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Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring training in the snow

by Andy Bensing

I have two 13-month-old pups, Addi and Axel, and I am hoping to take to the Deer Search Competition in April.  I would prefer to train on open ground but the weather has not been cooperating so I am practicing in the snow.  I do like training in the snow as it is a great way to practice line control.  Here is the set up I laid out today to run the pups on tomorrow.  I laid out 2 lines like this today.  I will run each dog tomorrow at 24 hours on their own individual training line and then swap lines and run the pups again at 48 hours on opposite lines.

Blood and hair at the hit site

That looks like a lot of blood doesn’t it?  Training in the snow lets you see how much blood you are really putting down with a VERY small squirt.  What you see in this pic is one small squirt.  When I squirt this amount every other step, about every 5 to 6 feet, it meters out the blood to 8 ounces over 1000 meters, which is the concentration of blood put down for most blood tracking tests around the world.  

Less than 10 meters after the start I try to trick the dog by putting some blood both ways at the first “Y”.  It is only natural for a dog to just continue straight going the easiest path on the right but the blood line actually bears to the left through the rougher snow.  The prevailing wind tomorrow will likely be coming left to right so that may help the dog a bit.  Regardless, right after the start the dog will have a potential issue to deal with.  This kind of set up discourages overexcited fast starts which can get a dog in trouble.

I am approaching another “Y”.  I am walking in the left hand tire track and dripping blood in the right hand tire track.   The wind is from left to right and will certainly be in that direction tomorrow.  By running the blood line up over the rough snow  into the far left tire track it will set up a great misdirection exercise for the dog tomorrow.  The dog will almost certainly get sucked to the right for several reasons.  First of all before the “Y” the blood is already in the right track and the wind will continue to drift scent down that  track quite a distance even after the blood line goes to the left.  The dog will also naturally be sucked down the easy path of least resistance to the right as well.  At some point the dog will realize he has lost the line and will begin to search.  With the wind likely coming from the left at that point, hopefully the dog will work the check into the wind, and have to cross some deep snow and 2 empty tire tracks to re-acquire the line.  Watching your dog do that work and knowing EXACTLY to the inch where the line is allows you to learn a lot about your dog and teach the dog a lot as well if need be.

You can see how I just simply drove around the field a few times setting up crisscrossing tire tracks.

 Another kind of misdirection not at an intersection.  I just switch over to another tire track right on a straight section.  Wind from left to right makes this more difficult.

Here is a tricky turn with a short backtrack.  I took the bloodline to the left in the left tire track past the intersection about 10 meters then brought it back in the right tire track to the intersection and went to the right.  I will enjoy watching the dog work this one out.

Here I am going from the right tire track, over the rough snow into the far left tire track.  Notice all the natural deer tracks.  By tomorrow afternoon there will be even more and likely right in the tire tracks themselves. This should be interesting.

Here is a video of my male, Axel, doing the exercise the next day at 24 hours.  I had not checked the weather forecast closely and as it turned out it rained pretty hard overnight.  That rarely causes a problem with artificial trails laid on bare ground but it did seem to make a pretty big difference with the blood line laid in the snow.  Axel had very successfully work blood lines laid in snow tire tracks twice before and had virtually no trouble.  As you watch this video you will see that scenting was much more difficult on this rained on line. Additionally, because of the rain I had a hard time knowing exactly where the line was at.  The rain had washed most of the visual blood away.  Normally when you lay lines in the snow the next day you can see faint brownish smears where the blood is but the rain had washed that all deep into the snow.  The snow was pretty frozen when I worked the line.  Perhaps that prevented much of the scent from percolating up out of the snow or maybe it was just gone similar to the effect rain has on artificial lines laid on bare ground when it rains on that artificial track before the blood dries on the ground and leaves.

The video is long, 10 minutes, and you don’t have to watch the whole thing to get the idea, but if you do watch it all take notice of how I work the dog to balance helping him to be successful and allowing him to make his own mistakes to learn on his own.  You will see how by handling the dog properly Axel eventually figures out how to work the much more difficult scenting conditions than he is used to.  By the end of the track he is nailing it.

When I ran my other dog Addi on her line it was even harder and she took almost to the end to get it figured out.  For whatever reason, the visual blood on the snow was completely gone.  There was only one or two places on the line where I could see a slight discolor in the snow and I believe the available scent was even less than on Axel’s line as well.  Because of the poor scenting conditions I did not run the opposite  lines the next day at 48 hours as planned.  That looked like a disaster waiting to happen. 

As you might have read in a previous post, I had laid a tracking shoe only / no blood  line down in the snow the same day as these lines for my Eibe.  Interestingly, the rain on the tracking shoe line gave my Eibe no trouble at all.  Whether that was because she is an experienced dog and knows how to adjust quickly to different scenting conditions or tracking shoe scent on snow holds up better to rain I can’t say.  But it certainly gives raise to some interesting questions.

1 comment:

Lindsjö taxar said...

Great post and very interesting to take part of your work. Nice to document with a video. Well done.
Very good dogs to manage in that wheather after rain. Top job!