We may have found something that Cooper is good at, wants to do, AND that we want to do with him. There’s lots of stuff that fit the first two categories: underwear stealing, private part grooming, playing keep-away with the tennis ball, etc., etc. And there’s stuff that fits the third category: walking with our dog nicely on a leash, having him come when called, delivering the tennis ball to hand, etc. Riding in the car fits all three. Hiking in the park does, too, as well as boating. We wondered: what else?
So when the opportunity came up to take a beginning tracking class from Jill Jones, we jumped on it. It started with a half day of lecture and explanation — the requirements for the various tracking tests available (TD, TDX, VST), how you get certified to take a tracking test, the very strange method of deciding who can take a test (choosing by lot from the group of entrants, rather than first-come-first-served), how to choose a harness, how long the long line leash should be, how to handle the leash (and later, the long line), how to lay a beginning track, the importance of wind direction, obstacles on the course, all kinds of stuff.
The afternoon is where the fun came in. Handlers paired up — one would lay nine very short, straight tracks, and the other would run their dog. Then the two would switch. The photo above shows my partner laying down the glove and treats at the end of the first track — only 5 paces long. Cooper was raring to go, as you can see.
The left-hand picture below shows Cooper pulling me down one of the longer tracks (about 40 paces). That’s how Jill wanted us to do it — she kept reminding us, “Don’t run with your dog. Make him pull you!” OK, so I “made” Cooper pull me, but believe me, this is the only situation he will be allowed to pull me. And it makes me realize how important getting an official harness will be. When he’s got his harness on, he can pull. When not, definitely not.
The last picture shows Cooper bringing back the glove he successfully tracked. A few dogs, like Coop, picked up the glove. Most were content to simply eat the treat that had been placed on the glove — who cares about the glove.
Note that my hat and scarf are missing from the two pictures below. They came off after running the first track. All that running — “making” your dog pull you — keeps you warm!
(Note added later: The next evening after work, we tried the routine at a local park, in the dark, in the rain, at 70 paces. Cooper did just fine. Found the treat and retrieved the glove.)