Today I was up at 7am, walked the dogs, and by 8am I had hit the road to take Raimi to a tracking seminar in Truro. Raimi has always been a real scent hound - following his nose where ever it would take him. It was supposed to be quite hot today but fortunately in the morning it stayed nice and cool, overcast and there was a light breeze blowing so for the first part of the seminar I could leave him in the truck. He was a bit baffled as to what was going on because he usually travels with the other dogs. To be on his own was a bit of a brain teaser for Boy. He had to wait in the truck for about 90 minutes.
Raimi doesn't like being left in the truck on his own. We were inside a building and since the door was open I could hear his pitiful barks and howls. I went to check on him once to make sure he wasn't doing anything stupid, not a stretch for him, but his exuberant greetings were enough to convince me I simply own the world's greatest Momma's Boy.
We learned how to lay a track and then just before lunch we prepared a short track for the dogs to follow. What is strange to me is that we are asking the dogs to track their owners, the person standing next to them. You lay a track, pepper it with treats and then ask the dog to follow the track with you at their side gradually moving to several feet behind them over several lessons. Eventually you remove the treats until the dog is only tracking your scent. Once he is reliable on your scent you ask him to blind track someone else that you trust to make their path and know where they were, so you know the dog is on the right scent.
It seems like fun, although I am going to change up the method a bit because Raimi would simply move from treat to treat and I am not entirely convinced he was even aware that there was a scent to follow other than the Rollover. I'm sure at some point they do eventually learn just to follow the scent but even the demonstration dog was just going from treat to treat, as far as I could tell. He also needs to learn to indicate an article(a glove), which he so far just blows by because there is nothing to recommend it. I also want to either start him on concrete or short grass because the pieces of Rollover would fall to the ground between the blades and by the time he had snorted about to found the piece he'd forgotten what we were doing! I put that down to brains ...
The method I started with Halo, which seemed to work quite well, was to use a mesh bag, fill it with Rollover, and drag it on the ground behind me. She followed the scent like a charm until she got to the bonus reward pile of treats. Then we'd continue the track. This encourages the dog to continue moving forward and with the Ridgebacks I find that given too much 'lag time' they lose focus. If they are concentrating on "Where is that bonus pile of food?" then at least they are continually moving forward. Gradually you move the piles further apart, make them smaller and start to only sporadically offer the scent and then phase that out too. The big push was to get the dog to go from footstep to footstep instead of air scenting, which I understand, except Raimi's attention span is so short I can't imagine him being enthusiastic about tracking for long if the pace is that slow.
We'll play with the techniques and see what works best for us. We have lots of time, summer is upon us and I want to try and get him out tracking at least three times a week to start. I'm excited to be able to do something with him that uses one of the elements of his skillset, lord knows the list is short! Although if there was a CKC title for adoring mommies he'd be a Adoring Mommy Champion.