Eibe Goes Shopping at the Mall
by Andy Bensing
In anticipation of a blood tracking test we are taking in three weeks in North Carolina I needed to do some artificial line training with my dog, Eibe. We are taking a 20-hour-test on Saturday and a 40-hour-test the same weekend on Sunday. We have had a great fall and winter tracking for real having taken 47 calls this year but we have not done an artificial line since early September. As any reader of mine well knows I am a firm believer in targeted training and preparation for whatever I do with my dog, and taking a test without practicing for the 5 months beforehand is certainly not my style. The problem is that we are having an unusually snowy winter here in SE Pennsylvania and there is no clear ground to train on. Training on snow was not an option as I know my dog will just visually follow the tracks.
I was complaining about my problem at the diner while eating breakfast and one of my wise guy friends told me to go train at the airport and just be careful to not get hit by a plane. He was joking but it immediately gave me a brainstorm. I remembered back to a track this past fall in a suburban sub-division where my dog tracked a bleeding deer 200 meters down the center of a road and I thought "Hey....Why can't I train on asphalt? " So I went home and defrosted some blood and at 8PM that night when most of the traffic was gone from the back of a local shopping mall I laid a track with a squirt bottle just like I would in the woods. I had no intention of writing about this exercise or videotaping. The videotape idea just struck as I tracked along and I pulled out my iphone and shot away. A shaky, poor quality video resulted but I think you will enjoy it anyway. I plan to try to better perfect my self-videotaping of training exercises at a later date.
The training goal for the line was to work on encouraging my dog to search forward as much as she now searches back when she comes to a hard check. Last summer I overemphasized working back tracks in my artificial line training. As a result Eibe now really understands backtracks and nails them both in training and the real world but I found this past hunting season that she wastes a lot of time and energy focusing on the looking for a back track when the solution to the check may only be a short distance to the front. My plan was to use a directed search to encourage concentrically expanding circles at the check instead of her immediately searching for a backtrack. From last summer's training I really believe she now recognizes when the line doubles up from the deer doubling back and when she gets to the end of the line where the double back starts, she then just searches back to where the line is not doubled anymore and easily locates where it turned off. With that in mind my thoughts were that when she gets to a dead spot on a line where she has not smelled a double line as she approached it she should be able to learn to circle there instead of wasting time looking for a backtrack that is not there.
The real surprise about the parking lot exercise was that working in that environment allowed me to observe some things about my dog that I do not think I would have noticed nearly as well or at all in the normal field or forest. I am not going to tell you what those things are. You will have to watch the video if you want to find out.
Parking Lot Training from Andy Bensing on Vimeo.