The other week three of the puppies Breeze, Goose and Emma and owners got together for tracking. Generally when I start puppies tracking it is very short and simple with lots of rewards. The puppies follow the food drops to find the glove. Very quickly the puppies learn the human scent leads to the glove and food drops become less important.
I will start with a hungry puppy on a collar and 6 foot leash. The puppy watches the person lay the track. Initially the track is double laid meaning the track layer walks out in the field about 40-50 feet dropping food every few steps along the way, places the glove with food in/on it and turns around and walks back on the track. As soon as he crosses the start line the puppy is started on the track. In the beginning I never let the puppy get more than a foot or two off the track. If and when they start to wander off the track the handler stops walking and redirects the puppy back on the track. At this point a handler should always know where the track is.
Goose demonstrates starting a dog on a beginner track.
Once the dog is excited and pulling forward on the track, it is single laid meaning only walked once. Again food drops are very frequent to keep the dog on course. The dog should be constantly pulling forward at the end of the leash and if it looses the scent, should cast around to find it again. When a dog starts showing this behavior it has started tracking. At this point I take them off leash and collar and put them in a tracking and line.
When the dog is pulling forward tracking I will gradually move back from the dog. In a tracking trial the handler has to be at least 20 feet back from the working dog. In the early stages I am up close to the dog never letting the dog get discouraged and will reshow them the track as many times as it takes for them to be successful. Although Breeze had run a similar track the day before beautifully the track on this day was too hard for her. She seemed confused about what to do on the track. When the jackrabbit popped up in front of her(2 minutes 7 seconds into the video) she had a hard time refocusing. I was constantly pointing out the track and telling her to find it. In training dogs have good days and bad days. They don't always progress the way we want them to progress. Breeze's track is one of those days. Wish I videoed her the day before!