So yesterday Z and I trekked out to a potential new team training site with fellow teammates K and R and their dog J, a black lab with both basic and advanced certifications.
The site was private property, 100 acres, big lake, pine woods, big field, etc. - beautiful land that made me REALLY wish I had the money to buy a place like that myself. It looks like it's going to be too far of a drive for regular practices (like over an hour drive for most team members), but perhaps we can use it for mock searches or some weekend day trainings.
The property owners wanted to learn more about what SAR K9s do, so we brought both dogs and did some demos/training. We had two great kids that served as victims and had some fun with it.
J did 3 demos: 1 set of runaways and two air scent tracks. Ziva did 3 as well: 1 set of runaways, one 700-800 ft runway/tracking search, and one short tracking search.
Runaways: Ziva worked with K as the victim. All runaways were between 50 and 70 ft long. First runaway, Z got distracted for some reason, so K called out a bit and Z did go in and find her. The refind needed me to cue it but was decent in terms of motivation and the alert was nice. Second runaway, Z was raring to go and did a good find-refind sequence. Third runaway was a good imitation of the second.
Long Runaway/Tracking: The youngest kid, a girl about 10 yo, was our victim. I briefed her on rewarding and her dad pointed out her hiding spot, a big tree across a field from where we had parked the cars. It was a straight shot, but Z would lose visual contact when the girl was about 1/3 of the way to her goal.
I got a scent article and we sent out our victim. When I thought the girl was in place, I scented Z (looks like we need a refresher on the "check" cue lol), and sent her off. She *bolted* away from me after the girl and I had to book it to keep her in sight.
At the top of the first hill I saw that the girl hadn't actually gotten to her hiding spot, which i think was actually a good thing in the long run because that meant that Z was actually chasing after a moving target vs. a stopped/hidden one for her first moderate length track in a while.
The girl did get behind her tree a bit before Z, gave her the reward, Z hesitated a bit, returned to me, hesitated at the jump alert but did it when cued, and ran back for the rest of the tuna garlic brownies lol. I was beat, but Z had a HUGE smile on her face on the walk back to our starting point. Our victim was pretty happy with her role and despite the bobbles in the run, I was happy because Z did everything with enthusiasm *and* all with a barking dog just 70 ft away from her victim's hiding spot (in a pen).
Tracking search: Both kids walked around the lake and then made a sharp right turn into the pine forest and walked to a deer stand about 100 ft in just off a nice trail. I allowed Z to watch them walk away and she appeared quite keen. I scented her (again a bit of a struggle) and released her and she was again off like a shot - in the completely WRONG direction (right vs. curving left).
I called her back, and she curved around the lake properly, but was obviously just having a grand time vs. working and ran past the turn, head up, tail waving.
I called her back again, put her in a sit and rescented her. This proved to be a good move, as on this release she actually followed the track decently, made a beautiful turn without hesitation...and then disappeared into the woods. No ringing bell to hear her, no visual contact, and I was thinking the worst - that she had gone off to critter.
I kept walking and shortly thereafter heard a little jingling, then quiet. I peered through the woods to see a white dog tail and human feet about 70 feet away and realized that Z was sticking close to her victims instead of returning to me. I called her, she came in, started to return to the kids without her alert, so I recalled her and cued it, rewarded, and then she ran back to the kids.
It turns out that Z would run 10 ft to the trail, look for me, then return to the kids - who rewarded her each time (guess I should've been clearer in my instructions!). No wonder she didn't come back!! I had the kids do a big reward session on that final return after her alert and we headed in.
I learned a bit about Z's body language this go 'round and overall I'm still happy as the goose poop on the bank and the scent of the woods didn't distract her from the job at hand, and she's doing all of this after a hiatus on actual tracking work. :)
While J was doing some of his demos, I got to work on Zen with outdoor cats living on the property - Z got the idea about 5 reps in with the cat and by the end of our 5 minute session was ignoring the cat completely, even when it started to walk away from us. :)
We ended the practice session with some play in the lake with the property owners' blessings. J loves to fetch his ball out of the water, but Z's not so sure about the wet stuff so most of the time J would be fetching and Z would be elbow deep in the water barking at him. On the grass, she'd chase him when he fetched - certainly does appear she's got that herding dog instinct lol. During our play session we got to practice leave it and drop it with stale bread, goose poop, mud, and a catfish skull! Fun stuff!
A good few hours and a tired puppy at the end - what a way to spend an unseasonably warm February day!