A Doggie Weekend

Saturday morning we did some tracking. It’s been pretty mild over the past week, so good winter tracking weather.

Other than Sandy and Stewart, we were also joined by Susie and two of her female labs, as well as a woman named Margot and her three Irish Water Spaniels. Susie and Margot are just starting out, so it was also a good opportunity for us to introduce Canyon to the sport.

Laura laid tracks for Arizona, Rogue and Stewart prior to our arrival so they could age. After explaining some basics about laying an urban track, we got to work on tracks for the remaining dogs.

While Margot and Susie were laying tracks for their girls, Laura took Huib and Arizona to run their track. Arizona is still learning, so her track does not need to be as old as Rogue or Stewart’s. I walked with Sandy and got a play-by-play.

Overall, Arizona did a good job. She got a little confused by contamination in a few spots, and distracted by smells on a couple of electrical boxes, but she located the turns well and found all of the articles.

Canyon was probably the biggest surprise for us all. He has not really formally tracked before, just followed an old one of Rogue’s or walked behind another dog with us, but not really tracking. Huib used Rogue’s tracking harness and ran the track with him because it’s the beginning stages, so a lot of times you’re bending down to show the dog where to go. Huib said he had a moderate, but not hard pull, and seemed to know what he was doing. He had put two articles on the track, not knowing if Canyon would just stop after finding the one, so he was pleasantly surprised when Canyon willingly gave up the first article and returned to tracking. When they were done, he came over proudly to show me what he had found. I look forward to working with him in the future. I think it will be a lot different reading him compared to Rogue.

Finally, it was Rogue’s turn. since she isn’t a fan of getting wet or cold, I don’t ask her to sit at the start of her track in the winter. She ran into a few obstacles along the track, all in spots where people did a lot of walking, but she worked hard to figure it out and was successful each time. Even though the track didn’t go perfectly smooth, I felt she did a good job of working out the problems and ignoring all distractions. Laura forgot about her issues with sticks as a first article, but Rogue surprised us and found the stick without having to be reminded to look closer. She navigated each turn well and did her surface changes perfectly. I think she’s becoming quite the little tracker.

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On Sunday we took part in the Labrador Owners Club’s Obedience Fun Match. For readers who do not know what a fun match is… Clubs will put on in-formal obedience events where people can run through a course, for a small amount of money, to see what it is like, and also see where they might need to work on things with their Dog. It is also a good opportunity to obtain critiques and advice on where problems might be and how to work through them.

Huib and I have never been to an obedience trial, so we thought a fun match would be a good start to our future obedience work.

I wasn’t sure how it would go, so I decided to pay for one run for each dog. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of time to allow Arizona to settle, so she was a bit enthusiastic when her time came. Susie, our field and obedience instructor, was ‘judging,’ so I think that added to the excitement – Susie is Ari’s ‘friend.’

Arizona sat each time I asked her to sit and sort of walked with me, but she had to be kept on a really short leash. Also, when we did the figure eights, she wanted to visit the people who were acting as poles. They were making beeping noises, so that really distracted the Wild Child. I didn’t do the group sits with her because I am still working on her stays and I didn’t see the point of pretending she knows what she’s doing.

After Ari was done, Huib took her back to the car and got Canyon. Like Arizona, Canyon sat perfectly each time I asked and I thought he heeled a lot better, but he lacked enthusiasm. Huib thinks he might have been a bit uncomfortable with the environment, so feels we should try to get there earlier next time and allow everyone an opportunity to settle before participating. We did the figure eights quite well and I think working the course with him really helped me feel a bit more comfortable with the movements.

Huib was up next with Rogue. He has not done a lot of one-on-one work with her, so we weren’t sure how she would do. Huib said she did surprisingly well. He says they need to work on heeling and practice staying, even when I’m nearby, but otherwise he felt she did an okay job.

Once Rogue was done her course, it was time for the group stays, so I had to put Canyon in a sit-stay beside a young chocolate lab and then Huib had Rogue sit-stay on the other side of the lab. Huib suggested Rogue and Canyon not be right beside one another so she wouldn’t get distracted by him or confused when I returned to him. Canyon sat and waited for me, but Rogue broke her stay and charged me, lol!! Huib says it’s okay though because she might have gotten distracted by the other handler, who was returning to their dog to remind them to remain seated.

After the novice obedience dogs were done, the other pre-novice handler asked if she could do another run. Susie suggested I get Arizona and do the same. She feels Ari is the closest to being ready to actually attempt a pre-novice obedience run for real.

