Progression in Tracking

Brooke and Rogue waiting for their tracking lesson to begin. Brooke is wearing jeans with a navy blue tank top, a white Roots hat with white Oakley sunglasses and white running shoes. Rogue is wearing a pacific blue harness from Ruffwear and has a black tracking line attached to the front which is held by Brooke.

Rogue has had two more lessons since her not so hot one. Now that we do not let her run free before the lesson her attention seems more focused on the task of tracking.

Huib is no longer tracking with her either, he is just acting as my guide, so maybe that is also why things are progressing. One thing with tracking is that you need to trust your dog and allow them to work things out, which is also a big part of having a successful partnership with a guide dog. I trust Rogue with my life, so why wouldn’t I also trust her in tracking? I also can’t see what is coming up, so she really has to do the work, I can’t direct her to the correct direction when she comes to a turn, even if there is a flag so it’s all up to Rogue and her nose.

Laura is pretty impressed with our teamwork, and says we are progressing well.

Maybe if we keep progressing we’ll be able to enter a trial in the fall… It would be nice to have an actual title on a dog.

Recall? What Recall?

It has been a couple of weeks, but Arizona has returned to group field classes.

It seems as though the entire group is back, Maverick the Duck Toller, Hank the black lab, Butler the chocolate, and Cassie the yellow lab.

Susie wanted to work with Hank and his owner, so she had us work with Chad (Maverick’s owner) and Laura.

Arizona did well at going to the bumper with the wing, but she forgot to come back. It’s like she’s forgotten what the whistle means, and any other form of recall we have tried to teach her, lol!

Instead of coming, Ari thought she would parade her bumper around Laura and Chad.

Despite trying a number of methods (e.g. with a tracking line on or off), Arizona was just not in the mood to return to me after fetching the bumper.

It was actually kind of embarrassing. I am not really worried about Laura seeing this mess, but Chad seems to be really into perfection and he hasn’t seen Ari work well yet, so it was hard to have him see her lack of recall.

Arizona is still not so sure about picking up a dead duck, so we’re trying to introduce it to her slowly.

Arizona laying in the grass with a dead Mallard in front of her. She's wearing her leash that has various shades paw prints on it.

It seems as though everyone in field uses an E-collar, and both Chad and Laura suggested we try one out, but Huib and I refuse to even consider it. We aren’t in a rush to get titles, so if it takes Arizona another year of lessons before she gets her WC (working certificate) then that is fine with us. We refuse to use a shock collar, even if Arizona is a brat!!

Hopefully next week goes better.

A Lesson Without Susie

Susie was away this week, so Arizona had her field lesson with Laura and Diane instead.

She did very well.

When Laura tossed the bumper with a wing attached, Arizona went straight to it, picked it up and after parading it around Laura, brought it back to me. We did this a few more times and then took a break to watch Diane work with Butler.

Butler is a 7 year old male chocolate lab. I think he has his Junior Hunter title and maybe even the next level, but I am not completely sure. He has been dealing with an ear infection, so Diane hasn’t wanted to work too much on his water retrieves.

When Diane was finished, we did a few more practice sessions with Arizona. It seems as though her limit is three tosses in a row though, because we tried to do a fourth and she was a lot more sloppy with her pick up and even more with her hold. She dropped the bumper several times on her way back to me and even on the return she was slow.

Despite the poor end, we were glad to have Laura and Diane see that Ari can actually retrieve. Until this session, I think both ladies were a bit unsure as to her abilities.

Group Training

Arizona in the grass wearing a pink leash paw prints in different shades of pink and brown

This was Arizona’s second group training class for field work.

There was a duck toller named Maverick, a black lab named Hank, a chocolate lab named Butler and two other golden retrievers named Striker and Buck.

Arizona was the youngest dog in the group by at least a couple of years, so she was also the goofiest. The other dogs all seem to have at least their first field title, so they were a lot more serious about following their owner’s direction.

Side view of Arizona lying in the grass wearing a pink bone shaped ID tag on her collar

This was Arizona’s first night seeing real ducks and was not going to pick one up. She had a bit of trouble settling enough to sit and she was overly excited to meet all of the humans when I gave her the cue to retrieve, but Susie didn’t seem worried about her progress, so we’ll just keep working away.

