Catching up with Ben’s 2017 UTDX training

Ben end of track
Ben poses at the end of the track on January 21 – Lethbridge University (end of this post)

Ben has been doing so well this winter! It was a cold winter, and we had a long spell with no tracking – brutal! We picked up our training again in mid-February. This area has a lot of chinooks which give us warm enough weather to get out. I have been doing a LOT of long hard tracks which are described below.

Today I did a short 30 minute old urban serpentine. My goal was to give Ben an easier track after a very challenging one yesterday.

However…

It is very apparent when you have an advanced dog that their sense of smell is so acute that a 30 minute old track almost has too much scent, especially as it was on moist yellow grass. I had to remind Ben to stay on track a few times as I think there was residual in the air, but he was a good boy and focused on his primary track.

Here is the map

Map

These videos show three little problems I gave him to resolve on this short track:

Start with a little serpentine to article one. He tries to cut a corner and I say “uh-uh” and he is a good boy.

A road cross with a little challenge: I leave the boulevard – walk down the road – and walk up on the next boulevard about 20 m to the left. I call this an offset scuff. Sometimes dogs just cross without really following scent. I put in scuffs here with treats, but again, the scent seems to be hanging and he is not as veg-oriented as I’d have liked. Still a good effort. I ask for a down and he is distracted so it’s delayed. He usually retrieves these days but today, I actually think he is still a bit tired from his long track yesterday!

A curb turn – rather than going out into the parking lot I step down into the curb and turn left. Ben does great! He trots out about 15 m, looks at Judy, has a shake, then circles back to find the track. It is amazing to see how aware they are of scent even on hard surfaces. I loved this moment!

What I love about this curb turn is to see how Ben circles back to me after he loses scent. He shakes and gives a very clear negative. He has been taught to circle back. Love it!

Tricky turn in a turn circle rather than on a parking lot. But what happens is Ben seems to cut straight to the glove. AND I STOPPED HIM! I got so carried away with MY idea that he should follow the primary track that I forgot it was only 30 minutes old and the wind was bringing the scent of leather straight to him. You can see him look to see if I am coming. At that moment, I stopped him, and he ended up not very happy with me.

I ran it again and we finished it well. I had Ben lie down and baited the leg leading to the turn circle, then ran him again, but I did not feel very happy with myself. I am very sure Ben forgot about it quickly as we took lots of time to play. It was a good reminder that his nose is a GREAT UTDX nose. I’ve been working on his articles. And I blew it. Sometimes it happens. We carry on! I like to share these things because training is not always perfect but since we usually have very good tracks and lots of positive moments, this will pass 🙂

Read on to see the other tracks we’ve done since February!

March 18: 850 m – 5 hour old track

Yesterday, I laid an 820 m long track for Ben. It was an easy pattern (linear) with moist, yellow spring grass. I aged it for 5 hours, with my goal being to challenge him a bit as we prepare for UTDX.

820 m 5 hours UTDX
March 18 – 820 metres and 5 hours old

I laid this track at 10:30 and when we ran it at 3:30, we were in the middle of a WIND WARNING and one of his articles had blown 30 m off track. Winds were gusting up to 60 kph. On top of this, it was 22 C.

This is a big switch and Ben was visibly working very hard but he persevered and ran a great, challenging track – nailing his non-veg turn at the end! The entire track is 20 minutes long and I ended up with camera issues. Here is the non-veg turn. 

March 11: Residence Serpentine

Last weekend we ran a short track in -11 C. It was a serpentine around the college residence buildings. I could hardly keep up with Ben. I am using a new light line and he is moving very freely on it. My old line was 30 feet, and this one is 35 feet. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but he seems to like the distance better. I could hardly keep up with him, but it was really fun even though my fingers were frozen by the end!

March 4: 670 m in a new place – 4 hours old

Map
March 4 650 m in a new place – Lions Park and Strathcona Senior Centre

The first time I tried the new line, which is mountain climbing cord, was a few weeks ago when we had another chinook – it was about 15C. We did a lovely UTDX track in a new location I discovered, having only lived in Medicine Hat for one year. My friend hid in some shadows to give Ben some ‘lurker’ experience as Ben has had some discomfort at times around residence areas which are commonly used for ran tracks.

I was so happy with how he did! The camera did a better job of filming this one (compared with yesterday).

Full Track – 15 minutes

If you don’t have 15 minutes, here are two highlights:

Two nice turns leading to the intermediate article
End of the track and non-veg turn

This was one of the funnest tracks I’ve done in a long time!

February 19: Brooks UTDX training – 610 m

My friend Judy and I drove an hour west to this beautiful government property in Brooks Alberta. We walked together and did this track for Ben. I have been trying to find him new places.

