SchH tracking...dirt/grass - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
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SchH tracking...dirt/grass

So this weekend I attended my very first SchH trial, and something has got me thinking. Here is the situation:

The trial's tracking portion is to be held at a farmer's dirt field. Apparently dirt is much easier to track on than grass. So, we go to the field and due to a whole lot of rain jsut a few days before, the field is solid MUD and SLUDGE! Seriously, track layers were having great dificulty manuvering through the mud, and in several places the mud would come up past their ankles. Only 2 out of 4 dogs passed the tracking phase, and both of the failing dogs had strong issues against the mud. None of the dogs wanted to down at the articles. Keeping up with the dogs who can navigate much easier over the mud creates problems for handlers trying not to accidentally put tension on the leash making the dogs think their is a correction. Falling, losing boots....just CRAZY!

So I ask, why not use a grass field. I was shocked to hear that many of these dogs do not track in grass. "She won't do it" "My dog can't track in grass" "the grass tickles his nose, so he won't keep his head down" I was really stumped. It would seem to me that these dogs SHOULD be able to track in both grass and dirt! Maybe I could see the SchH1 dogs having a bit of trouble...MAYBE. But dogs going for their SchH2's and 3's?!?!?! Seriously?

How common is this, and should I NOT be using different surfaces and textures with Gia?

~Alison

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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 12:29 PM
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

That is just silly. My dog who has been tracking for only 3 months does just fine in grass. The dog will track on what you train him to track on.

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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 12:32 PM
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

The national tracking trial was held in a cut soybean field, so the more texture, terrain that you subject your dog to, the better, IMO.

Were you able to get any pics at the trial, Alison?

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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 12:39 PM
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

Quote:
Originally Posted By: gsdlove212

How common is this, and should I NOT be using different surfaces and textures with Gia?
I'm new to tracking and started out reading a ton of literature on it, the more I read, the more confused I got as there seemed to be dozens of "methods" to choose from. Instead, I just stuck with the method we use at our club, which is to start out on lush grass and stay there until the dog is solid with the behaviors (keeping the nose deep, not rushing, methodically checking each footstep). Once my dog was doing SchH 1 or longer length track on the lush grass with a few corners and food on the track in much longer intervals, then I started with different lengths of grass and different types of ground cover. But I suppose there is a "method" of getting the dog used to all types right away.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 12:41 PM Thread Starter
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

Jane, that is what I am thinking. I have tracked Gia in the dirt and in grass. I will concur that the dirt is easier for her, but the grass isn't impossible and she still does a good job in the grass. It blew my mind though. I felt particularly bad for one handler/dog team. They were going for their SchH1 and had awesome scores in both OB and Protection phases. He wanted to use grass, but he had to go with what the trial said (I guess). He did not get his SchH1, it was sad.

The two dogs that passed, one wouldn't down at the articles...but you could tell she was trying to, at one point stopped to eat a dead animal...proceeded to throw it up...and then finished her track. The other one was a gorgeous Mal who pretty much floated over the mud and had no issues whatsoever (this dog was super impressive in all phases).

~Alison

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 12:45 PM Thread Starter
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

I didn't get any pics of Gia...darn it. But I used Windy's DSLR to get some shots of the trial itself. I havne't got them all from her yet.


Lies, my TD is one of the ones who's dog "won't" track in grass. He is the one who started me doing dirt tracking (I had been doing all her work in grass). But I am now leary of doing as he did and jsut using all dirt, because I want her to be able to track in ANYTHING!

~Alison

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 01:09 PM
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

The mud was probably a mess and making things difficult. Who knows the experience level and training skill of the exhibitors or the character of the dogs. These things all factor in.

I start the dogs tracking on pavement now. I am really liking having that foundation in place early.

Train in all weather conditions... find plowed fields, find crop fields, find scrub, find the forest,mulch, gravel. Track over rocky land, crawl under fences, wade through streams. Down dogs in strange things.. mud, water, weeds, etc. Preparation and experience is everything. I was told to look at tracking as exposing dogs different components or scent pictures. Once your dog has read that scent picture it is stored in their repertoire. We don't know exactly how scent is characterized in each condition you track in, so the more exposure to varied scent pictures the better. Your dog will build a large skill set then.

When moving to a very new tracking medium I would make that track very easy. Make sure the dog is very motivated also. Concentrate on one skill at a time.

I myself think that the terrain the dog first learns on and practices on the most is the one they appear to track best in. It may not be that the dog has a real preference so much as we created the appearance of preference. My old girl was started on grass and that is her best medium. If I had started her on something else, or had moved to a variety of covers sooner she might look different.


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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 01:38 PM
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

Which is easier will depend on a whole lot of factors beyond just grass vs dirt.

Dry, sparse, short grass or lush, tall, damp grass?
True "grass" or forty zillion different green plants all growing together and giving off different scent profiles?
Rich, moist, tilled dirt or dry, dusty, hard packed moon dust? Clay? Sand? Nice farm dirt? When was it last tilled, fertilized, spead with manure? What kind of bugs and microbes are in the soil that got squashed by the tracklayer?

Now figure in temperature and wind and humidity and many other things. Much more complicated than just dirt or grass.

Dirt can provide a more pure scent for the dog, as it is more conducive to the dog picking out the human scent on the track, without having to sort that out from all the smells of crushed vegetation, possibly crushed flowering vegetation, etc...

Whether a dog trained on dirt can do well on grass, and vice versa, depends a lot on the training and what that dog is tracking. A dog used to tracking on dirt may find the grass smells overwhelming and have difficulty picking out the human scent. A dog trained on grass may have learned to cue too much off the scent of the crushed vegetation, rather than the human, and have more difficulty switching to dirt where those vegetation scents are absent.

Good training involves exposing the dog to as many factors as possible, including different tracking covers, once the dog has the basic skills needed and is ready for that. Not always so easy to do, even when the trainer wants to, as not everyone has access where they live to a variety of different tracking covers. Especially in many areas of the country. But trainers need to do what they can to expose their dogs to this. You never know what you'll encounter on trial day.


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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 01:55 PM Thread Starter
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

Thanks Chris...that makes sense. I understand it isn't that cut and dry, I just found it really odd that some of these dogs couldn't track on anything except dirt. Then again, maybe the handlers jsut do not have enough faith in their dogs. I saw some of that too...9 times out of 10 the dog did better than they "thought" they would.

~Alison

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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-24-2009, 02:16 PM
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Re: SchH tracking...dirt/grass

Quote:
Originally Posted By: Chris WildGood training involves exposing the dog to as many factors as possible, including different tracking covers, once the dog has the basic skills needed and is ready for that. Not always so easy to do, even when the trainer wants to, as not everyone has access where they live to a variety of different tracking covers. Especially in many areas of the country. But trainers need to do what they can to expose their dogs to this. You never know what you'll encounter on trial day.
Phantom has learned to manicured lawns (MI), hay and sod fields (WA), and now dirt (CA). Every part of the country has something new to track. It is a never ending puzzle. I like tracking so I think it keeps tracking fun and challenging.

Just found out the trial will be in dirt. The weeks leading up to the trial, during the week I track the soccer fields and Fri - Sun I track dirt.

After the trial, I'm going to make use of a field that has an abundance of wood chips, gravel and sparse grass.

What I've learned is the initial track on the new surface can be ugly. But Phantom's first leg or blow off track usually is fast and hectic. By the second time we track the surface we're back to our track shoe issues.

What is harder is that the judge will quickly see if the dog is off track (and the crows are more adept finding and eating the bait off the track).

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