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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Blood tracking training: setting objectives and record keeping

One of the puppies that we raised this summer was Rilla von Moosbach-Zuzelek, a Joeri/Gilda daughter, who is now 15 weeks old. Her new owner Stan Kite has been in frequent communication with us and has been sending us updates on the pup and her training. Stan is the kind of owner that a breeder hopes for!

I have been most impressed with Stan's training records and would like to share them as they might help other handlers. Training records are very important as memory can fade quickly and can't be relied on. I asked Stan where he got the idea for his system, and it was Darren Doran who shared with him his own records, which he set up this way. Note that Stan has objectives for every training line that he does with the pup.

So here we go and we will start with Rilla's first training line:

Rilla--Training Line #1 --Age 11 weeks

8/10/10 Our back yard
Wind SSW 5 mph dry conditions Temp near 80, humidity 79%
Set line @ 7:00 am, run line @ 8 am.
I will try 100 yds w/2 turns, using blood & liver blood, sponge and whipping stick w/sponge, occasionally touching liver to ground for short distances .
Age will be 1 hour.

OBJECTIVE: merely to get pup to the end. If this is accomplished, I will praise her LAVISHLY, let her eat a bite of liver and play with hide for at least 10 mins or so.

RESULTS: Set line at 7:30, ran at 8:30, exactly 100 yds, about 6oz blood, drug liver intermittently first 70 yds, then blood only for last 30 yds. Performance was near perfect. I really don’t think she was challenged at all. Had a small piece of liver, which she ate, in the 1 ft piece of hide. Let her play with hide while praising her, then put her in pen with hide, which she chewed for another 10-15 minutes until she grew tired of it. Very successful first outing! Lee videoed the entire sequence.

Rilla-Training Line #2

8/14/10 Freas’ Alfafa Field
Wind East 5 mph Temp 73 humidity 65%
Set line at 8 AM, run at 10 AM
Two hour aging, 150 yds with 4 turns
Squirt bottle, 4 oz blood, liver drag intermittent
(Ran out of blood the last 20 yds—dragged liver—I’m learning, too!)

OBJECTIVE: Challenge pup to longer, older line with less blood, observe to see if line should continue to get more difficult, stay the same, or back up a little. Also add the distraction of a large piece of farm machinery (hay rake) and much higher grass (hay field).

RESULTS: Very good performance once again! I had to assist some at a couple checks, but others she worked perfectly. Once I guided her back, she hit the line running, with great enthusiasm. The hay in this field is almost a foot high, and she worked very hard to get through it, but showed awesome drive, right to the end. The hay rake was a great distraction—line ran literally underneath one side of the rake, with briars on the other side. She was a bit timid at first, but worked right through it after a few seconds. On the second turn, she did not even go three feet past, corrected herself and went on. I am totally amazed at the ability this pup is showing at her young age! She loves the liver at the end much more than the hide; I will leave more for her to eat, and chew on the next time.

Rilla-Training Line #3

12 ½ weeks old (1 week since last line)
Wind NE 5mph Temp 75 humidity 62%
Freas’ alfalfa field
Set at 8:30 AM Ran at 12:30 PM
4 hour aging, 300 yds w/ 3 turns
~6oz Blood w/hooves clamped to pipe

OBJECTIVE: Move up to 4hr old line, add simulated tracking shoes (2 hooves hose-clamped to a long pipe to be used like a walking stick), much less liver scent, Double length to 300 yds. Will add a couple liver bits along line to help enthusiasm on longer line, also more chunks at end. Add tail at end along with hide to see if different scent sparks more possessiveness.

RESULTS: Once again, a very solid performance. Hoof/pipe rig didn’t work as intended—hooves slid up pipe…but I was still able to use it. Only used liver blood (<1 oz) at the beginning; no liver dragging at all. She was very enthusiastic. Worked close sometimes, fast other times. Had to be helped at first check(left turn); I suspect deer had walked through there this morning, since this turn was at an opening between alfalfa and soy bean fields. She went the wrong way, but appeared to be scenting something. After correction, she followed the line well, and worked the next check (right turn) perfectly, only overshooting by a few feet before correcting herself. Last check (left turn), she went too far and I helped her again. This leg of track went directly into the alfalfa (first, second and third legs were along trail/field edge). Alfalfa 12-18” high—she had to hop to get through it, and did so with GREAT DESIRE! Wind was at her back, but it was like she knew she was nearing the end. She laid down at the hide/tail as if to guard them. I petted and praised her with no growling. Ate liver bits after I exposed them from inside the hide. She really didn’t want to play tug of war with the hide or tail, but growled when I reached to pet her again—told her “Yes, that’s YOURS, isn’t it”, and petted her anyway. No more growling. Dragged the tail as we left, with Rilla biting and playing with it for about a 100 yds or so when she lost interest.