For a different experience, Susie asked another club member to ‘judge’ the runs. Arizona did a much better job of following my lead and ignored the beeping people a bit better. I need to learn how to walk in a straight line, but otherwise it’s just a lot of practice for us.

I am hoping to take Ari to another fun match before I actually consider entering a trial. We won’t be ready to try for novice obedience until next year, the dog needs to be able to heel off leash, but we should be able to attempt pre-novice by the spring.

We’ll also be restarting our weekly obedience lessons, so along with the work I do with the dogs through the Fenzi Academy and Training Levels Program, I hope we’ll see some progress.

Showing Good Work Ethic

This morning we ventured out to the University of Guelph campus to do some more tracking.

We weren’t the only ones this time, our buddies Sandy and Stewart joined the fun.

Since it wasn’t as cold – about -7 – just Rogue wore a coat. The goldens can handle the cold better, so I only make them wear coats on really frigid days.

Arizona was first. She still needs to obtain her TD (tracking dog) title, so her track was all on grass. Ari had some challenges, but she did her corners really well, found all of her articles, and showed great work ethic.

I think Arizona is finally beginning to understand her job and appears to enjoy it.

Rogue’s track was on grass and pavement. She found her scent pad and examined it thoroughly. She took a bit of time to decide what direction she wanted to go from the pad, but once she made up her mind, we were off!! She did a great job of finding all of the articles and showed amazing dedication. Rogue had a bit of trouble at one corner, taking close to three minutes to figure out where we needed to go, but she kept working and made the right decision.

There is really nothing bad I can say about the work either girl did..

Poor Canyon had to wait in the car. He did get some treats each time we got a girl or put one away, so I’m sure that made him happy. I’d leave him home, but I think he’d rather be with his ‘people.’

I am not a fan of summer, but I am even less of a fan of ice, so if it’s not going to snow, then it might as well warm up.

Winter Tracking

Tracking in -12 weather equals dedication. Or maybe it’s just being Canadian.

Either way, Rogue and Arizona did a fantastic job today.

Our tracking instructor sent out an email on Friday to see who might be interested in tracking this weekend. Everyone wrote back to say they would rather stay indoors.

Being the brave souls we are, I said SURE!!!

This morning Huib and I put on several layers of clothing.

I also put jackets on Rogue, Canyon and Arizona. Normally, I do not make the goldens wear coats, but with the wicked wind, I thought the jackets were needed. No one complained, so I guess they also liked the idea.

The girls should have also worn boots, but I know they don’t like them, so I let that go. Maybe I should purchase some paw balm.

When we got to Second Cup, Laura was not far behind. She told us where she had laid the tracks and we headed over to the University of Guelph campus.

Rogue was up first.

I put her tracking harness on over her coat, clicked the line to her front ring and gave her the okay to jump out of the car. We walked over to her track, which was on Johnston Green, near War Memorial Hall. When we were a few feet from the scent pad, I asked her to “wait,” and clipped the line to her back ring. After a moment, I said “Check it out!!” She sniffed the area thoroughly and then started pulling me in a straight-forward direction, so I said “Find!!,” and we were off. She missed the very first article, a stick, but found the other three articles, a piece of leather, another stick and a leather glove. She did her corners well, turning one without even stopping to double-check.

I was worried about her enthusiasm and wasn’t sure how she’d do since we had not tracked in a month, but Rogue did an amazing job!!

Arizona wore her coat under her harness as well. Huib said she was a good little worker. She found all of her articles, a piece of leather and a glove. She worked her corners nicely, and only got distracted near the end when they came upon a bunch of squirrels having a discussion in a tree. Huib said he couldn’t blame her for getting distracted because the squirrels even distracted him.

Canyon will start learning to track in the spring, it really isn’t a good time to begin his lessons. Instead, he hung out in the car, watching the girls from a distance.

Winter tracking is good because you can see your foot prints and see exactly where the higher traffic areas are. So, when your dog has difficulties, you are able to figure out if maybe it’s because a lot of people walked in that area.

Rogue followed a few ‘cross-tracks,’ but easily figured out they were not part of her track. We were able to see that they were cross-tracks because of the boot prints in the snow.

Winter tracking also gives you an opportunity to see if your dog is using their sight more than their nose. Rogue and Arizona both use their noses more than anything when they track – which is a good thing to know.

I hope everyone is staying warm on this chilly winter day.

I am off to drink something warm and climb under a blanket and read a book.

Where Have we Been…

I know, I know, it has been a while since I last posted an entry. I really want to get back into regular blogging, but I am having trouble coming up with things to say.

My Web Wizard cannot seem to figure out how to fix the issue with me not being able to post pictures here, so I am going to try and use Instagram and share the link – it might take a bit though, the iPhone app is pretty confusing with a screen reader.

