I Just Wanted to Enter

Let me begin by saying, I didn’t want to cause any problems for the Canadian Kennel Club, I just wanted the same opportunity as others to enter a tracking test with Rogue.

Over the past couple of months Rogue and I have ramped up our tracking practice. I have been trying to get us ready for the upcoming tests that happen in October and November.

I knew we wouldn’t be quite ready for October, so I had my eye on entering the tracking test being held in Guelph on November 8th. Not only do we live in Guelph, so the trip to the test wouldn’t be too long, but it also gives us a better chance of comfortable weather and more practice time.

I talked to my instructor, who also happens to be our area’s tracking rep, about my plans to enter the test. She said she would talk to other judges and see how the rules work for my situation. After talking to other judges, she suggested I talk to the CKC because there is a rule in the book that says people cannot have help on the track, so taken literally, this would mean I could not have a guide.

I called the CKC and the woman I talked to seemed quite willing to help me. She read through the rule book and also didn’t know what should happen. She suggested I talk to my area’s tracking rep and also gave me the email address for the Tracking Council.

I emailed the council and cc’d my instructor, so she was aware of what I had done.

It took a few days, but I finally got a response from the CKC rep for my area and he seemed to understand that it was against the law in Canada to discriminate based on a persons disability. He cc’d the head of CKC events in the hopes that she would be able to clear up the confusion.

The woman emailed back and said that “the issue” was on the agenda for the council conference call that was happening in early October, but then went on to say that she would let us all know if any decisions were made and changes implemented at their general meeting in December.

I wrote her back and said that I wanted to enter a test in November and asked if it would be possible for a temporary amendment to be put into the rules, so that I can be accommodated. She wrote back to say that unfortunately it was not possible because the rule book says no one can have assistance on the track, so it was up to the council to make the changes at their general meeting.

This response was not acceptable. The council cannot decide wether to accommodate a person with a disability, they need to accommodate them because it is the law in Canada.

So, I went to Twitter and Facebook, asking my friends and family to share our story.

Remember, I didn’t want to cause an issue, I just wanted to be given the same opportunity as a sighted person.

About two and a half to three hours later I got an email from the CKC.

After some digging, they located minutes from a 2009 meeting that put forth a policy allowing individual judges to make modifications when needed, such as for persons with disabilities. The policy was supposed to be written into the rule books of the various CKC events, but some rule books are still missing this policy.

The woman apologized and said that she would make sure the judge of my event is aware of the policy.

So, I went back on Twitter and Facebook, thanked my friends and family for their help and announced that I would be entering a tracking test on November 8th with Rogue.

Maybe some people would push this further, wanting to make sure the CKC does not do this to someone else, but I just want the opportunity to participate in dog sports like everyone else. I don’t want to cause any drama or problems.

Thank you friends and family for helping me achieve my goal, and thank you CKC for finding a solution to our dilemma.

8 days until we can submit our entry (fingers crossed we get in), and 47 days until Rogue and I try for Rogue’s Tracking Dog (TD) title.

Won’t That Affect Her Work?

Won’t that affect her guide work?

This is a question I hear constantly when I tell other service dog handlers about the various activities I choose to do with Rogue.

No, it doesn’t affect her ability to guide.

When you have a good working relationship, like Rogue and I do, you can choose to do almost anything together.

Rogue knows the difference.

She knows that when her guide harness is on, or even if it is off and she’s just hanging out in my office at school, that she needs to be professional. She knows she can’t be sniffing everything, visiting everyone, or chasing small critters that cross our path.

Rogue knows that when her tracking harness is on that her job is to “find” the track and follow it to the “article.” She knows that she doesn’t need to be paying attention to anything else. She knows that it isn’t her job to keep me safe. It’s her job to find the “article” for me.

Rogue knows that when we are at a conformation show and she’s wearing a show leash and collar that it isn’t time to guide; it’s time to walk nicely beside Huib. She knows that when they stop along side other dogs in the ring, it isn’t time to greet them or to sniff around. Rogue knows it’s time to “stack” and let the judge check her out. She knows that Huib will let her know what is expected and that he’ll remind her if she forgets.

When we are at field training and she’s wearing just her martingale and leash, Rogue knows it is time to retrieve. She knows that it’s okay to run away from me and get the duck (bumper with wings for now), and bring it back to me. Rogue knows it’s not time to sniff for articles or show me obstacles, it’s time to “mark” (or look forward and see where the duck is dropping from) and then “fetch” it and bring it back.

It’s true that dogs are not good at generalizing, but Rogue and I have been working together since she was 8 weeks of age. We’ve practiced things in a variety of environments and we’ve learned what’s appropriate in each situation.

Rogue knows that I will let her know if she’s made the wrong choice. And, I know that she’ll turn to me for help if she needs help figuring out what is expected.

so, the answer is no, conformation, tracking and field work will not affect Rogue’s work.

And, if we decide to try something else it won’t affect her work either.

This is why I love owner-training. I can choose to participate in any dog sport I want with Rogue. With Cessna, this was not the case. I wanted to try out rally obedience, but her school said no.

