not eating food on track + fast tracking... help?
I'll start with the problem: Ever since I introduced articles, my dog has been completely ignoring food on the track and simply rushing to find the articles. So he's both rushing through the track, false indicating sometimes, and skipping food on the track and I'm sort of at a loss of what to do.
Now, some background:
2.5 years old. Tracking since he was a puppy. My first dog :)
The most consecutive footsteps we've gotten to without food is 11 (always odd).
How we taught articles: First elevated over Tupperware on the track - he would get to the article, I'd give a platz and then open the tupperwear for him to eat the food inside. Then, moved the articles off the track - at home using positive methods (mostly shaping).
Then back onto the track - would get to the article, indicate it, and I'll walk up the line to him, reward him with food directly on the article, rest and praise a little (maybe 30 seconds), then restart.
Usually I'll do the following:
heavily baited scent pad, a few baited footsteps, then a bait every 1,3,5,7,9,11 footsteps randomly.
He's good with corners, 90 degrees as well as more acute ones.
Now my problem becomes this: I am not entirely sure how to slow him down. I don't want to correct him for going too fast because when I do he'll just get confused and platz (I don't correct hard at all, I think that's just his default behavior when he's confused - but I could be *very* wrong). I can't use more food on the article because he just skips it. Even if I leave random jackpots throughout the track he'll gulp them down in 1 second and keep racing to the article.
I'm not sure if he's showing that he's ready for less food on the track or somethin or if I'm doing many things wrong but I sure could use some advice here.
I know it's very hard to give advice on these things without seeing the dog in action. I'll gladly take a video of the tracking and post it here if it helps. In the meantime, any advice how I can slow him down a bit, keep his nose deeper, and have him not see the article as the culmination of the exercise? Should I reward less on the articles and leave random jackpots? Any other advice?
Sorry for babbling :)
How large is the jackpot at the articles? Can he actually see the articles? How big are they? Have you ever put pressure/corrections on him for the articles or missing an article?
Hunger so he looks more for the food on the track itself.
Less food at the articles so the food on the track becomes more important
Set your pace and don't let him race along.
harder tracks so he has to think more and slow down
Double line with one line on the pinch and one on his fursaver. The pinch line is loose unless he races and then is used to slow the dog down.
The jackpot idea is a good one since maybe that will get him to realize that the track and not just the articles are rewarding.
First of all, skipping food is probably not a bad thing.
My dog no longer eats food drops on the track and therefore I no longer lay them. This for me is great because it is a PITA to make food drops (seagulls/crows eat them, dog digs around for them and is distracted from the track) so personally I am very happy my dog is focussed on the articles.
I reward each article equally so there is no rush for the end. I also (not related to your issue but based on advice from an RCMP tracker) introduce a bite at the end with a tug toy. She really loves this.
If your dog is rushing for the articles, I don't see this as bad, as long as the dog is not going crazy and searching with nose up and eyes. If he/she is doing that, try aging the track more so the scent is harder to find. I track with the tracking line direct to collar and under front left or right leg. This helps keep her nose down. I don't allow the dog to run(speed up) unless I know she is totally on track.
My articles are about 4 in by 1.25 in and even if I cover them in sand she will find them. (I track on sandy surface)
Maybe the dog just needs time to adjust. If you remove the food drops entirely and the dog is lost, go back to double/triple laid tracks until he/she has figured it out.
I was having problems with my girl on corners, she would overshoot all the time. I went back to double laying the first 10 steps of the corner for about 3 weeks ( 3 tracking days a week, 2 tracks /day) and now she is 100% on corners. So it takes time and patience.
* 6Am-6:30AM arrive at tracking field
* lay motivational track, 60yds with one turn, one article 20yds after the turn.
* lay second track, 3 legs 60 yds each, 2 articles, 30yds on second leg and at end of 3rd leg. Random variation of left/right pattern.
* Back to truck, let doggy out (not on tracking field) for potty time.
* Two of us relax on bed of truck for 20-30 minutes while track ages.
* Bite play with tug at end of second track while picking up flags.
* Relax again on bed of truck for about 10 mins while I sip my tea.
* breakfast for both of us
I usually split a raw hamburger evenly between all 3 articles.
On the way home this morning, she lay in the front of the truck with her head on my lap, utterly contented.
Nikon was like this for a while. I stopped putting food on his track once the articles came into the picture, but I still use small jackpot piles on the track (especially when training for a trial and we're doing really long, boring legs with few articles). I also sometimes use very tiny articles, the size of Scrabble pieces. I don't mind that his motivation for tracking *is* articles and that he finds them rewarding, so if he is getting too fast or too complacent I just make the articles harder to find and make some trouble for him if he blatantly skips one.
I would eliminate articles for awhile and make the track important again, try to even the value of the track with the articles. I found that making the articles or end of the track (jackpot there) higher value caused problems for me.
Another thing to try is to do runs of food and then runs of no food. I was putting food every step for 3-5 steps and then no food for 10-15 and I was using a little bigger pieces of hotdog. I also put a pinch collar on my dog and attached the line to both rings and tracked on that. I didn't use corrections but a more steady pull which seemed to really smooth his tracking out.
Lots of good ideas already...but try to change one variable at a time as you work through the problem, so in case this problem resurfaces again, you will know how to nip it in the bud.
There are some great suggestions mentioned already.
Some other possibilities:
* Remove articles from the track and train them off track only for a while, so it removes the big jackpot associated with them.
* Depending on your dog's level of food drive, perhaps feeding a half meal ahead of time to "take the edge off" may reduce what seems to be a rush to get to the food.
* I've worked "fast tracking" dogs on both the dead and live rings of a prong, depending on the dog, judiciously "pulsing" the dog just enough to slow and focus, not as a sharp correction. You must be careful though, with a sensitive dog.
Other things I've done to slow the dog is to really smear the food, so they have to work for it deeply.
There are some very interesting tips at this website. It's not Schutzhund specific but maybe you can pick up something useful there. It's mostly tracking through drive related.
Leerburg | Q&A on Tracking
Thanks for the advice everyone - lots of excellent advice so far.
I'm changing one thing at a time to see what works.
Just wanted to let you know that today's tracking session went much better. I switched from random baited footsteps to random jackpots - which are much less frequent but much more food in each jackpot than when I did baited footsteps. First jackpot he platzed while eating it but after some reinforcement from me he quickly understood what the jackpots mean - eat them and keep tracking, it's not a place to pause like an article.
After it became clear he was much more focused, methodical, and slow (I used small pops on the dead ring - I usually use the live ring but will stop that also - and that slowed him down considerably). He downed at both articles but was searching every footstep in between and not really skipping any jackpots.
Actually, I lied about changing one thing at a time - I fed him last night. I usually do not feed the night before or the morning of tracking so maybe he was able to relax since he wasn't as hungry - I dont know. I'll have to try each of these individually to see.
As far as getting smaller articles - I will definitely try that next. Currently I use trial size articles.
That's it for now, thanks for the advice everyone!
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