Ben's Track 610 m

On this track, I gave him as much loose line as possible to let him make his own decisions. I had a very sore leg, and at one point, he stops on a roadway to look back and make sure I can climb the embankment, just like Lassie! (you do know, the Rough Collie and Border Collie were once the same dog, right? But that is another story)

Here is the video of this track. I can’t wait to go back here. Below Ben poses at the start, after completing the track. Lovely grounds!

Ben end of track

February 11: 580 m – 3 hour old track in a huge, contaminated parking lot

Map

On February 11 we got back to tracking after a very cold spell. It was wonderful to be out again! February 11 I found another new place – Holy Family Church. The parking lot is HUGE!

Here is the track. It was beautiful!

I loved being behind Ben on this one. 4 hours old and 580 m. I ran it an hour after church ended. When I laid it the parking lot was filled with cars. Just imagine the contamination. He aced it. Dogs are amazing.

Good boy Ben!

End of track

 

And on one warm weekend in January, we drove to Lethbridge!

The January 21 track ended up being 850 meters due to unexpected obstacles but this is roughly what we did there. I hoped to find a new location and track around students. Before the track we walked around the campus too, while it aged. Ben did a fantastic job. I feel like I keep saying this – – and he does. He is a good boy and loves to work. I feel very blessed.

The map is below. The video can be viewed here (11 minutes but the end is missing due to camera issues. The end of the track is below)

You can see the end and his non-veg turn here.  I love his little leap when he smells the article!

Google Earth image

Ben poses at Lethbridge University with the coulee in the background! The photo at the top of the page is also taken at the end of this track. You can see the big drop-offs in the google map above.

lethbridge u arch

 

 

 

 

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Ben’s New Year’s Eve Snow Track

This afternoon after a fun walk, I laid a short 370 m snow track for Ben.The dogs and I all walked in a coulee for almost an hour before this track, so Ben was well exercised and could put his mind straight to tracking. It has been very cold lately, and we have not been out a lot, so making sure he was focused was important!
bcs-on-walk
Ben, Jet and Ted at the coulee, with the South Saskatchewan River in the background
I was losing light, and decided to make the track short, because he hasn’t been out in a month, and you don’t need a long track to practice well! I used kibble here and there in my footprints too. I laid it, then ran it at about 20 minutes old. It crosses other tracks, dirt dips with tire tracks where footsteps can’t be seen, plus includes some hard packed snow and bare asphalt road.
MAP (picture snow)
ben-370-m-dec-31
The track is 370 m. I had to draw in the roads, which are not shown in this Google Earth map. You can see the dead end before one road – with the wind at our back so that he was set up to keep going. I also took a BIG step when I took the turn towards the playground, so that he would miss that footstep as he headed to the dead end. The legs here are quite close but with the wind coming from the top (north) and snow, it’s not a big issue. You can see the curb serpentine as well – I had to draw in a thin line for the curb in this map.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO

Here is a rundown of what I see in the video, to guide you along:

  • Started in the shelter of the building – grass is evident, no wind, walking start
  • We turn into the wind on turn one
  • I wonder if he will cut his second corner, I place one piece of kibble on the turn itself and sure enough, he cuts it by about one body length but turns back to hit the corner (brown dirt spot)
  • His next turn puts the wind at our backs again and about half way along this leg is a turn left, but I went straight first to create a dead end
  • At the dead end, Ben TURNS BACK towards me as he’s been taught! When he loses scent, he has been taught to circle back
  • This is where a chest harness and video camera will let me handle my line better! I encourage him verbally and as we back up, he hits the left turn and then finds his wool mitten
  • We carry on, turn in the play area, then cross a road – he has a hard surface turn here on the road but the wind pushes him to the boulevard, which I let Ben figure out.
  • He finds the track in the curb – then finds the step up onto the boulevard
  • At the next step off, I stepped onto the hard surface and not the snow and he shows lovely loss of scent and works very hard to find the leg; I wished i had better line control here (hands were freezing) but he finds it with my verbal assistance and I tighten the line a bit
  • The end! his second article indication is non-existent as a woman is walking to her car and it throws Ben off however I don’t mind after this nice bit of work, good boy!

It is not his most stellar track, but for an impromptu track after a month off, I am very happy with him. We need to work on the articles, and as always with Ben, his distraction factor as you see at the end, when he loses focus because of one person walking to her car. Sometimes he is fine and other times he really seems to be bothered by this. Lots to work on for May!

snow-track
I took this when I went back to collect my flag. You can see our track, and the pattern of my line dragging in the snow. I did not make a scent pad but actually did a walking start here, and placed the flag about 15 steps up from my walking start with one piece of kibble. A walking start is a faster start than a scent pad and lets the dog build up flow right away.