Once Arizona had her turn to attempt retrieving her duck wing attached to a training bumper, we stayed in the background and let her watch the older dogs work. She seemed quite interested and every time someone said “mark,” Arizona immediately stopped whatever she was doing and looked out towards where the duck would fall.

Susie sent two other training bumpers and duck wings home with us to work with. She is thinking that Arizona needs to practice with different equipment and also have a variety of people tossing it for her.

Next week we’ll attend group training again, but then we’ll have to take a couple of weeks off for other engagements.

Back to Track

It’s been a while, but on Saturday we returned to tracking with Search and Rescue Dogs, Ontario.

Brooke squatting down while Rogue lays beside her

We are still working on corners, but Rogue’s enthusiasm got in the way of her search, making her zig-zag more than the instructor would like, so she asked us to do some long straight tracks before trying another corner.

Brooke holds the tracking line while Rogue has her nose down following the track

Over the next month we need to continue working on her corners, starting with a couple of really long straight tracks before attempting an actual corner. The instructor loves her excitement level, but we need to rein it in a bit.

When you watch her track it’s hard to believe she’s actually a guide dog, lol!

Animals in Translation

Anyone who knows anything about autism or dog training has heard of Temple Grandin.

When I started learning about clicker training and positive reinforcement, I heard about her book Animals in Translation and knew I needed to read it.

Fast forward 8 years and I have finally read it.

Grandin writes about how animals and individuals with autism think and behave similarly. She talks a lot about her work with cows and slaughter houses. She describes her achievements in making the process less stressful and more humane for the cows. She explains how squeeze shoots work and talks about making one for herself and how it influences her emotions. When Grandin isn’t talking about cows, she talks about dogs. She helps her readers understand that they need to look at things from the level and point of view of the dog. When a dog balks at something, we need to get down to their level and think like they do. They could be concerned about something as simple as a reflection of sunlight they never noticed before.

This book wasn’t brilliant, but it was an easy read. If I learned anything, it was that I need to remember to think like a dog, get down to their level and see things from their perspective.

Corners and More Corners

Today Rogue had her third tracking lesson with Search and Rescue Dogs, Ontario.

She was a freaking superstar!!

Other then being a bit too enthusiastic, Rogue nailed her lesson on tracking corners.

We have graduated to the next level, so we are now working with a woman named Mary-Anne.

There were only 2 other dogs, a Beagle and a German Shepherd, in our group, so we had a chance to do 5 long tracks.

Mary-Anne had us each go and lay our tracks. She told us to do the same as we had been before, but that once we reached the spot where we wanted to turn, we were to put a flag and then continue past a bit. They continue past the flag in order to make sure the dogs are using their noses to find the track and not following the flags. Once we started our corner, we didn’t go as far as we had, so the track ends up sort of being an L-shape.

rogue wanted to run, so zigzagged a lot her first track. Mary-Anne said that Rogue is a really fast dog. She says it looks like she really knows what she is doing, but that she wants to go faster than we are going and as a result, gets frustrated and pulls. I suggested Huib do the next track or two on his own, just to give Rogue a chance to go as fast as she wanted and see how she does. Mary-Anne thought it was a good idea, so that is what we did.

Rogue did fabulously! In addition to having Huib do the tracks on his own, he also began laying the treats closer together, so it would get her back on task and slow her down a bit. We were using cut up chicken wieners, so we knew she’d slow down for them.

After Huib did two tracks on his own, I rejoined the team and we had two successful, final tracks.

I’m not sure where we will end up going with tracking, but Rogue seems to really enjoy the lessons and excel at it, so we’ll see where she takes us.

Growing Up

It’s hard to believe we have already had our Wild Child for 3 months, but it’s true!

Arizona hanging over the edge of the big jet tub, playing in the bubbles. She has bubbles around her nose and under her chin.

Arizona is maturing and growing quickly, but she’s still just as crazy as ever.

Hmmm….what’s been happening with her since the last time I wrote…

Ari is now 19 inches tall, 18 inches long, has a 22 inch girth and weighs 38.5lbs.

She is also teething, so we really have to watch what she puts in her mouth. She seems to think everything is chewable. So far she has redesigned our front door mat, added some artistic touches to a few baseboards and created handfuls of wood chips, doing her beaver impression on fallen tree branches in the backyard.

On the training front –

We have started field lessons, so our homework right now is to work on having her sit in one spot until we give her a release word, to not just come when we whistle and to walk on our left side.

