Tracking is Frustration at it's Finest!

I have started attempting to teach Dudley to track. OMG this is probably the most frustrating job I've attempted to teach Dudley! He actually knows how to do it and can do it really well, when he chooses to. That's the issue, "when he chooses to." AARGH!!!! If there weren't so many darn field mice, rabbits, moles and other critters out there in the fields this would be so much easier. Can I go directly to the VST test and skip the TD and TDX? I think he'd actually do better if we weren't out in the field.

Here's the deal. At first I understood that he wasn't really certain what the game was here. But he did catch on. He understands now. He's supposed to follow the scent and he knows that. I'm lucky, we actually have a class with a first class instructor who is also a tracking judge. She's great. She says that Dudley does know exactly what he's doing. He knows where the track is and, if he chooses to, he will follow it. The problem is those darn critters! And I think yesterday I figured out that it's not actually the scent of the critters that sets him off, but the sound. He's got big, huge radar ears and he'll hear something and he goes on high alert! The ears stand at attention, the tail stands at attention and the entire body tenses. Once he's there, we're done for. It's next to impossible to get him back on the track. He'll stick his entire head down in the grass and suck the dirt off the ground. But I think initially it's the sound that grabs him. We've tried all sorts of things with him to get him to stop "crittering". So far nothing has worked. Dudley's difficult to reward so it's next to impossible to find a reward to set up for him that will make staying on the track more fun than going off to critter. I even tried BilJac. That's a special frozen, raw dog food that is like crack to him. If I have BilJac in my possession, Dudley will get aggressive toward other dogs who are just walking by and have no clue I even have food! Dudley does NOT want any other dog to get anywhere close when I've got that stuff. I swear to you, it's doggie crack. So I take that out for a reward. He runs one track and there's a huge BilJac jackpot on the glove. I didn't feed Dudley breakfast so he'd be really hungry when we went out. I'm thinking this will work well. He's hungry and there's crack out there. So we run this one track and I think he's found the glove so I move up on him and has he found the glove? NO. He's got his nose down in the grass, not 6" from the glove that's covered with BilJac, sucking the dirt up his snout! AARGH!!!!

If it weren't for my instructor I'd have already given up. But she swears we can put a TD on Dudley. She says that once he "get's it" he'll be a really strong tracking dog. But I don't know if I have the patience to make it to the "AHA" day, you know? I mean I think back to agility. It took him a long time to get agility. We had to repeat the beginner class 3 times. Then it took about 6 months to get him used to the trial environment. When he finally had the AHA moment we'd probably been training in agility for a little over a year. I'm not sure I have the patience to invest the much time in tracking.

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Comment by Cheri on October 28, 2009 at 6:24pm
Alice, the AKC offers tracking titles. We're training for our TD (Tracking Dog), which is the first level. You should see if there's tracking club in your area. You're in Scottsdale, right? Difficult to track there because of the lack of vegetation, but not impossible. Usually you do start out using treats to get them interested in tracking. Then you fade the treats once they get that following your footfalls lead them to the prize. It might be next year before we're ready for our TD test, but that's okay. I know he knows where the track is, I just have to convince him that we have to play the game by my rules, not his!
Comment by Alice on October 15, 2009 at 12:25pm
Poor Dudley, driving you nuts. He’ll get it one of these days. :)

I didn't realize tracking was something there were classes and tests for. We've been teaching Finn tracking since he was about 5 months old and he's good at it. The moment I say track it his nose is to the ground and you can hear the nonstop sniffing. The thing with him is, I mostly did it with treats so now I'd like to teach him to track other things items or people and to learn to do it with distractions around. Maybe he could be a search and rescue Corgi! :)
Comment by John Wolff on October 15, 2009 at 11:28am
That sounds like fun, and that he's only got 1 major thing left to learn.

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