For Rogue and I, the sky is the limit!!

***This post is not directed at anyone. The questions I’ve been getting just got me thinking that it was time to try and educate others. I am thankful for all of the questions.***

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.

Not So Hot

Today was Rogue’s second tracking lesson with Laura. It has been quite warm, so we were glad the lesson wasn’t until the evening.

Since Rogue tends to be a bit on the excited side when she first arrives, Laura suggested we go for a short walk around the property before starting. Rogue had a blast running around and checking out various smells. After about 10 minutes of running free, we attached the tracking line to Rogue’s pacific blue Ruffwear harness and took her up to the “scent pad” to begin.

I think Rogue ran too much before starting to track. She was all over the place and at times Laura said it looked as though she was on a walk with Huib instead of following a track.

When Huib and Rogue were finished the first track, Laura had us give Rogue some water and then put her into the car for a short rest. She then got her male lab, Tenner, out of the vehicle and suited him up. She wanted to show us how a more seasoned dog tracks. It was neat to watch him and to see how smoothly he works.

Rogue’s second attempt went better near the end of the track, but she was still not as good as other times. Huib and I are convinced she was too warm and that allowing her to run free beforehand wasn’t a good choice.

Hopefully next week will go better.

On another note, Laura was telling us that she has posted a few messages on the tracking email list she is a member of to see if anyone has any suggestions regarding how things will be handled at a trial if I choose to handle Rogue. She said that a few people have responded and all of them seem to think that I will not be able to trial in tracking with Rogue.

So, guess what? I’m going to prove everyone wrong and from now on, I’m going to handle Rogue at the lessons, not Huib. Laura is totally in favour of having me track, and is eager to help me show the others wrong.

Time for Classes

For the past year Rogue has been taking part in the monthly tracking sessions hosted by Search and Rescue Dogs, Ontario.

While working with Susie in field work with Arizona, she mentioned that she takes tracking lessons with a woman named Laura, who also does field with her labs, Tenner and Cassie. Rogue seems to be stuck in the beginning parts of learning corners, so Huib and I decided it’s time to look into doing more regular sessions. While at field one night, I asked Laura about tracking and after learning that she is a tracking judge, we set up a lesson.

On Friday evening around 6:00pm, we met up with Laura at Susie’s place and did some tracking with Rogue. Since it was her first time seeing Rogue track, Laura set up two different types of tracks and asked us to show her what we have done so far.

Rogue was amazing!! She tracked like a pro. She was a bit excited, so she wasn’t perfect, but Laura thought she could have totally earned her first tracking title with what she showed her.

Laura draws maps and makes comments along the track on the map, so once we are done she is able to show Huib where things need to be improved. She even gave us the map afterwards so that we can keep track of Rogue’s progress.

As long as it doesn’t rain, and we’re all free, we’ll be tracking with Laura Fridays at 6:00pm.

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!

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.

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.

Mantracker Rogue?

Maybe not quite…

Yesterday Huib and I took Rogue to a tracking session put on by Search & Rescue Dogs Ontario.

As part of their fundraising, SAR Dogs Ontario offers tracking training once a month to the public. The sessions are held at Bronte Creek Provincial Park and cost $50 for about two and a half hours of instruction.

Saturday was our first opportunity to attend, so we got our stuff ready and set out for Oakville.

There were probably more than 15 dogs in attendance, not including the ones that belonged to the instructors.

at 8:30am, we were split into three groups, according to our level of experience. Since it was our first lesson, we were in level one. there were about 6 dogs, including Rogue. there was a Beagle, a Bloodhound, 2 Shepherds and a Border Collie in our group – the Bloodhound had attended two other times, so her and her owner were quickly moved on to the next level. It is almost as though Bloodhounds are born knowing how to track, lol!

Our instructor, Dave Walker, asked us to all put our dogs into our vehicles and follow him to a field. We were then instructed on how to lay a short track.

First we were directed to shuffle our feet around in a horizontal line, smooching down the grass and leaving our scent. We were then instructed to put a flag to the left and lay several treats in the grass to mark the spot. After that, we walked about 50 feet, shuffling our feet and laying a few treats every couple feet to mark the track. At the end, we covered a toy and some treats with grass and stuck another flag in the ground.

Once we had all retrieved our dogs, we took turns having them follow the track we had laid.

When it was Rogue’s turn, Dave instructed us to keep her leash attached to her collar and then put the leash under her right leg, which would force her head downward, and then I was to hold the leash and follow her pull as Huib wiggled his fingers in front of her nose and encouraged her to follow the track we had laid for her. She did really well with her first and final track, but she was revved up and extremely excited during the second and third runs, so she was a little less precise.

Each time the dogs finished following a track, we were instructed to create another one for them in a different part of the field.

At the end of the session we all sat in the shade while Dave talked about what we had learned and recommended things to work on to each of the teams.

We weren’t too surprised when he suggested we work on slowing and calming down Rogue, lol!

Huib said he enjoyed the lesson and said he’d be willing to practice with me a few times a week and attend the July session.