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Reluctant travelers, next step in the Search Square and first steps in tracking

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The owners tell me their Staffy is much calmer now and they feel more under control. I said some time ago about this dog it may have been less aggressive if it had lost a few fights. This may confirm something I read that testosterone levels change with the number of fights lost or won so with more socialisation I think in a month’s time I will test the dog without the muzzle and replace with the Master Plus. There still remains the problem of chasing flies. Currently they are in short supply so this will have to wait.

Following the battery power adjustment to the master plus collar, I have returned it to the owner of the not so dominant bitch. The first use for the problem of barking at the fence brought immediate results. This just leaves the distance recall to correct. For a demonstration, the owner used the collar on a neighbour’s dog that would not come when the owner called; it does now.

The Reluctant Traveler

Following article 16 Travel Management; an owner has a problem with his dog fearful of car travel. The dog was rescued but not from a shelter so the early history is unknown. The dog seemed to travel without any problems when he went to collect it but now hates travel, shaking and salivating all the time. The reasons for this are various, ranging from a bad incident in the past with a former owner to just the trauma of change once this has sunk in. The first trip of bringing a dog home and having to leave its littermates is a common experience but many dogs soon get over this. Other generators of this behaviour are going to the vets for injections. Your dog may have had an incident where it fouled or was sick in the car and you have not cleaned the car correctly with a biological brand of cleaner or one prescribed by your vet. You may think the car is clean but to your dog, it can still smell traces and will not get into the car. Dogs do not like to lie in areas used as a toilet.
Your driving may be the cause if the dog is on the back seat sitting without restraint so every time you brake or go round a corner the dog slides off the seat. Being in the back of an estate is no better and why I prefer crates with loads of comfortable bedding.

Is the rear door seal good so the smell of the exhaust cannot gain entry? In some cases the dog is just travel sick. There can be many others.

To desensitise the dog you can use either of the two techniques of phasing or flooding depending on the circumstances dictated by the dog itself. Some times, you can just lift the dog into the back shut the door and treat everything as normal. This may just work. By not showing concern, this will communicate to the dog that there is no need to worry. You may be able to solve it this way or it may simply create a great deal of distress and each succeeding trip only makes the problem worse. You need to know why.

The most important piece of information is how the dog reacts to seeing the car or even before when somehow it is aware, it is going for a trip. The second is when did this reaction start and what was happening at this crucial time. Only by discovering what was the cause of the fear and the type of fear from the dog’s body language will it dictate the way to correct the problem.

The most common treatment is phasing by using the car in the ways the dog would find useful. Here in Spain with the tailgate lifted front windows open to let air circulate and sheets over the top for shade can turn the car into a welcome respite from the hot sun. You could put the dog basket close to the car and eventually into the car. You can feed your dog in the back of the car. Leave his toy in there so to play he must collect it. Play king of the castle and each take a turn jumping into the back of the car. If you can lower the seats and play chase into the back of the car and out of the side doors may just do the trick to get the dog into the car. Find the best game or toy your dog loves the best in readiness for the next steps.

In order to move to the next phase having the car engine running yet stationery I recommend some piping connected the exhaust too take the gas away from the cars rear. Just leave it running so you have the air-conditioning working. Once you have your dog getting in and out of the car with the engine running you can move onto the next phase. Do take it slowly as you must build up all the advantages of the car to over ride your dogs fear. There are times when your dog seems to progress then for your dog, it all comes flooding back and you seem to be back at the start.

If you can park the car on an incline then with everybody in the car playing noisily let the car start to roll and leave the sheets over the rear windows. If you only have to walk 50 yards to take your dog for a walk then use the car. Make a major fuss about walking and the games it likes to play but not the getting out of the car. Being such a short trip the fear has little chance of a foothold and quickly replaced by the enjoyment of going for a walk. Initially I would walk your dog home and go back for the car.

Go for walks more times than normal during the retraining period. Try to build up the distance and if you see your dog is showing shaking or salivating then stop at the nearest opportunity and take your dog for a very playful walk. If you can do this then you reinforce to your dog that car trips lead to happy times and rewards. Be careful not to give your dog the option of riding in the car or walking. If your dog refuses to get into the car, go back into the house. Do not dwell on failures just be happy and encourage your dog to be happy too.

Remember do not reward the getting out of the car. Have your dog focus on the anticipation of fun to come with the lead, the ball or what ever else you will be playing with plus be enthusiastic your self before you open up the door. This is another reason crates are so useful and their many safety aspects.

Next, step in the Search Square.

The first step was to teach your dog short redirection by going away from you, to the left and right and to come and to find as a reward an article you previously left on the ground partially hidden. The next step was to show your dog you throwing something it likes into the long grass. You then disorientate your dog and then send it saying, “search”. With your help of praise when getting warmer and when it finds it give loads of praise and encourage your dog to fetch. The next step is to throw two articles in and do the same but once the article is in your hands send your dog in again to find the other article. The best way is to throw both articles very close to each other and your dog will probably find both and fetch one out and go straight back in for the other. All you have to do then is to increase this to four articles in a 25 square yard area and this is the search square.