What’s been new with the ruled by paws crew?

As mentioned in my last entry, Rogue was attempted to earn her UTD (urban tracking dog) and TDX (tracking dog excellent) titles.

Unfortunately, 2016 was just not our year for tracking.

She did a really good job at her UTD test, but missed the first article – a knitted mitten. I saw some great work though. It was a pretty rough track and she wasn’t working in the most optimal conditions.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned it here before, but Rogue absolutely hates being wet. This makes it pretty difficult to work with her at times. She will do absolutely everything possible to avoid puddles, even stopping dead in her tracks, refusing to move until i force her to continue.

So, when we got to the test and it was not looking like the rain would stop before her turn, I took a deep breath and crossed my fingers.

We walked up to the ‘scent pad,’ I asked her to “Check it out.” She sniffed the area thoroughly, probably hoping for even a tiny treat. Then, when I felt she was pointed in the right direction, I said “Find.” She took off and we followed. The first half or so of her track was covered, I mean covered, in goose poop. I had to constantly ask her to “Leave it.” Despite the distraction, she followed her track quite well. There were a few spots where she had to work a bit harder to find the track, such as at corners, but I felt she did a good job overall. When we were nearing the last corner, the judge came up to us to say we were welcome to finish, but that she had missed the first article, so she would not be getting her title. We were sad, but we felt she needed to finish, so she would be able to feel as though she had done what I asked.

In early November, Arizona attempted to earn her TD, while Rogue tried for her TDX – neither were successful. When Arizona had her turn, she did the first 30 metres well, but then got distracted by the cow manure in the field. Even though Huib tried to refocus her, she continued to go back to the different piles she found, and even did some rolling. We are hoping with some time and maturity, she’ll be able to try again.

Rogue had a pretty tough track. Laura, our instructor, said the judge was a bit sad to see which track we were assigned. Rogue approached the scent pad, figured out which direction the track went, and then did about the first quarter to a third really well. She got stuck when we were supposed to turn into a field of corn stalks. The corn had been harvested, so the stalks were about ankle high. From her behaviour at that spot, I think she knew we had to turn, but felt it was too dangerous for me. If we had to fail, I’m glad to be able to say that we failed because she felt she had a guiding responsibility. I am going to work with her throughout the spring and summer to teach her that it is Huib’s responsibility to keep me safe when she is on the tracking line, and that she is only expected to follow the scent.

On November 17th I had my convocation. Huib went with Rogue and I. He walked with me in the procession with the other students, but when it was time for me to go up onto the stage and receive my degree, Huib walked me to the stairs and then ran to the other side to meet back up with us. Rogue did a great job of listening to my directions, so I think we probably looked pretty smooth walking across the stage together.

The rest of 2016 was pretty uneventful. I had a good birthday at the end of November and Christmas was quiet, but nice.

We had some friends and family come over on Boxing Day for dinner, but otherwise we didn’t do much.

Goals for 2017?

Most of my goals for this year surround the dogs and performance events.

I want to continue taking classes through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. I took an obedience foundations class in October and right now we’re doing a competition retrieve class using shaping. I found the obedience class a bit lacking, but we’re enjoying the retrieve class.

I have tried to teach Rogue how to retrieve for a while, but this class has helped her progress further than I was ever able to do so on my own.

Arizona has been able to retrieve things for more than a year, but I find the class is tightening up her ‘hold,’ which will help us in field.

I also want to continue working through Sue Ailsby’s Levels Training Program. I have been casually doing them for a long time, but I never really started with Arizona.

In an effort to improve our obedience lessons with Susie, I decided to restart the Levels with Rogue and Canyon, while also working on them with Arizona. We have been doing short sessions, three times a week, for about two months now and I am seeing huge progress.

All three dogs are working on level 2. Each one is at a different point with the 14 different behaviours found in the level. Canyon tends to lag behind the girls a bit, while Arizona shines in some areas and Rogue in others. It has been a good experience for us all and I hope to continue this through the year.

Performance wise?

I want to enter Rogue in another TDX and UTD test. I also want to try field with her.

With Canyon, I would like to return to conformation, maybe even showing him myself. I would also like to do some tracking and enter an obedience trial with him.

I hope to continue doing field with Arizona, trying for both her WC and JH this year. I would have liked to also try for her WCI, but I need to make sure she has a really solid ‘stay.’ Arizona has progressed a lot in her levels work with me, so maybe we can try entering an obedience trial in the spring. Huib wants to track with her some more, maybe trying for her TD in the fall because the summer months are way too warm for her.

