Showsight November 2022


first 3-4 tracking sessions only. Prolonged use of food on the feet will make a dog too dependent upon the notion that the only trail to follow is food. I also put tiny food drops down on the track as it is laid, to reinforce the pup’s efforts. At first, I may place food in every footfall for small dogs, or every other footfall for larger ones. As soon as I see the puppy following the food trail, I space it farther and farther apart so that the pup has to do more work before it is rewarded. Besides, excess food on a track distracts and slows down a puppy. Use it as a reward, but not a crutch. Off you go to start your puppy! Have fun! (I’m yearning to start another baby, but please don’t tell my husband.) P.S. This same process works for adults. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sandy McMillan is a retired cardiac research and rehab nurse who survived terminal endometrial cancer to find her dream job; breeding, training, and exhibiting Labrador Retrievers under the kennel name Dutch Hollow. Since life-saving surgery in 2002, she has rescued and rehomed approximately 350 dogs, mostly Labradors. She has also raised thirty litters of Labradors that have been trained and shown in the all-breed and specialty rings, tracking fields, hunt test fields, and obedience rings. Her dogs have earned more than 100 titles and awards, including multiple specialty wins and placements, breed championships, tracking championships, rally and obedience titles, and tons of hunt test titles that have included Master Hunters and even a GCH MH/ Specialty Winner. Sandy has been an AKC tracking judge, judging more than 50 TD and TDX events since 2004. She is also an AKC Breeder of Merit who has an interest in puppy enrichment programs and the careful selection of dogs for breeding based on health clearances, conformation, and performance. Sandy has been a member of Capitol Canine Training Club of Springfield since 1986, where she has been Canine Courier Editor, Director of Training, Chair and Secretary of the club’s tracking tests, and an obedience class instructor. She is a member of the Labrador Retriever Club, serving as the Chair of the club’s National twice. Sandy is currently a member of the LRC Rescue and Versatile Producer of Merit Committees. She is presently keeping busy with her current pack, and training dogs for pet owners and hunters. She sleeps well.

tracks two and three depend upon how the puppy does with his first track of the ses- sion. Any time the puppy does well, I add 5-10 yards for small pups and 10-20 yards for large ones. If the pup struggles, I may keep the length the same or even shorten it. The idea is to help the puppy succeed. Once your puppy seems to understand that the flag, harness, and tracklayer mean there is something out there for him to find, I no longer let the puppy watch the tracklayer. Matter of fact, from here on until I am ready to certify, I prefer to lay my own tracks which helps me learn to read my dog (an upcoming issue). I start again with short tracks, as now the puppy will be forced to use his nose rather than his eyes to find his treasure. If he is struggling, I pat the ground and tell him to “Find It,” “Get It,” or “Track.” Most puppies switch to using their noses pretty easily and will follow a fresh scent trail to find an article. Once the puppy has found his article, “par- ty hearty,” play and give him his treats. My favorite motivator is food, as Lab- radors are truly chow hounds. So, food has always worked for me. I like using food because I can place it in many spots along a track to reinforce the decisions my track- ing dogs are making as they work. I can use as little or as much food needed on a track, depending upon what we are prac- ticing. As with any other venue, food has to be faded gradually to avoid having a dog give up if he doesn’t find food in the time he expects to do so. Once faded gradu- ally, the lack of food can become a greater motivator, as the dog is certain that the food is just a little farther down the track. If you decide to use food, track your dog before he eats; no one is motivated to work for food when they aren’t hungry (well, maybe a Labrador). Secondly, choose a food with high value and use it only for tracking. Working for the same old kibble may work, but watch what happens when that treat becomes chicken, liver treats, hot dogs, or some such doggy delicacy! If you decide to use food, you can jump-start a dog by smearing hot dogs (or something as gooey) onto the tracklayer’s feet so that he is laying a track that is very attractive to the dog. Using this method really helps to get a dog to put his nose down to search for more. I caution you to use this trick for the

‘Kellie’ as a ten-week-old baby, working her start.

walk straight ahead another 20-30 yards and then make a big loop around to the start of the track. Once the tracklayer is back to the start, the dog may begin his search for his prized possession. His search at this point may be mostly visual, and that is fine. He may need encouragement to keep looking, and that is fine too. But once he finds his treasure, throw a party, as the puppy needs to know that he is brilliant and that you are out-of-your-mind happy with him. At this point, I like that party to include the “Get It” game or fun tosses that he learned to love when all this motivational stuff began. If you use food, make sure he gets his treats at the glove. If you use a favorite toy, make sure he gets to play with it for a few minutes as a reward for a job well done. In general, I like to repeat this short track a total of three times per training session and will ask my track- layer to lay two more tracks in a new spot, repeating the same process. The lengths of CT ‘Trevor,’ the Pomeranian, proves that any breed can track. He is the first (and probably only) Champion Tracking Dog in the AKC registry. Also pictured are Handler Penny Kurz and Owner Paulette Zecca.


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