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Subsequent Training Sessions

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For several training sessions, the same process should be followed, with the length of track steadily increased. By the time the track is between 20 and 50 yards long, the dog will probably no longer be able to find the glove by sight alone.

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2015-03-23

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TD Training: Part 2

by Craig Green

Tally-Ho: September/October 1994

Last month, the first in a series of articles on beginning tracking training was presented, mostly covering the first day of training. That article included my tracking philosophy, initial glove work and the first track. This month's article describes additional training sessions.

Subsequent Training Sessions

At first, work two or three times a week if you can, but at least once a week. For each training session, the beginning dog should have about three to five short tracks, always finishing with a positive success. Begin each of the first few sessions with glove work (described last month), and increase the length of tracks from 5, 10 and 20 yards to 30 yards or so. If the dog is doing extremely well, start with a 10 or 15 yard track rather than the 5 yard track. After a few days with a natural tracker, the glove work can probably be eliminated. For a dog that is having trouble, keep the tracks short enough so he can experience success. Consider your individual dog's temperament, excitement and overall motivation and ability. If he is not enjoying the activity, stop tracking and try to figure out what is wrong.

For several training sessions, the same process should be followed, with the length of track steadily increased. By the time the track is between 20 and 50 yards long, the dog will probably no longer be able to find the glove by sight alone. The dog will realize at some point that using his nose will be necessary, and will start using it on his own. If he has trouble, and leaves the track by more than 5 or 6 feet, gently guide him back along the track, and if you have to, show him where the glove is. Don't let him wander all over the place, hoping he might stumble on the glove. This reinforces bad behavior.

By the third or fourth training session, the dog should begin to exhibit tracking behavior; that is, nose down and scenting for the glove. Of course, many hounds do this the first day. Once the dog is tracking a straight distance of between 30 and 50 yards, then single-laid tracks and turns can be introduced. Always praise and reward the dog for finding the glove.

You should be using a non-restrictive tracking harness (no strap over the shoulders) by the third or fourth training session. It is a good idea to put the harness on just before you begin tracking (just prior to the glove work or first flag). As soon as the training session is over, take the harness off. A short leash (6 feet or so) that you might have started with should now be replaced with a long lead. I recommend a 40 foot nylon parachute chord, with a snap on one end, and a tag marker at 20 feet from the snap. You should begin to follow your dog at a distance greater than 20 feet, once he begins to track well. Tracking rules require this at a test.

Single-Laid Track

Once you have been tracking on 30 to 50 yard straight double-laid tracks, change to single-laid tracks of the same length. To do this, the tracklayer drops the glove at the end flag (without fanfare), and continues walking straight ahead for a few steps. Then, he circles back around to a position behind the dog/handler so as not to distract the dog when it is tracking. The tracklayer should not walk within 10 or 15 yards of the track when circling around, preferably downwind of the track so the scent of his return will not be confusing. The handler then allows the dog to begin tracking, following with a slightly tight lead at the dog's pace.

Begin each training session with shorter tracks, ending with longer ones. If the dog has a hard time on the "final" track, lay an easy 10 or 15 yard track so the dog can finish with an easy success. Once the dog is tracking single-laid tracks for 30 yards or so, put in a turn.

First Turn

The first turn should be an "open" turn, which means less than 90 degrees from the original direction. So, rather than turning completely right or left, turn only slightly, at about a 45 degree angle from the original direction.

When introducing turns, place a flag at the turn, as well as the start and finish. The handler needs to know where the track is, so any problems can be immediately identified and corrected. When introducing turns, it's a good idea if the handler follows at about six feet, rather than the 20 feet or so required at a tracking test. This allows the handler to make corrections more quickly. Go back to 20 feet when the dog is working well.

If the dog does well on his first turn, do it one or two more times and quit for the day. Use both left and right turns (not on the same track at first), and be aware of the wind direction when starting out. I prefer starting turns with no wind, but if the wind is blowing, then I prefer for the dog to be turning into the wind. This requires some thought by the tracklayer at the beginning, but makes the first turns easier.

More Turns

In subsequent training sessions, begin to increase the turn angle closer to 90 degrees. By now, the tracklayer has to place a starting flag, put a flag at the turn, put the glove (with food) down at the end flag, and walk around to behind the dog and handler before the dog is allowed to track (single-laid track). You don't want the dog to be distracted by the tracklayer moving through the field while he is tracking. The handler should wait until the tracklayer has returned to behind him, and has stopped, before starting the dog.

Once turns are introduced, the tracklayer should no longer wave the glove at the dog, or use other attention-getting gestures. This should only be done at the early stages of training, when you are motivating the dog to track in a straight line.

Once the dog understands single 90 degree turns, introduce two turns on one track. Up until now, each training session with turns has consisted of several single-laid short tracks (50 to 80 yards) with a single turn each. Now, put two turns in a single track, with three legs of from 30 to 50 yards each. Do this twice, and end the session if the dog responds well. If the dog has trouble, then lay a straight short track (20 - 50 yards) and let the dog easily find the glove. Always try to end with success and happy times! By the time your dog is doing two tracks of two turns each, train only once a week.


 

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