A personal goal?

I want to earn my PhD. The application is due in mid-February, so I’m going to start working on that this week.

To try and improve my chances of getting accepted to a PhD program, I am submitting abstracts to different conferences. So far, I have been accepted to present at the International Working dog Conference in April being held in Banff.

I also want to continue working on improving my physical health. I started walking on the treadmill three times a week, so I want to continue doing this, see how it goes and where it takes me.

The ruled by paws crew would like to wish our readers a safe and happy new year!!

Determined

I am determined to get back into blogging.

It has been an extremely busy summer for all of us.

Here are some highlights:
In June, Rogue tried for her UTD (urban tracking dog) title, but wasn’t successful. We learned some important things at the test and we met some new people.

In July, Arizona entered the Maple Leaf Kennel Club’s UKC conformation show and got a group 4th on the Saturday. There were eight different breeds, so it was quite an exciting win for us.

Every week we have field and tracking classes. Arizona is progressing well with field, but she’s still hesitant to pick up any smelly or floppy ducks, so that’s been a bit frustrating. Rogue is doing well with tracking, working on both urban and field stuff. Arizona has also started tracking and is very slowly progressing. She has the ability to do it, but we never know what she’s going to give us at any given moment.

August 8th was a pretty sad day around here. Our long-time feline friend, Logan, unexpectedly passed away. We saw her Saturday, but weren’t too surprised when we didn’t see her or Laya on Sunday because we were moving stuff around, but on Monday morning Huib searched for her because only Laya came out for wet food. Logan loves canned food, so when we couldn’t find her, we were concerned. Huib found her behind a couch. He said she looked really peaceful, as though she had passed away in her sleep. Since her body was still stiff, our vet believes she probably had a heart attack in her sleep and we most likely discovered her within 8 hours of her passing. It was such a shocker!! We had no idea she was unwell 🙁

September was a pretty busy and exciting month for us all.

On the 9th, Arizona tried to earn her WC (working certificate), but instead of performing the drills, she decided to be the class clown – we’ll try again next year. In the land retrieves, she ‘marked’ perfectly, ran straight up to the duck, sniffed a couple of times, and then ran back to me. The judges asked me to resend her, and she ran two perfect land retrieves. When we attempted the water retrieve, she ‘marked’ beautifully, took a couple of steps into the pond, and ran right back. Huib thinks she didn’t like the smooshy bottom. We did finally get her to do a water retrieve, but we didn’t end up earning the title. We had a good time at the test though, meeting a lot of interesting people, so it was worth it.

On the 10th and 11th, we helped out at the Oakville & District Kennel Club’s conformation show. It took place at the International Centre, so it was a pretty big deal. I ran the Meet the Breeds Booth, getting to check out a number of breeds I had never heard of. Rogue worked, while Canyon and Arizona hung out in a crate when it wasn’t their turn to volunteer. Even with the long days, everyone seemed to have a good time.

On the 20th, I successfully defended my thesis. I now have a Master of Arts in Health and Aging degree. My convocation is on November 17th, so that should be fun.

What’s coming up for us?
On the 16th, Rogue will try again for her UTD title. We have tried to practice every couple of days, working in as many challenges as possible, so I’m hopeful we’ll succeed.

On the 30th Cessna will turn 13. It’s hard to believe my spunky little black lab is really a senior citizen. She still goes for 2 or 3 30 minute walks a day with my step Dad and wants to play with the others in the house from time-to-time. She has some health conditions, Hypothyroidism, mild incontinence, some tiny cataracts, mild arthritis, and some lumps, but overall Cessna’s a pretty happy and healthy old gal.

I will sign off for now, but hopefully I will be back sooner than later.

Update on Tracking

Our winter wasn’t as cold or snowy as most, so we did get some opportunities to track. We didn’t really do any field tracking, but focused more on urban tracking.

In urban tracking the dog is learning to follow scent on short grass and pavement and in high traffic (or highly contaminated) areas. We tend to practice in school yards, on the University of Guelph campus or in local parks.

Rogue is loving it! And, she’s doing fabulously. We try to lay a track a few times a week and then we attend a private Friday or group Saturday tracking session, depending on Laura’s schedule.

If all goes well, we will be entering an urban tracking dog (UTD) test in June that is taking place in London.

I am trying to get Rogue to spend more time exploring the ‘scent pad’ by putting more food on it and by introducing a start cue “are you ready to track?” in an excited voice, and then once she looks at me, “FIND!!”