This seems to be great work for a pup of this age; love the drive and enthusiasm. I hope my assistance at checks, when needed, will show her that when she loses the scent and circles back, good things happen. When the scent is strong and in a straight line, she likes to run. I like the desire, but I may need to encourage her to stay slow and steady to decrease the odds of missing a check in the real world. She did not act any differently on this 4 hour old line; reacted just as she has on the fresher lines. Two interesting distractions this time--first was several overturned white bleach bottles stuck in ground hog holes by landowner. She approached with interest, but I told her NO and she returned to the line. Second was a small butterfly right in front of her face. Normally she would chase and attempt to catch--this time she just looked at it and quickly went back to the task at hand.

Training Line #4

13.5 wks old
Reading, Pa

Took Rilla to Andy Bensing’s to attempt a UBT-I Test. Three other dogs went first. Line was 7 hrs old by the time we got on it. (UBT-I says at least 2 hrs) Conditions were hot and dry ~85 degrees. Andy said he laid the line at 6:30 AM; we were tracking at 1:30 PM.

Rilla, once started, did well for the first 50-60 yds. The track was up a loooong hill in a hay field. She had to be coaxed back on the line several times, and began to lose interest, sitting down and looking up at me. Andy advised calling it off, so we did.

I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed, but shouldn’t have been. She will be more prepared next time, and I predict it won’t be long before she can NAIL this test. The stress of the 2 hr ride, the long wait to be tested, many strangers in close proximity, riding in the back of a pickup with strangers, the long hill, and the building heat were all factors that contributed to this young pup's problems today.

Training Line #5

14.5 wks old
320 yds, 3 hrs old, 3 turns
Our woods in Carney’s Point

OBJECTIVE: This will be Rilla’s first track in a woods setting vs. a field. This will make several new challenges for her—different terrain, patches of tall weeds, etc.

RESULTS: Changed the aging to about 3 hours due to windy (15-25 mph gusts) and severely dry conditions. (Originally I was going to age 4 hrs) Started trail on main logging road, made a left at first skidder trail, then a right turn into the woods which led to another skidder trail, which ended back on the main logging road with a slight left. 320 yds total, 5 oz blood, and a makeshift “tracking pipe” (inserted one leg into pipe this time, and another on the outside of the pipe, with an array of hose clamps). This one worked fine, but the motion of continuously moving it to make tracks was not comfortable on the arms. Tracking shoes will be purchased ASAP!

If I didn’t know this was the same pup that couldn’t do a UBT-I a week ago, I would swear it was a different dog. She started strong on dry leaves, then onto patches of packed dirt, through high weeds for about 70 yds to the first turn. She was on her game, making it look effortless. Worked very slowly with nose to the ground. Overshot the first turn, corrected herself, found the line, then veered off again just as I was about to praise her. She wandered about 10 ft before swinging back, hit the line and continued her nice slow pace down the skidder trail. At the right turn, she overshot again and I put a little tension on the lead as she neared the end of it. She swung around quickly and found the turn. (Note—Next time out, I’m considering dropping the lead when she overshoots to see what she’ll do with absolutely no influence from me). Now we were in undisturbed woods, with broken sticks, branches and other obstacles everywhere. She continued, up, over, under or around whatever was in her way with ease and great drive. We went through the woods for about a hundred yards, and she worked very well. As we hit another skidder trail, the track veered left, and she followed perfectly. This trail led back to the main logging road, which at this point contains 2-3 foot high weeds. She stayed under the growth, tracking wonderfully. I dropped the lead so it could drag on the ground behind her without hanging up. All went well right to the skin.

One other nice feature of tracking in our woods is the nearby gun club—there was a lot of shooting going on as we tracked. The range is several hundred yards from our location, but that was good. Rilla never paid any attention the gunfire.

This was a very uplifting experience for me after last week’s mild disappointment. I was a little skeptical of how she would perform due to the wind and extreme dry conditions, but as soon as I set her down, it was obvious I had nothing to worry about. It’s just amazing to watch this normally playful pup get into a totally different zone when she’s working. She rarely even looks back at us, which shows she’s concentrating on the task, and isn’t distracted easily.

Lee videoed again, and commented that she “made it look easy”. This track took her 16 minutes, with the extra time needed due to the conditions. An antsy dog would have had a tough time, IMO, but she kept the slow steady pace, which really impresses me!

1 comment:

Stan said...

Thanks for the compliments, and also for posting my training progress. I hope others will share their experiences with me also, so we can all learn.
Rilla had her first two "finds" yesterday, as both my sons filled their antlerless tags on our opening day. Of course, these were known lines, but she did well and was only slightly intimidated at the sight of a whole deer.
I must also say that you and John are the type of breeders that an owner hopes for!