By Andy Bensing
With tracking season coming sooner than you think, in addition to brushing up my dog’s tracking skills, I also want to make sure that she is physically and mentally conditioned for the long season. The early season especially, with the higher temps, can be quite fatiguing.
This 10 minute video shows a training exercise I did recently. The main purpose of the exercise was to work on conditioning. My additional goals were to work on line control and tightening up her check work on turns.
My seven-year-old Eibe has quite a bit of experience by having taken almost 250 natural calls, and she has done upwards of 120 training lines in her five hunting seasons in the field. However, I still need to do some training with her occasionally to keep her in top form. If I lay off training completely, she begins to revert to some of her natural tendencies that are not always the most efficient, specifically getting a little loose on her line control and inefficient in working checks. Interestingly, with just a few exercises like I initially used when she was younger
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she straightens right back out and uses what she had learned in the past.
This particular training line was 1100 meters long in a hardwood forest and aged 72 hours. I used tracking shoes with minimal blood along the way with stretches of upwards of 250 meters with no blood at all. There were ten 90-degree turns and eight mountain bike/deer cross trails along the way. The line configuration was actually designed for Eibe’s granddaughter, Addi, who ran the same line at 24 hours two days before.
Initially I was going to run this line at 96 hours to make it very difficult for Eibe, but when we had a big thunderstorm that dropped almost an inch of rain on the line on the third night I ran it at 72 hours instead. Sometimes tracking shoe lines do not hold up too well in the rain. I thought there might be a possibility that the line would be gone but as you will see in the video, conditions were quite difficult but doable. Actually, they were perfect for what I was trying to do. The point of the difficulty was to make Eibe struggle both physically and especially mentally. A line of this length (1100 meters) would typically take my dog about 45 minutes or so to run but the minimal scent available created the desired effect and Eibe had to work very hard. It took her over double the normal time, 110 minutes.
As you watch the video you will see that I put two ribbons on turns and on each turn there is either a wound bed or at the very least I put a pretty good squirt of blood right under the double flag. I often do my turns like this in training. For my young dog it encourages close check work on the turns (which I wanted to refresh Eibe on). If the line were too difficult for Eibe and I needed to help her advance to keep the exercise going, I would absolutely know where I could find a good spot of scent to restart her. Luckily that did not occur and Eibe required very little handling along the way. In that same regard I also knew that within 2 or 3 yards of every bike trail/deer trail crossing there was also a little extra blood squirted on the ground. That extra blood was for Addi to encourage her to cross directly over to the other side of cross trails/roads/paths and check for the line before checking left or right along the cross trail.
As you watch the video I hope you enjoy Eibe’s careful hard work in the difficult conditions and perhaps gain some insight into how to set up training lines to maximize the learning opportunities for you and your dog when in the field.
The video can be accessed at