Lacey & Lisa Get Their TDX!!

by Lisa Pattison


Lacey is mentally sharp and always on the go. Tracking dogs like Lacey are a job to track with. They are the creative type who tend to think outside the box. Happiest surrounded by people, but not so happy being followed. People tend to be drawn to the charming nature of her work ethic only to see her fade in front of the gallery of the tracking tests. Indeed, a challenging venue for her to trial. Thinking well on her feet is Lacey’s strong suit, and through the years we have worked to reduce her impatience and impulsiveness as she does not suffer fools gladly. It is easy to be her friend but much more challenging to be her close friend. Ambitious and honest, Lacey was the third dog, and so tracking was just part of the group activities. We thrive on being busy! In tracking, it is very easy to just keep laying tracks while waiting for others to age. My tracking friends have laid countless tracks for me, and I for them. Many times they would bring their Scent in a Bottle (SAIB) for Lacey, and we would lay tracks at 6 a.m. before work and after dark. In cooler months we combined shopping with tracking to age tracks in the cold weather when we started TDXs.

I am a huge fan of capturing behavior and then shaping it. Lacey was the first dog I started using Scent in a Bottle. Basically I submerged a sweaty article of clothing in a gallon of distilled water, left it overnight, wrung it out, and poured the water in a spray bottle. I set the bottle to stream and shot a stream ahead of me as I walked across the pavement, so that I walked over the stream of scent. I brought Lacey out and waited for her to investigate the start - click and treat - then I waited for an audible sniffing, and then I worked on lengthening the duration of the behavior. I started on pavement in parking lots (you see where the shopping came in <grin>) and then moved on to dirt and finally to grass. The actual SIAB method has many more steps, and I confess I skipped quite a few. She seemed to sail along with no hesitations to new obstacles. Her love of articles and being always on the hunt made tracking very self-serving to her.

I am also a big believer in video-taping training sessions. It is absolutely crucial to see over and over again how my dog tracks and her body language. Not to mention my body language to her. I will never stop watching and learning to read my dogs on tracks. I am a huge fan of behavior, and tracking is challenging to me because the viewpoint from the tracking line is not the telltale face, lips, mouth and nose and ears or body profile. Steve White’s Scent in a Bottle website is I am a huge fan of his methods.

Further along in Lacey’s training, we went through a phase where she was so article-oriented that she was pulling out any tracking markers. "Her Cleverness” would pull flags, golf tees, and mouth rocks if lifted and placed on a track to hold an article, and eventually she was scenting and scouting trees for clothespins. Her personality allowing nothing in between! You either love or hate Lacey’s greediness on the track. I can easily hear her quoting Peter the Great, “I have conquered an empire but I have not been able to conquer myself.” This progressed to cutting turns to find articles sooner. (This resulted in blown whistles on the first two TDX attempts.) I had to take the articles off the track and back up to SIAB on the turns only, and click and treat her nailing the turn. I think it took about six tracks like that, and we were back in business. I also replaced gloves with bottle caps and pennies to make sure she wasn’t inclined to become visual again and hopefully to cut down on air scenting. As I continued to track with her, I am very grateful she is such an honest worker to achieve our goals as she acquires articles, and it is my job to make sure I keep the turns in her focus, as her ambitions are big, and they are usually very successful. Another training issue that cropped up was she sometimes would be inclined to turn off the current day’s track to follow an old path from the same tracklayer the week before. These phenomena cropped up with my other Aussie Murphy as well. I went back to my remedial SIAB for turns for this issue as well. Somewhere along the way she had some problems with hillsides and wind, so we practiced those scenarios with SIAB as well, being sure to reinforce her for being on the original path and not just acknowledging where the scent may have drifted.

At the Burlington TDX test in May, Lacey was quick and ready! She was very organized and found her way along the track with her usual sense of adventure. She found a 20-foot diameter of horse manure mid-length after the second turn. She treated herself while casting.

Experience has taught me to shut my mouth with her. Guess what? The turn was there too! Bolting across the road, her mind scheming her next “article attack,” she traveled head down and exhibited her usual persistence and cunning. “Is that your track?” I asked her, hoping she was as certain as her body posture. Peripherally, I saw the gallery jog to navigate the road as well. Gleefully, she plucked an article and cast it over her head. A huge indication, and she wanted to find more. Almost immediately after restarting her, we came across some old animal bones. They warranted a thorough inspection by the opportunist before she continued down the track in the spirit of acquisition. Finding another turn, she headed for the woods. Woods? I mean pucker brush! It was so tight I was practically straddling the dog to keep from getting separated. I fought with the line as she worked her way towards a large fallen tree. She looked to the left but went right. Popped over the tree and then her body changed, and I again asked her, “Is that your track?” She glanced back at me over her left shoulder and started to swing to me. I backed to the fallen tree, and she went left. We came out in a field straight up to a fresh animal carcass. I bit my tongue. Lacey just rolled and frolicked in her newfound treasure. Just as I was speculating she might have sought out the carcass, she surged forward, empowered with her new smelly cape. Quickly the track was finished, and she pounced to retrieve her final article.

Inspiring the minds of others with her loyalty and fervor on that track, one would never guess how deep our relationship goes to get Lacey to “put on the dancing plumes” and track in the presence of a gallery and judges. Tracking at the test with Lacey was yet another of those magical times that epitomize the culmination of many good times spent together in the field. My tracking with Lacey provided an essential challenge for her. It helped her to adapt to different environments. She had to “give up” watching her environment. Instead the formidable problem solver learned to act instead of react, hunting articles while tracking step by step as a team that embraced the gallery.

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