Note on Tracking from the ART List by Armin Winkler



Imagine you are playing ball with the dog, and the dog decides to stalk a bird instead. You can just yell harsh and loud enough to have the dog come back and leave the bird alone, but also leave the ball.



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Note on Tracking from the ART List
by Armin Winkler

I am pretty careful with tracking because I believe that we don't ever know 100% what is going on in the dog.  So a lot of evaluation is necessary to see if a dog is ready for influences that can reduce drive.  I spend a lot of time studying the dogs to get a good read on whether they are tracking, comparing, solving a problem, or going off onto another scent.  It is absolutely crucial that we can tell that they are on another scent before we influence them.  Such an influence is not motivational, it is a negative influence, designed to kill the drive for the distraction, be they audible, visible, or olfactory.

Imagine you are playing ball with the dog, and the dog decides to stalk a bird instead.  You can just yell harsh and loud enough to have the dog come back and leave the bird alone, but also leave the ball.  But you can also influence the dog in a way that allows the stimulation from the ball to stay active, while the one from the bird is inhibited and the dog resumes the play for the ball.

The same kind of influence has to happen on the track, the desire to check out another dog, or follow a rabbit track or anything along that nature has to be interfered with so the dog continues to track the track we laid.

We have all seen this before, where the dog does toy obedience, but when we correct them for having their brain somewhere else, they don't even want the toy anymore.  A balance has to be achieved, or the dog will lose attitude.  In tracking this is even more important because we do not show the dog the way, the nose does.

Sometimes a simple "Uh-Uh!" -- "Such" may be enough and we see the dog stop checking a scent and resume tracking.  Sometimes they need a harsher influence like a correction or a louder verbal command.  Very often though it is necessary that we "platz" the dog and re-stimulate the drive to track before we say "Such" again.

We can do that by pointing, or pulling backwards slightly while saying the tracking command.  Or sometimes simply replaying a mini-version of the little ritual we perform before even putting the dog on a track.  I say something to the effect of "What are we gonna do now boy?" as I take him to the track.  I may use that to get the brain back on tracking.

"Pfui" or "No" are commands we all use to kill drive when our dogs follow a drive and do something very undesirable.  (Getting in the garbage, picking up garbage or dead things, etc)  To use a word like that we have to be absolutely sure they are engrossed in a new non-track related smell.  If they are struggling at a corner and are sort of trying to sort out the smells including the track smell to figure out where it continues and we holler "Pfui" at them, then there is a good chance that we correct them for working on the track and that we kill the drive they need to go on.

I use that word when I have a good feel that the dog understands what I want when I say "Such" and when I am sure that he is on another smell.  I am pretty much always sure when they are off the track, but in all honesty, the assessment of whether the dog truly has grasped what I want when I say "Such" is not always so accurate.  If I catch myself in such a situation, I have to accept my own mistake and go on from there.

Many dogs learn tracking by ritual and by set up (flag, harness, long line, boots, etc) and few do by command.  If you have a very good motivational tracker it can sneak up on you and you find yourself where the dog tracks so well you never really looked at whether they learned to do it on command.  But with dogs like that, when you say "Such" after you got on them for doing something like peeing on the track, you find yourself with your dog in the middle of the field and the dog not really mentally set up to track.  Say "Such" all you want.

We have all seen SchH 3 dogs who bark in the blind, but when in a platz in front of a helper who is not stimulating him that the dog does nothing when the word "Revier" is given.

Be sure your dog tracks on command, be sure that the dog is on another smell before you influence the dog, when in doubt do nothing but encourage the dog.  When you do influence the dog, be sure you can help the dog back to tracking.  And by that I do not mean showing the dog the track (although that may sometimes be helpful).  I mean to get their brain back to working with their nose for you.  If showing them the scent they have forgotten is necessary, do it.  If platzing them to re-stimulate their drive to track is necessary, do it.  If helping them to the next spot that makes any sense to them, like a piece of food, or an article is necessary, then do that.  And if you plain messed up and it went in the toilet for the day blame the one who did it (yourself) and go home.  Do it again another day and change what you did so it goes more your way next time.

Think of tracking like narcotics training.  Nobody uses force there.  Some discipline so the dog does not goof off, yes, but not force.  We depend on the dog's nose to do the work and for that the dog has to want to do it.  Ditto for tracking.  Just because we make the dog walk with his head down does not make it tracking yet.


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