Yesterday we went to our first tracking class. While I'm on long service leave I thought I'd take the opportunity to do as much as possible with the dogs. Thommo didn't seem to enjoy it, though he seemed to be tracking and he found the food drops and articles, he worries so much about new experiences - he kept checking back with me, "Is this right?" Dusty loved it, once I put the tracking harness on she is raring to go.
We went to Medowie State forest, twenty minutes out of Newcastle. Our group consisted of a German Shepherd, a Dachshund, a Border Collie, a Corgi and a Cattle Dog. For the beginners we started with short 15-20 metre tracks, in a straight line laid directly into the wind (which was a very light breeze). The area we were using was level, with knee high grass and sapling regrowth.
With our dog in the hands of another classmate, we each placed a start flag with a sock bearing our scent beside it, and a tasty treat on top of it. We then walked with a normal stride and speed out to the end point where we left another sock and treats and placed our end flag. By looking from flag to flag we then had a line that should approximate the scent trail. We returned to our dogs making a big arc downwind of the track.
The dogs wore their tracking outfits: harnesses, with a two/three metre lead attached. We'll work up to the regulation 10+ metre line. We brought the dog to the start flag, and gave the cue to track. The dogs all ate the first treat without any problem, but most needed some encouragement to continue to follow the trail to the next article. For some the instructor began laying the track and encouraging the dog with a food container. Dusty was great. She had the idea of following my track and stayed on it fairly consistently despite signs of rabbits and kangaroos. We each did four tracks, then sat in the shade to discuss our progress.
I have the book Try Tracking and had read it, and done the first three days of the training plan, so Dusty was a little advanced of the others in our group. Try Tracking's author says that it is important in the early days to do at least three tracks a day, six days a week for the first three weeks to imprint the idea of tracking, so we are going to continue with the lesson plans from the book. Unfortunately tracking class won't be able to meet again until the end of the month.