I would like to share how I’ve come to like this latest tracking method. I’ve been tracking and teaching it for over 30 years. With the help of Camp Gone to the Dogs, I’ve started over 8000 pups/dogs of ALL AKC breeds and designer dogs. I will admit to being easily bored so have changed my training methods over 8 times in those years. I KNOW the dogs can do it; I just have to figure out how to get the human to catch up with the dog!
I am also an AKC Tracking Judge for all 4 titles. What I have learned over the years is this – it doesn’t matter how well the dog adheres to the track. If the dog is within inches of the track but doesn’t find the articles, the dog fails. So, for me, finding the articles is what it is ALL about! Granted, I would like my dog to be really close to the actual track, less chance of missing an article or a turn.
So, how do I start my pup/dog? That depends on whether I am teaching a group or just my pup. Why the 2 different ways? I know what I am looking for with my dog. I don’t know what each person wants from their dog. If they haven’t done tracking before, they don’t know what they what from their dog.
If you have read a book on tracking or gone to a clinic, the author or instructor will try to tell you “how to read your dog”, right? Look at his head, watch his ears, watch his tail, is he really pulling in the harness, etc. Let me tell you exactly how simple it is – DATA! DATA stands for:
A – Article
T – Turn
A – Anything else (potty, crittering, etc.)
You follow your dog off the start flag because you believe the dog’s body language says “I’m on the scent”. When that body language changes, it is only for DATA .
Also, let me say this, if your dog just slightly turns his head to say “there’s the article” and you accept that, in a test, your dog will give you at least 70% LESS of an indication! So, if you accept a slight head turn, you may get a blink. If you want a down at an article, you may get a sit or a stand. Both better to recognize that your dog has found something than just a blink! I train for the down OFF the tracking field! I don’t want to mix obedience with tracking.
So, with my pup, before ever going out to do tracking, I play with a leather glove, appropriate for his size. I play tug, toss it, encourage him to retrieve it, etc. I say repeatedly, “Where’s the glove, get the glove”. After a few days of the pup driving to find the glove in the house, in the yard, under leaves, branches, etc., the pup is ready for a track.