So, when the opportunity to attend a tracking seminar here in Brandon presented itself, we signed up. The thing that appeals to me most about tracking is that it is an activity you can do with dogs of all kinds and dogs of all ages and something you can do for fun or for competition. Bear is getting older I know his mind is still active but I certainly have noticed that physically he’s not the same dog I got 5 years ago and the reality is that if he’s around for another 6 years I will be VERY lucky.
Our Instructor this past weekend was Mary-Anne Warren of Precision Search Dog. She’s got a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge when it comes to tracking in its many forms from CKC Tracking Tests to Search and Rescue work. What impressed me most about her was her awareness of the environment (which greatly affects scent) and reading dogs on the track. I certainly have a lot of experience reading Bear’s body language but some of his behavior baffled me in the tracking context. Part of the reason is that I rarely see Bear in a open field environment and the other part is that I am oblivious to things like wind. My challenge will be to learn how to tell when Bear is working the human track (or trying to find it) and when he’s chasing something more “fun” like prairie dog, fox etc.
What was incredibly obvious once we got all the dogs at the seminar out and working is that dogs of different breeds can track it seems to come naturally to them – especially in the training phase when they are following a cookie trail to …MORE COOKIES! The other thing about tracking is that work in other venues doesn’t seem to have much effect on a dog’s ability to track or not to track. The dog’s present come from different backgrounds including conformation, obedience, rally obedience and agility – One dog had absolutely no experience in any competitive venue and you would not have known for how well she worked the track.
For me, the very best part of the weekend was being outside in the fresh air with my dog! It’s something I haven’t made a lot of time for in the past year and I forgot how much I do enjoy being outside tramping around with my dog. I also think Bear enjoyed it. It’s pretty easy to tell when Bear is tired and has had enough. In the mornings he will lie in bed and not come downstairs when he hears me pick up the car keys. The Sunday morning of the Seminar he followed me around from the minute my feet hit the floor dancing with anticipation and waiting…hoping he was going with me again. I think Bear and I will continue on the tracking program we got just to keep active, get outdoors and have some fun. I’m also going to check out a K9 Nose Work Seminar at the APDT Conference just to learn more about different ways that we can teach our dogs to use their noses. I would also encourage anyone out there to try a tracking seminar if you ever have the opportunity. There are no local tracking classes but one can often find seminars at the CanuckDogs website.