Challenge 4: Your first blind date

For this challenge, please work on a ground which is clear of any obstacles that you may be able to trip over and get help from a partner/friend who can keep a watchful eye on you.

  • Build a track of around 100 paces
  • Position no more than 40 rewards along your track
  • Ask your partner/friend to blind fold you and then take you and your dog at the start of the track

I love this exercise because, without any visual cues, you must fully trust your dog’s decisions. In addition, you will be learning to “feel” your dog through the tension of the lead.

TIPS for this challenge:

  • If you find this challenge too easy, reduce the treats and / or introduce a turn. If you are very confident and adventurous you can try the square challenge blind folded!
  • If the track is too hard, increase the number of treats along the track
  • If you want to check how good your dog is tracking, add some art foam squares to quantify the tracking process

Challenge 3: The Hunger Game

Build straight track of 100 paces and reduce the rewards to no more than 10 pieces of food along the entire length of the track (the food at the first step and the reward at the last footstep are not part of the 10 pieces)

If you want to check how good your dog is tracking, add some art foam squares to quantify the tracking process (a piece of foam for each piece of treat).

Challenge 2: The ground rules game

Build a 50 metre straight track that crosses at least 2 different ground types and use no more than 20 pieces of food along the track (the reward at the first step and the reward at the last footstep are not part of the 10 pieces)

Challenge 1: The Square meal

Build a square track where you are allowed to use a maximum 40 pieces of food. Each leg of the square should be around 35 to 50 paces.

  • The end of the track should be at least 2 metres away from the start so not to confuse your dog
  • Choose where you want to locate the pieces of food along the track

If your dog is not confident enough with the relatively few treats you are using, try to estimate how many treats you may need along the track and use this as the maximum or reduce the length of each leg.

Congratulations

I hope you have enjoyed your challenges and most importantly that you have enjoyed your time learning with your dog. Thank you so much for trusting me to guide you through the discovery of the tracking adventure.

Tracking is such a fun and inexpensive activity that is so rewarding for you and your dog. It has been scientifically proven that scent exercise is beneficial for our dogs both in a physiological and behavioural aspect. Tracking is mentally stimulating for our dogs but also reduces their heart rate and anxiety related behaviours. Not only will this new skill help you have fun with you dog, but it will also benefit their physical and mental health.

I wish you many more fun days tracking with your dog!

You many now be asking yourself, what next?

Now that you have discovered the magic of scent work, watch this space as in the next few months as a new scent class in the CANINE-Pawsibilities school may appear 😉. In the meantime, done hesitate to post videos of your progress on the Facebook group.

Happy Tracking.

I Challenge You!

In the next topics I have a few fun challenges for your graduation. Please have a go at these challenges and then post an individual video for each on the Facebook group.

I know that over the past 8 weeks I advised you to progress slowly and you may feel you are not ready for all the following challenges, but the idea is just to test how far you progressed and where you may need to work to progress.

For the challenges if you feel your dog cannot/may not achieve the track with the reduced number of rewards along the track that I am suggesting, do not panic! Reduce the rewards to the minimum you feel your dog can achieve. If you feel your dog may not concentrate for the length of the exercise, offer a solution to help them. It is all about having fun and for the first time stretching your team abilities a little bit out of your comfort zone.

For each challenge, try to take notes of how you believe you did and what / where you feel you need to concentrate for your progression. Post your notes in the Facebook group together with your videos, For example:

  • Did your dog surprise you and found the track too easy?
  • Did your dog struggle with the track, and if so, what aspects did it struggle with?
  • How did you feel you were handling your dog?
  • Where do you think you could improve?
  • And most importantly, did you have fun?

How to progress towards a no treat track

Until your dog has acquired a lot of tracking experience, I advise at least to always lay:

  • Some treats at the start of the track so your dog gets accustomed to the odour that it is supposed to follow
  • A reward at the end of the track. The reward at the end is important as receiving the reward is the main driver for your dog to want to follow the track.

From what you have learnt in the previous 7 weeks, you now have at hand all the ingredients to develop a skilled tracker dog. To improve your skills and be able to follow a track with pretty much only an odour at the start of the track and a reward at the end of the track you just need to practice and gradually work on the following criteria.  

  • Increase the length of the tracks – How long a track can your dog follow?
  • Decrease the rewards placed at your footsteps until your dog can track confidently with just a few treats placed along the track
  • Build tracks in various wind directions
  • Build the understanding of the turns and gradually reduce the reward placement at the turns
  • Introduce as many types of ground as you can think of
  • Train in a different location
  • Train in different weather and wind conditions
  • Train in different light conditions, morning, evening, night
  • Increase the distractions and contaminants
  • Introduce many tracks laid out by different people unless you want your dog to only recognise your own scent
  • Hide your dog when setting up the track so that your dog had no visual information of where the track is
  • Vary the age of the track by laying a track and then wait 10 min / 20 min / 30 min/ 1h / 2h etc before introducing the track to your dog. I did not introduce this exercise during the course as I expected some of you may struggle with being able to leave tracks aging without any contamination from other walkers, or dogs coming to steal the rewards along the track.

Now that you dog is understanding the concept of tracking, the more you will expose your dog to tracking in different environments the more you will help them develop their skills and understanding

Do not forget that even if your dog is becoming an expert at tracking, to occasionally mark out some easy tracks for your dog to follow so that its enthusiasm does not decline. It needs to be a fun exercise for you all

The final key to being successful is Practice, Practice, Practice!

The following video gives an indication of what you should be aiming for with time and patience. The video is of a very experienced tracking dog, Melvin, who is very precise in his search. This could be you and your dog soon.

Chaining the Games

Using games that you and your puppy have learnt throughout the puppy school you have rehearsed and reinforced a lot of desirable behaviours. Please be aware that it may still take you and your puppy some additional weeks or months to master some of these individual games.

When your puppy has mastered some of the individual games it is possible to start to chain them together in a sequence and only reward at the end of the chain behaviours these games produce.

Start by playing games that result in compatible behaviours. Start with two games and if your puppy is responding well, then add a third one. For example:

  • Emergency recalls then “Close”
  • Emergency recall then “Sit”
  • Emergency recalls then “Say Hello”
  • “Sit” then “Say Hello” then “Close”
  • Emergency recall then “Wait” then Emergency recall
  • “Wait” then Emergency recall then “Sit” then “Say Hello” then “Close”

When it comes to chaining it is important to keep your puppy’s focus. Some good tips for maintaining focus are:

  • Do not chain too many games together to start with; build the length and the complexity of the entire chained sequence slowly
  • Reward at different stages of the chain. Ensure you reward for the games you know your puppy is struggling a little bit more with. Use two levels of reward, a low-level value halfway through and a high value at the end of the sequence. As an example, with Manouk I would reward with a treat midway and with a toy at the end.
  • Treat the whole sequence as a game
  • Do not forget to give a big reward at the end

The video demonstrates how some of the games you have learnt have been chained into a fun chained sequence with Manouk.