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Monday, July 2, 2012

Blood tracking training of a young puppy - Theo at 12 weeks

A week ago we posted Darren Doran's report from working a first blood line with his puppy Theo. This report was on our puppy blog. I decided to post his second report here as it shows so well how a seasoned tracker and trainer approaches blood tracking training with a young puppy. Theo will be three months old on July 6.

What I love about Darren's approach is that he has a plan and objectives for his training. It is obvious that a lot of thought based on his knowledge and experience have gone into this. His analysis and detailed written step-by-step description of Theo's tracking are first class. I think his reports can be of real help to novice trackers and handlers.
In Darren's own words:

I wanted to train with Theo, but it's been so hot that the only good time to train is first light. I decided to put out a line on Saturday night about 7:30 pm.

I picked a spot that was heavily timbered with a full canopy of leaves. The sun hardly hits the ground in this area. The line was about 75yds with a left turn and a right turn, and it would finish at a half of deer skin with the tail. I used tracking shoes with doe feet. The line was similar to the first one except I didn't use any hair at the hit site. I marched with bloody hoofs close together and added blood to the line and blooded the hoofs frequently along the way. At the turns I scuffed the leaves and added blood.

The goal of this exercise was to expose Theo to different parts of the total tracking experience. Theo had never been to these woods. I had to load him in his crate and drive to the line which was about 8 minutes away. We were going to walk in on a lead, track on a tracking leash and I was going to introduce him to our starting routine.

It was 68 degrees when I parked the truck. There was no wind and it hadn't rained over night. By the time I got the skin placed and back to the truck to get Theo its was almost 6am. The line was 10 1/2 hours old. I wasn't concerned about the age of the line because it was put out right before dark in a shaded woods with no wind or rain overnight. A line put out like this doesn't age at the same rate as one put out in the daylight exposed to the sun or wind.

I got ready and walked Theo in on the lead. He walked out ahead of me on the trail in a confident manner. As we entered the woods he fell in behind and we proceeded to the hit site. Here is where I introduced him to our starting routine. This routine will evolve as our training progresses but for now I simply tie his lead to a tree near the hit site, get out his tracking collar and leash and hook him up. I leave him tied to the tree and walk over to the hit site and bend over and pretend to examine it. After about 10 or 15 seconds I go back to the dog, untie him and pick him up and place him at the hit site.

Theo sniffed around and took the line almost immediately. I'm not used to this kind of start with my other dog Karl and it was a welcomed change. I was going to incorporate a technique that Andy Bensing had showed me. If Theo was loosing focus or needed additional help on the line, I was going to toss a piece of raw deer meat ahead of him while he was tracking. This acts as an incentive and reward at the same time. When you do this you want the dog to be tracking and not be aware that you are throwing it.

Theo tracked to the first turn without incident. He tracked past the turn and started to check after about 8 ft. When I laid this line I tried to pick an area that was relatively brush free but the leash snagged and this broke his concentration. When I went over to unhook it, he came over to me. I coaxed him back to the turn saying ''where did he go, search here'' and let him work. He worked out the turn and when I was sure he was tracking I tossed a piece of meat over his head on the line. He tracked past it but then hit the breaks and started sniffing all around looking for this new scent. The meat was only there for a couple of seconds before he got there but was able to identify it and find it. This worked as planned and he seemed to work with more intensity. Theo came to the second turn and tracked past it as well. He corrected himself and as soon as he was tracking I tossed another piece of meat over his head. We were now on the home stretch and I tossed the meat a couple of more times. As we neared the end of the line Theo spotted the hide and was a little taken back. I started to praise him and he went over and started to chew it up. I gave him the rest of the meat. He does have the indication of being a possessive dog with the hide. He was growling at me when I went to take it away. I unhooked his tracking gear and we played with the hide on the way out of the woods. I would take it from him and throw it and he would run over and start chewing it up.This also allowed me to work on his possessiveness and by the time we got to the trail he was relinquishing the hide in a more civil manner.

At the trail I packed up the hide and hooked him back up to his lead and we walked back to the truck. It took Theo 13 minutes to do this line and I couldn't be happier with his work. I like his speed, his ability to correct himself, and his focus.The age of the line did not pose any problems. The next line will be about the same length. The age will depend on the weather and the temperature.The tracking leash didn't pose a real problem but it did break his concentration a couple of times. I'm going to walk him through the woods with his tracking leash on rather than the trail on our nightly walks. This should get him more familiar with the leash snagging brush. At the turns I'm going to add more blood and as we approach the turn, I'm going to toss a piece of meat over his head right at the turning point. This should focus his concentration at the turn and maybe he'll pick up the new direction easier. When Theo's tracking I don't talk to him at all. The sound of my voice has a tendency to break his concentration at this young age.

All in all a successful exercise and the goals set were achieved.

Theo at the end of his second training line.


Stan said...

Once again, nice work and great description!

Lindsjö taxar said...

Interesteing reading about Theo, I think he is going to be really good with tracking. Showing this so young....very exciting to follow him.
Hope on more updates.