Winter/Snow Tracking? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 10:49 AM Thread Starter
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Winter/Snow Tracking?

Ok, hereís another one of those things that Iíve heard 2 different sides. Yes, you can and no, you canít.

With winter around the corner and many areas now getting their first snow of the season I'm wondering if I'll have to stop tracking for a few months. I'm thinking the SAR people track their dogs in any/all weather but I know SchH tracking is a bit different than SAR (ground vs. air).

What do you do? Why do you think it works or why doesnít it work?
Opinions?

Thanks.

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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 11:03 AM
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I did it twice with Nikon and not after that. It was just too weird, having the track so clearly visible and having him stuff his nose into 8 inches of snow.

I got Pan in October last year, did a few scent pads, and then he didn't track again until the spring. He did learn articles over the winter since I do that separately off the track.

Now, cover that is still green but frosty? Yes please!

I don't really have an opinion on whether snow tracking is beneficial or harmful, I just didn't think we got anything out of it the few times we tried and I personally did not like doing it.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 11:16 AM
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I have done SAR and am currently training in SchH.

In SchH, heck no. No tracking for mine. If he can *see* where he's going, he goes faster and that's cheating. Since in SchH pace has a lot to do with your points, I emphasize tracking when it is obviously based on scent and not on sight.

We definitely did it all winter in SAR. To be honest, whether the dog sees the tracks etc or not doesn't matter - it should be following its nose and if that coincides with visible tracks to a rescue, then yay. If visible tracks make the dog work faster then double yay. It was key to teach the dogs in the snow and cold so they knew how to function and had the stamina to do it. People get lost in the winter too and they are in a dangerous place if stuck in a storm or prolonged exposure etc etc
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 11:37 AM
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For Schutzund tracking - always been told, no, don't do it, for the reasons mentioned above. A few tracks in the snow, and the dog figures out it can see the footsteps, and starts to rely on sight more than scent.

I know a high-level competitor who said he tried it with his club members one winter - tracking through the snow, just to put the sight vs. scent theory to test. His words: "We all payed for it dearly! Never again!"

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 12:54 PM
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I did it with my first 3 dogs. I would take them through areas with a lot of disturbance (other footsteps) and they showed me that they had to track. My first dog actually started in snow and back then I did a lot of straight tracks before starting corners. Despite being able to see the corner she still wanted to go straight. These dogs would bury their noses into each step looking for a treat, article or reward. Tracking in the snow never had a negative impact on those dogs.

Now, the cold bothers me too much so, except for light dustings up to maybe an inch, I don't bother. I don't enjoy being cold and didn't find a benefit to the snow tracking. Only time I might still consider it is if I was preparing for early trials and had no choice. Really, snow isn't that different from tracking in dirt (unless it is very deep) as far as the ability to sight the track. It is all a matter of training.

Lisa Clark

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 04:06 PM Thread Starter
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So if we rule out snow because they can ďseeĒ the track weíll have to rule out all other situations where the dog can see the track. Thatís a lot of different conditions such as no frosty mornings, no soft ground, no mud, no sand or dirt, no tall grass (it gets matted down by our foot steps), and etc. Iím not sure that sounds right to my novice brain. On top of that there are options such as a plowed surface and highly traveled surface. Snow thatís been packed down but 4-wheelers/snowmobiles. It isnít always 2 foot deep snow up here in MN.

Wouldnít it be better to teach the dog to go slower and keep itís nose down?

I have a training friend who has titled a couple of dogs to the FH level and she says she did track those dogs in snow/winter and will future dogs. She recommended that I try it. She, like Lisa, has said she never had a problem with it. As far as benefits, Iíd have to ask her if she saw any. ??? Thinking maybe it's just a different surface and different weather condition - but not sure.

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 08:45 PM
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I too used to avoid tracking in snow for the various reasons listed above (re sight tracking), however, that said, as Vinnie has pointed out, that would eliminate many other tracking situations too.

So last winter I decided to give it a go for pickle's sake, keeping in mind that Jax has a strong tracking foundation and she does well with tracking pretty consistently. She is able to complete an FH track done very well, just to give an idea of where she is at in her tracking.

After a winter of some semi-regular snow tracking, I didn't notice a decline in her tracking ability, committment to the track, or reduced scenting on the track when we resumed Spring/Summer tracking (we track in mud, on concrete, vegetation). While this is only one example for one dog/handler experience, I will be doing some winter tracking with her again this year. I do avoid the very cold dry days because I believe this is highly irritating to the inner mucosa of the nose.

With a dog or pup who does not yet have a good solid foundation in tracking, I would personally probably wait, but then again, I might try that too. I think one error many people make is to always track in the most ideal conditions and failing to introduce more variety into the tracking training earlier on and this often shows up later and poses some challenges for the dog to "transition" so to speak (I'm one of those people), so I'm changing things up and will do so in the future as well.

Last edited by Northern GSDs; 11-09-2011 at 08:53 PM.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 11:20 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern GSDs View Post
With a dog or pup who does not yet have a good solid foundation in tracking, I would personally probably wait, but then again, I might try that too.
Just thought you might find this article interesting;

http://www.uspcak9.com/training/scent.pdf

Check out page 12 on snow.

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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 12:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinnie View Post
Just thought you might find this article interesting;

http://www.uspcak9.com/training/scent.pdf

Check out page 12 on snow.
Sweet! I think I had read that at one point but never bookmarked it - thank you so much for posting! . It is interesting to read how there are so many different opinions on this subject. Makes me wish at times I had the sniffer of a dog. Then again, as a nurse, maybe not
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 11-10-2011, 11:30 AM
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Dogs don't see much with their eyes 4" from the ground.

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