of how track laying in this scenario works.  A dog sits and waits.  Handler steps in front of the dog, places a treat at the place where they would like the dog to begin tracking.  The treats will encourage the dog to put his nose to the ground and in that time he will notice the odours that make up the track.  Because you paused to place the treats, you also placed more odour at this point, when your dog investigates the treats he will notice. This video isolates the things you need to do to lay the track, so, don’t worry yet about the actual tracking part.  Then you will see that the track layer walks in the pattern of the track that you designed in your house.  Just walking normally is good enough.  There is no need to put food along the actual path of the track itself.  There are lots of reasons for this, too much information for our current project, but we can explain on a longer course if you are interested.  When you arrive at the end point of your track, place small handful of treats. Previously it was explained, we cannot encourage you to place articles, like toys on the ground, because it may not be safe for you too handle items when we take this tracking outside, so, lets create a habit that is safe for the current times.  Now, the track layer can be seen stepping over the treats, turning round and walking back along the line of the already laid track.  This is because it may not possible indoors to make a circuit of the house and come back to the dog without crossing the track just laid.  Again, there’s a whole heap of explanatory information cut from this explanation, but for our project, this is fine.  It’ll work out just fine.  When the track layer returns to the dog, this would be the time to pick up the line and go tracking.  We’ll bring you the next video quickly to show you that.  For now, maybe you could watch the video and get confident that you can lay your track?

2   The handler who is locked down alone (with a dog who does not yet sit and wait) and who needs to lay their own track.

Firstly, let’s just agree, there is no problem with the dog that does not yet wait somewhere for the handler to lay the track.  Sitting and waiting for you to do something else is a useful trick to teach your dog but you are urged you not to try start teaching this (or anything else e.g. how to have a harness fitted) in the same moment that you are tracking and track laying.

Why do we say this?  Well, if you remember from earlier parts of this project it was explained that dogs don’t need to be taught how to track, they only need to learn which track layer it is that you would like them to find.  New skills, such as sitting and waiting, or, wearing a harness require both you and your dog to attend to learning these new skills.  It will take a lot of time to carefully go over enough repetitions.  In other words, you and your dog need to concentrate on each other and the giving and receiving of treats, which interrupts and distracts you both.  For tracking, in these initial stages, we would like you to concentrate on learning your new skills and not worrying too much about what your dog is doing.  And we would like your dog to be able to concentrate on the track itself rather than instructions from you.

Separate the teaching of sitting and waiting from the event of tracking.  You can teach the skills to your dog at some other time.  Do everything that you can to protect your dogs motivation and confidence to take on the track.  Lets make sure that s/he remains independent enough in his thinking process about tracking that s/he can accept the responsibility of following the track with you following.  And that s/he learns, you, the learner, will follow.

[In the next explanatory video you will see a seven month old puppy.  She is destined to work with sheep. This is my dog, I definitely don’t want to get in the habit of telling her what to do.  This would ultimately be counter productive for us in herding.  I’ll be adding lots of explanatory training blogs about developing a herding dog over the coming months.  If you are curious and interested to see how I end up with a self controlled dog whilst taking minimum responsibility for ‘telling’ the dog what to do, stay tuned to Dogtaggs (or join us in Shepherd School as soon as you can).]

Back to tracking.  The video demonstration of the dog that doesn’t neatly sit and wait.  You will see the main differences with the first video are, I don’t put the start treats down until I return to the start.  The dog comes with me to lay the track.  I use some spare treats, strategically thrown, to keep the dog occupied while I get the track laid where I want it and the end of track treats placed without them being pinched.  On returning to the start, I place the start treats after throwing a treat ahead so that the dog is distracted.  This one might take a little bit more practice until you have managed to lay a track with treats end and beginning and learned how to throw one or two treats just far enough and in the right places to encourage your dog to stay just ahead of you as you walk, but, it is worth it.  You will preserve your dog in a state where s/he can think about what is happening on the track rather than looking and listening to you.  It might seem counter productive in this moment, but trust me, if your tracking goes on to become something more after lock down, you will benefit from a dog whose confidence and ability are unhindered, especially when tracks become more challenging.  I suggest you watch the video a few times and concentrate on the way you see the track layers body moves rather than the dog.  The track is the same design as the one you have prepared for the project.  We will be back soon to actually go tracking.

3  The handler who is locked down with another person who is willing to lay a track.

At this point I will hand over to another household to talk you through track laying indoors when you have another person willing to help.  Just to bring out the main points for you.

As with the previous examples, you might want to practice track laying without your dog present, but once you are confident, the handler would remain with the dog (already dressed in harness and line). The track layer would step ahead of both, and place a treat on the floor just far enough in front that the dog cannot quite reach it.  Then,track layer walks away and follows the design of your track pattern.  Just before reaching the end of the track the track layer would place a few more treats on the floor and then steps over these, turns around and stands still and quiet.

In the following video you will see that because space is limited Bryony steps to one side.  That’s fine.  If its possible though, ask your track layer to stay directly behind the treats and wait.

Try running through these track laying skills without your dog and then when you are confident you will be ready to get set up with your dog for the next section…… Coming up…… finally……. tracking indoors with your dog!

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