Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Training - Days 8 & 9

Lori & Owen are feeling much better, and nobody else in our family has come down with the bug so far, so that's good. We were worried about missing training time.

Yesterday morning was tracking again, and Bobo has definitely made the transition to tracking Amelia. For two days in a row, Amelia went out to hide with somebody else in the group (Tink on Monday and Mary on Tuesday) and both times Bobo still tracked her perfectly. And this morning he tracked her through rain and really strong winds without any trouble as well. Rain, snow, sleet, sunshine, it doesn't matter - he knows what he's doing and he's good at it.

Yesterday afternoon was spent talking about veterinary care while the dogs got to practice their "place" command. Place tells the dog to go to his designated mat (his "place") and stay there. They refer to it as "a crate without walls". The dog can get up, move around, sit, stand, chew on a toy, or whatever, as long as he keeps at least two paws on the mat at all times. And it's one of the few "distance" commands, where you can be in one place and the dog in another, and you tell him "place" and he goes to his place. This can be useful if you have visitors, in a school setting, or if you just need to make sure the dog is not in the way of some activity. He can have multiple mats (say upstairs & downstairs), but the mats should generally stay put.

We also went over the behavior disruption commands some more (nuzzle, lap, over, and kisses) and learned about how different families might want to use them. We're still working on figuring out how to incorporate these with Amelia effectively, and this will probably take some time. For one thing, they'll probably be more effective if/when Amelia starts to really show an interest in the dog. And that may take some time for her.

We learned a bit about how to adapt the various commands to our needs, or even invent new commands to some extent, as well as general tips for keeping the dogs on task, how and when to praise or correct, and lots of little nuances.

This afternoon it was back to the mall for more obedience practice and more indoor tracking. If you ask people who work with tracking dogs, they'll probably tell you that indoor tracking, such as in a store or a mall is just not possible. There are too many people, and the scents don't stick around very long on hard floors and surfaces - especially when you throw in the typical indoor ventilation systems that are drawing the scent up into a vent and redistributing it all over the store.

There are two reasons our dogs can do it though. The first is that they are at the search location immediately. No police officers have to be called, no dogs need to be transported. The dog is already exactly where it needs to be. And if it's just been a few minutes since the child wandered off, the skin cells won't even have settled out of the air yet. Instead of sniffing the ground, the dog will use air scenting. The skin cells will form a sort of "tunnel" of scent for the dog to track through.

The second reason is that our dogs have the children's smell memorized. They can ignore all the other people smells and cross tracks and just zero in on the scent of the person they spend every day with.

So we're in the home stretch now. And speaking of which, I think we're all looking forward to getting home....