I hope this inspires you to try winter tracking!

Your Coach

Donna
Spiritdance 

http://www.spiritdancelifecoaching.ca > Tracking and Dogs menu tab for lessons and seminars

You be the Tracking Judge! 5 UTDX Maps – Design and article placement

Welcome to the world of the Urban Tracking Judge!

Each of these maps represents a choice for a UTDX track at Red Deer College in Central Alberta. I’ve played around with all of them over the years. I know this area and they all work – no fences or barriers to worry about when you are ‘on the ground.’ One map is 615 m and another is 730 m, with the others all in-between.

A UTDX by the rules must meet these requirements:

  • 600 – 750 metres
  • 1/3 to 1/2 non-veg
  • 3 – 5 hours old
  • 5-7 turns both left and right and no acutes less than 45 degrees
  • At least one 90 degree turn on a non-veg surface plotted so that the leg after the turn is at least 25 metres long before changing back to vegetated surface (or the track ends with the final article)
  • Obstacles such as guardrails, stairs, open buildings (gazebos and breezeways) are permitted but it cannot enter a closed building
  • 3 articles must be placed, with the first at 100 metres, the second somewhere between the first and last, and the third at the end. The first two can be cloth, metal, wood or plastic. The last article is always leather.

On each of these maps below, I have put a measuring line showing 100 metres to help you eye up leg length. Where tracks cross a road and are parallel on the other side, the minimum distance on these maps is 70 m and the maximum is 100, so none are connected by a short, 30 m leg (in which case, they cannot be parallel).

Remembering that scent works differently in an urban environment, things to think about are listed here – but most of these can’t truly be assessed until you are walking and plotting. Note – some judges like to plot up to two days in advance to allow scent to leave an area, in case they have walked in multiple directions. Frequently a judge will go look at an area and ask the tracklayer to stay put to prevent tracklayer scent from spreading too much:

  • Cars moving scent up and down on roads
  • Proximity to buildings that can loft scent or hold scent along the walls
  • Scent refraction near trees and lightposts
  • Scent spread on flat, non-veg surfaces like asphalt parking lots
  • Curbs, bus stations, parking pay stations, building doorways and main entrances, sidewalks where scent might flow or be drawn away from the track
  • Areas of heavy pedestrian traffic and areas of light or no pedestrian traffic

So – your assignment, Grasshopper, is to look at the blank map, and then the one I did with Caden (Option 1) as well as the other options. The total lengths are provided. There aren’t really any rights or wrongs, but the amount of non-veg will change, leg length will change, article placement will change, problem areas may be included or avoided, and turns may be easy or hard!

ARTICLE PLACEMENT

  • I had a hard time deciding on where to put articles on Caden’s track (Option 1) so used 4! Which of the first three would you remove from his track today?
  • Where would you put articles on the alternate maps?
  • What type might you use where (cloth, wood, plastic, metal)?
  • How are you making your decisions? Think – what might help the dog and handler team?

TRACK DESIGN

  • What appeals to you? Don’t let the fact that I did one influence you. It might not be my favourite. I’ve done these others too over the years with Caden and my TCH Jet
  • What positives do you see for each?
  • Drawbacks?
  • Just because one is shorter – is it easier?
  • These are all “5 turn” tracks but you could consider that meandering first leg to be two legs as well. Would you add another turn to improve the track (you can have 7 total)

OTHER STUFF

  • What questions would you have about the tracks? What would you look for on the ground?
  • Other ideas you would consider? Why not print and play with the blank one!

Blank map with notes about features – click on a map to see it better, then use the back arrow to return

Caden blank map

Option 1 – 730 metres

Caden May 22 730 m

Option 2 – 615 metres

Caden May 22 alternate 1 615 m

Option 3 – 630 metres

Caden alternate 2 630

Option 4 – 635 metres

Caden alternate 3 635 m

Option 5 – 645 metres

Caden alternate 4 645 m

On the Ground views

To see Caden’s start on video, click here. This will show you the first two legs (not the greatest video but it works!). On this day, there were buses arriving filled with students for a band competition so the middle grass island area of the start was very contaminated. Of course, I had no idea when I laid the track, that this would happen.

After article one (sock), track turns left here. He is approaching the turn.

Caden and bus

Leg 3, heading for article 2 – light switch

Caden double trees

Article two

Caden lightswitch

Leg 4, crossing road and median toward sportfield area

Caden road cross to sportfield 2

Article 3 – wood

Caden wood

Missing the portion leading to the parking lot – here he is after making his turn (I was too busy handling!)

Caden near article

Final article (remember, there should only be three, I used four, for training)

Caden article

Have fun and let me know what you think of “You be the Tracking Judge!”

Happy Tracking,

Donna