Some people ask their dog to ‘sit’ or ‘down’ before releasing them to start, but Rogue is usually quite revved up and she really doesn’t enjoy either of those cues. I know, you’re wondering how a service dog can succeed while disliking ‘sit’ and ‘down,’ well it’s because I try not to ask her for them unless we actually need to seriously do it.

So far we’ve done 2 to 3 hour old tracks between 200 and 300 meters long with a variety of surface changes and different numbers of turns. Rogue seems to be struggling with wind, with harnessing her enthusiasm, and, at times, with highly contaminated areas. We have a couple of months to go before the test, so we’re going to try and practice at least a few times a week, in different places, on different ages and lengths of tracks.

I really think Rogue can get her UTD this spring/summer, and then we’ll work towards possibly getting her TDX (or Tracking Dog Excellent) title in the fall.

Arizona has also started to track. We are practicing on short grass and pavement for now because it’s convenient, and it will help her in the end when she actually starts training for her TD, which is the first level of field tracking.

Arizona has a bit of trouble starting, but once she gets into the zone, she’s awesome! Huib has chosen to track with her on his own, and says she seems to be a more methodical tracker than Rogue.

The club here in Guelph hosts TD and TDX tests in early November, so I think we are going to try and enter both Arizona and Rogue.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, so stay tuned for more tracking news.

Article Indication

In the TDX test, Rogue will need to indicate three articles and follow the scent across a surface change.

Laura laid four different tracks for Rogue: two were quite short with a glove at the end, one was her usual TD track and the final was a short track that went across a driveway.

Rogue overshot the article at the end of the first track, but indicated the article at the end of the second one better.

She did the third track perfectly and indicated the article well.

Laura wasn’t sure how she would do on the final track since she had never done surface changes, but Rogue was not phased, she followed the scent without hesitating and immediately found the article across the driveway.

I am not sure how much longer we will be able to track in the fields before the snow begins, but I think this was a pretty good lesson.

Success!!

She did it!! Rogue passed her tracking test!!

She is now RLR Babe In Total Control TD CGN.

The test went REALLY well. Rogue was extremely revved before and during the test.

A gentleman asked me if my dog was ready for the test and I told him “I don’t know.”

It’s true, I didn’t know. Just like humans, dogs have their good days and their bad. I didn’t know what sort of day this was going to be for Rogue.

Well, it was a good day. Together, we made history. As far as I understand, I am the first blind person to track at a Canadian Kennel Club event.

Our track was 410 metres long and we finished it in just over 6 minutes. Huib and I were dying by the end, Rogue was freaking flying!!

I am SO proud of my little red girl! She has been a great friend and training buddy. Not only does she work well to keep me safe each day, she also works hard to impress me with her intelligence and willingness to try anything.

On Friday morning we are going to start training for the next level, TDX. If it is not too snowy or cold this winter we may also start training for our first urban tracking title.

**There are pictures from our tracking adventure, so I will see if Huib can help me post them in the next week or so**

19 Days

Rogue and I have 19 days left to practice before we do our first CKC tracking test.

Over the past month we have been practicing at least a few times a week.

We have also been playing a “find the glove” game in the house to reinforce her “indications.” In order to pass the test, Rogue needs to clearly indicate that she has found the glove because the judge needs to know it was her and not me who found it.

We had a mock test on Thanksgiving Monday, but we completely bombed it!!

Rogue seemed excited to track, but Huib said that from the start she seemed unsure, and as the track went along she got more and more insecure. I also became frustrated, so near the end, I got her to come close and we walked together to the end.

After I’d calmed down, I was SO embarrassed, we assessed the situation. We realized that the track was over an hour old (to that point, she’d only been doing 40 minute old tracks) and it was extremely windy.

Despite being unsuccessful, the experience was also useful because it gave me an idea of what things we need to work on before the actual test.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been doing 3 tracks, with each one being 10 minutes older than the last. She seems to be doing well and I think we’ll continue this up until the test.

In the meantime, I need to remind myself that even if we fail, we learned something and we can always do it again next year.

In the News: Using the Canine Nose

In the United Kingdom, Tui, a flat-coated retriever is being trained to search for harvest mice.

Researchers are hoping Tui will be able to help them better estimate their numbers because it is believed that their population is on the decline.

You can read more about Tui and the reason for her mission here.

In ruled by paws news…

Rogue and I had an excellent tracking practice this morning, so this article was a great one to share.

We ran a CKC regulation length track in just over 8 minutes without difficulty.

We need to practice corners a bit more and work on Rogue’s article indication, but those are very minor problems.

I think I will break out the clicker and work on teaching Rogue to come “touch” me and then return to the article.

The countdown is on, 46 days until our tracking test.