First Steps in Tracking.

I said some time ago that watching tracking without knowing what was happing is like watching paint dry. Therefore, it is with some writers who delve into the subject of working trails without actually competing pick up a bit of knowledge and then make assumptions to fill in the rest.

The first rule is never to teach a dog to work backwards along a track. If I judged you in a competition and see you and your dog confidently set off the wrong way round the track I will stop you. I will let the steward put you on the last leg to find the article but dogs do know the right way round the track and it is wrong for me to let your dog learn that to track backwards is acceptable.

I read the other day the subject of teaching tracking by leaving an article in the grass and then walking by scuffing your feet for a short distance and then send your dog back along the track to the article. This was called track back and it does not exist. This may have been a result of seeing a handler training for searching by leaving an article before walking on for some yards then sending the dog back to teach redirection work. The dog will eventually find the article so reinforcing to the dog that redirection is to find something and you will be very happy. You do this on hard ground like concrete paths etc never on grass, as you are not teaching tracking.

The second rule is you do not teach your dog to track. It is like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. Dogs can track but they only wish to track the rabbit that just passed this way moments ago and they know which way the track goes. To a dog, there is no point in tracking a rabbit that passed three hours ago, as it is a waste of time. All the tracks are there, some fresh, some old, but the dog will only wish to recognise the fresh ones. What we do is teach the dog to follow the old ones. The dogs are like the Ferengies in Star Trek the first rule of acquisition is what is the profit in it for me. You teach your dog if it follows older type of tracks, it will receive a great reward.

Lack of understanding can cause great confusion because we do not know what the dog is seeing in scent. Because the dog does not do as we think it should do by putting its nose to the ground that it is not tracking so we get upset and the dog becomes confused. A dog will not want to track if it upsets you.

Anyone who lays a track by scuffing their feet in grass for say 20 yards and then goes back to get the dog to track will have a hard job trying to get the dog to put its nose to the ground. I said that humans and dogs look for edges and with a track like this; it could be two metres wide like long tunnel of scent. There is so much body and ground damage scent even we humans can almost see the haze.

The first thing is to have a reason for the dog to track that is all. One of the best ways is for one of your family to set off into the distance of about 100 yards and disappear over a hill and holding the dog’s meal in its bowl. Your dog will want to follow but you do not let them. If you look you will see the footprints in the grass looking lighter as the grass is pushed away from you. If you look back, each footprint is darker as the grass points towards you. This I know is fine for the UK so I will have to look at the land in Spain to find the most suitable that I would recommend for training.

There is far too much scent at 5 minuets so wait 15 to 20 minuets and then fasten a harness to your dog. The car safety harness looks ideal and better padded than the normal leather ones I used to use. Clip a long lead onto the harness and let your dog go out ahead of you and say track. Initially the dog is heading out in the general direction and when it crosses the track say “good dog, track” and try to keep to a nice steady pace. It may stop to check but may go on again. Allow your dog to swing left and right of the track and it will begin to notice the coincidence of the track and direction as that of the member of the family.

All you are is ballast so not to let your dog just bolt off but try to keep you on the track. You will have arranged that the family member will once out of sight will turn left or right to set off for another 50 yards and to hide somewhere like lying down in the grass where you cannot be seen. Preferably, down wind of the track and not behind trees as the dogs start to look for trees and use the short cut so missing out the track.

Your dog will come up to the corner, which you should still be able to see and watch what your dog does. Will your dog over shoot or notice the track ends and look for the second direction. As your dog swings round and indicates the next leg say “good dog, track” and away you go and find the family member lying in the ground then give much praise and your dogs meal.

You may find your dog can do this very easily and it is only in a very few cases do you have some trouble. I trained my dogs at 20 minutes for the very first track and then went to 30 minutes for the second. This is the time delay for the track in the Utility Dog Stake. It is not really the dog that is learning it is you to learn to read your dog’s body language of when it is tracking and when it is not. It is easy for you when you can see the track or know where it is but eventually you will not and so you will have to learn to rely on your dog and have confidence.

As a judge, I have seen many good dogs pulled off tracks simply because handlers, under pressure of competition and nerves, spoil the dog. You must learn you know nothing about scent tracking so leave it to a dog that does. I know, it has happened to me and you will grow out of this.

Do not rush, once you have a found a nice time for tracks that you can still see in the grass and your dog tracks with it nose down then just keep to that level and learn to read your dog. Always keep it as a game and always happy, always succeed. Your reward is a feeling I cannot describe; yet, it is very addictive.

Next week:
Behavioural updates,
Dog jumping up, a continuation,
A typical case for yours truly, (A dog barking at visitors)
The next steps in tracking. (Line working)

If you have any questions or queries, please contact me. My ID on Yahoo messenger is alannewmanmoore. If you cannot obtain any special doggy items please look at www.companyofanimals.co.uk and I can bring them over for you.

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