I’ve been experimenting with teaching my young dog, Talic, how to track Schutzhund (footstep to footstep) style without using food in every footstep.
Traditionally, I was taught to teach tracking with food in every footstep and then you gradually take the food away, ending up with a pattern of checking each footstep for reinforcement. With each dog I’ve taught to track (Talic is my 8th Schutzhund dog!), I’ve started food every footstep, then taken the treats away sooner and sooner in their career. I’ve gone to teaching them to indicate small buried articles to help get the preciseness that I still need.
With Talic, I saw a video from Dick Stahl with an amazing Tervuren doing footstep tracking on pavement and cobble stones in a busy area, and decided to take the plunge. No food! Only article indication!
Here’s T as a pup, with me capturing the stare:
and then associating it with a flag outside:
And the hard part was communicating to him that this was a scenting game, not a sight game, and that was a hot mess of a training session that I don’t have video of. (I think I deleted it accidentally on purpose)
And for various reasons, I didn’t track him very much over the last year, but when I did, I’ve been pretty satisfied with his ability to track and the article indication. But… I’ve got some things to clean up. Remember that gorgeous stare article indication? Well I’ve either lost it, or didn’t train it fully, or whatever…
So today, (November 2019) here’s where we are:
You know, it’s not bad. But it’s messy and not “clean”. And if anything, the trainer I am today likes “clean” behaviors, and the dog knowing exactly what he is supposed to be doing at every part of the session.
I’ve got 3 things to re train/clean up/stop managing with restraint and hand pointing. Not all of these are worth points, and it’s not like Talic’s indication is any different from Reik’s or One’s current article indication. But I’m a different trainer today than I was 6 years ago and I think I can build a more precise indication without losing the joy of tracking. (always an issue when we get picky!)
Start: Talic is “too” fast and there are a lot of potential issues going forward if that continues. He’ll likely overshoot corners, not take enough scent at the start footsteps, and as age increases, with weather and wind, that might lead to loss of track. Dogs can “fake” a lot at any of the schutzhund tracking degrees…. until the FH…. and then age gets the best of them and all the foundation holes show back up.
Article indication: glances back at me, bobs his head. I’d like him to be more steady with a stare forward the entire time. He is very straight though! Something that I’ve battled with Ones so at least I’ve got that going for me.
Restart: well, it’s kind of a managed messy thing right now! I’m holding him back, he’s wanting to go. That kind of restraint, unclearness eventually affects the tracking itself, especially as the track ages.
Problem solving and fixing all three of these issues in follow up blogs in the future as I re train them!
If you’d like some information on how to teach footstep tracking, check out my on line self study classes offered through Fenzidogsportsacademy.com. These classes teach using food to imprint the tracking, so not exactly what I’m doing with Talic but informative in a different way.
Here is the link to the first tracking course!