Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tracking and Nose Work

Last night I met our friend, Pam, and her dogs, Jewel and Gigi, at the park down the street for some more tracking practice. It was a gorgeous evening! Surprisingly many areas of the park were drying enough that the ground wasn't super squishy, too. Of course there were those areas that simulated a mud bog, too.

When working together we lay each others' tracks. Our run order ended up being Leo, Jewel, Vegas, then Gigi. Since Vegas had struggled a bit with the longer leg of the track Monday, I decided to have Pam lay one that was 15, 20, 25. She did really well. While the third leg was more difficult, I have to give her huge kudos and say how proud of her I was. She never stopped working even though she was having trouble finding it. I'm not sure if there's a low-lying breeze that carried the scent that I could not detect or if I've just moved her too fast. It may even be the fact that we're working at the end of the day and the park is seeing more use now whenever the neighborhood can get out and enjoy the break in the rain. Sun and clear skies are strong motivators in Oregon. We may have been working against the odors of dogs, kids, cats, and other critters plus growing foliage, falling foliage, and the breeze coming off the river. Her nose kept working though, and she kept it down and moving. I repeated what Beth had taught me...stop if she wants to go too far off track; back up if necessary and give the command again as she approached the track. Success!

I didn't want to give up on her working so wasn't ready to call it good for the night, but ended planning on just letting her rest and working another track after Gigi. In the end we didn't lay another track for her and, instead, let her run around off lead. Vegas has never been one much for play with other dogs, certainly not prolonged play. Gigi, a Swedish Valhound, is a little spitfire, though. She was hell bent on getting someone to play and Vegas took the bait. I think Gigi met her match, though. Vegas is good at knowing where she can't keep up with other dogs and diverts their path and charges where she sees an opening. She's also very fast when she wants to be and has much longer legs than Gigi. They had a lot of fun.


Tonight was our final nose work class of our first session of Intro to Odor. Our first search included three items along the bank of lockers. There are approximately 36 lockers in the bank, numbered right to left. The first find was under locker #2 on the floor. The second was inside locker #20. The third was about waist-high on #32. Most of the dogs headed directly in from the door toward the right side. Along the right wall before you got to the lockers were both portable basketball hoops, the kind people have at home with the large, black base on wheels. Vegas did find the one on the floor first and fairly readily. The second one took a bit. We ended up pacing the length of the lockers quite a few times and then narrowing the distance I was willing to let her travel. She seemed very distracted like she would rather go visiting. I felt like I was turning in circles as she was constantly moving out away from the lockers. I'm still not sure if she was shutting down, but Shelley kept coaching me to stay put and just let her get back to work. Finally, it did. I think I need to remember not to be a naysayer and to be patient and hold my ground. I guess part of my hesitation and urge to "hurry" is because I feel like sometimes when Vegas isn't "getting it" right away (even if she might not be any slower than other dogs), she's given "hints." This makes me feel like we're slow and not keeping pace. Anyway, from tonight's experience it seems I just need to hold my ground and wait for her to get back to work. She found the one inside the locker in pretty quick order after that. Then we moved back toward the left end and worked that area. It didn't take much time at all, a little holding, and the higher one she found. We all had a little laugh though as she jumped up at it and put a foot briefly on the locker. Before we had come in, Shelley had joked about putting it up on the top of the lockers since Vegas is so tall. The cool thing about these hides is one of them was unpaired, the one inside the locker and the one on the floor.

Our next search was off leash in the workout room. There were two unpaired hides, one just inside the entrance about hip high and the second was on a small ledge under the seat of one of the pieces of equipment. When searching entrances, we are to hang back at the doorway. This is supposed to be a queue to the dog not to charge into the room and consider the entrance. Vegas found the one on the inside of the entrance in fairly quick order with only a few steps in and a quick peruse around in a circle. Then I could tell she wanted to visit. It's really hard for her because she loves people so much but I saw her trying to focus and work instead. Here's the ironic thing: she fairly beelined then for the second hide. She nailed it, so I thought, and stuck for an extra second or so. I started to move forward to reward her and Shelley said, "Not yet." I wondered, but listened to her and waited. Vegas moved on. I was puzzled and Vegas clearly was, too. She turned to a classmate of ours, visited, sniffed her thoroughly, and gave her a kiss. Then she moved around, sniffing, checking a few things out, and moved toward the back end of the room - not where the hide was. I was looking where the tin had been hidden and it didn't appear to be there. I asked Shelley if she had moved it. She said, "No, isn't it there?" Turns out my Vegas is a complete rock star! She hit on residual odor from the tin that had been there, but no direct odor had touched it. Go Vegas! Shelley put the tin back in place and it took Vegas a couple of minutes to hit on odor again and go back and check it. After all, she had eliminated that since she wasn't rewarded and it wasn't source. Big bonus points for my girl - she knew what she smelt. :)


  1. Great job, Vegas! Are you going to continue with Nosework classes?

    As for the tracking, what do you mean about paces? I don't understand how you count the length of the legs. Do you mean you walk 15 steps? The way I do it (the way we were taught from our tracking club) is to measure how many steps it takes for us to walk a certain number of yards. For example, I personally walk 64 steps in 50 yards, so 32 steps is 25 yards, 128 is 100 yards, etc. It's a little confusing though, so I'm curious how you measure it. Sorry if it's an obvious thing and I just don't get it!

  2. Hey there -

    By paces I do mean strides or steps. The steps are fairly natural, not too long, not too short, and I don't adjust between Leo and Vegas. Just easiest I guess to count to a specific step number. That's just what my friend taught me.

    I like the idea of what you were taught though, since there are certain distances to learn to track.

    Hope that helps! Sorry I wasn't clear. :)