We are working with Susie Bell of Pinebank Labrador Retrievers. Susie is a Labrador Retriever breeder who teaches both obedience and field work. With our schedule and my visual limitations, we have decided to do private lessons, so we meet with Susie every 2-3 weeks.

Our work with Arizona is slow going, but she’s getting there. we really want to avoid luring and forcing her into position as much as possible, so it’s taking longer to teach her to sit and heel then it could.

Ari is a bundle of energy, but she is extremely curious and confident, so it’s been a learning experience for us and a lot of fun at the same time. I had hoped to be further in her basic training by now, but with her energy and independent-mindedness, I needed to take a step back and let her mature and let me enjoy her without the frustration. I did this with Rogue and even though her training took longer, I think that in the end she became a better companion for us, so I hope the same can be said for Ari when she’s Rogue’s age.

we finally got Arizona’s CKC paperwork in the mail this past week. She is now officially registered as: Taygold’s Kindred Spirit.

She will make her conformation debut next weekend at the Elgin County Kennel Club show, which also happens to be the Purina National. Arizona is still considered a Baby Puppy, so she will only show on Sunday. Canyon is also entered, but he shows on both Saturday and Sunday with Huib and then again on Saturday with our friend Kira, who will make her debut as a Junior Handler.

I am not so sure Ari will do well in the CKC conformation shows, because she’s from a working line, so I talked to my friend Amy who has Dalmatians and I think we’re going to try and show our dogs together in the US starting in February. I just need to ask Arizona’s breeder for full breeding rights, so that I can register her with the AKC – wish me luck!

That’s probably about all I have to update everyone on for now with Arizona. I have some entertaining antics to share, but I will try and put them together in a separate post.

RIM Park

Every Friday we get together with our friend karen and her dog, Spark, in either Guelph or Waterloo.

this week we chose to travel to RIM Park with Arizona and Cessna.

I had never been to RIM Park, so it was a pretty neat experience. There were tons of different things to do with Arizona and Spark.

We took them on various bleachers, over a number of different surfaces and even had them walking on the playground equipment.

Spark wasn’t too sure about some of the surfaces and playground stuff, but Arizona continues to wow us with her fearlessness.

Brooke, Cessna and Arizona sit in the middle of an artificial turf soccer field. Brooke is wearing a long sleeved teal shirt with a navy blue vest, jeans, a white roots baseball cap and white running shoes. Cessna is lying beside her wearing her black leather CVC harness, purple Silverfoot martingale collar that has brown Haida whales on it and a black nylon leash that goes across Brooke's body. Arizona is wearing her Mickey Mouse collar and harness with a thin black nylon leash. Arizona is all fuzzy because she's trying to jet away.

same picture as before, but this time Arizona is laying down in front of Brooke and Cessna.

Rogue In Action

After missing July’s tracking lesson, we got back at it.

And, Rogue was a freaking pro!!

Rogue searches for the scent. the picture is taken from the side, you can see me holding her tight leash and Huib walking closer to her head in case she needs some direction.

A front view of Rogue searching.

A front view picture taken from a lower point.

rogue is getting close to the end of the track we laid. She's pulling hard towards her prize.

Rogue has found her orange Orbi ball on an orange braided nylon strap. The picture is sort of taken from the side back and you can only see Rogue with her toy.

We laid two shorter (50 feet long) and three or four longer (130 feet long) tracks for rogue to do.

On the shorter tracks, we had the treats laid out every couple of feet, but once we got to the longer tracks she was only getting treats about every 10 to 20 feet. On the longer tracks, Huib would lay four treats a foot apart from one another and then walk 15 to 20 feet before he laid four more treats a foot apart from one another.

Rogue freaking rocked the tracking lesson. If we had not run out of treats, the instructor was going to have us start spacing the treats out to 25 or 30 feet – which is our homework.

Huib, Rogue and I stand together. Huib and I are facing the camera, but rogue has her side showing. Huib is wearing jeans with a navy blue hooded sweatshirt. I am wearing jeans with a teal t-shirt and navy blue vest, pink baseball cap and rogue is wearing her teal Silverfoot martingale and a brown leather braided leash.

Rogue made us SO proud! We are going to try hard to practice before the next session, when we’ll begin learning about tracking corners.