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Track Laying

9545 Views 33 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Patrick Cheatham
Does any one lay there own tracks for their dog? I was asked a question the other night, when I stated that I have layed my own tracks. The question was, why does the dog not just go to the handler when he is started at a scent pad, if the handler layed the track? Why will the dog continue along the trail until he reaches the object be it food or a toy? I gave an answer but wanted to see how some of you might have answered it.
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The dogs that I've taught to FST have all been started by following my foot steps. In FST, I think it's more of a taught game/exercise rather then following an individual. JMO!
I've never laid my own track, although I've seen the technique used with success. Primarily, it's a personal preference. I want the dog to start out looking for someone other than me. I'm not all that versed in sport tracking, so I can't comment one way or the other.

I have laid my own tracks with my personal dogs for quite awhile. There has never been a problem like you described. In fact when shooting past a turn and having to relocate it they have gone around me and located the turn not once becoming confused.
Like David for my service dogs from the very first track until graduation from the course no teams will track themselves.
I guess in my rather simplistic world the dog trained to TRACK is actively discouraged from following human scent so the dog is following the ground disturbance when it follows the track you lay as opposed to the TRAILING dog or TTD dog.

This is supported by the Bavarian ski lift experiment and the Boetcher wheel experiment (both described in Syrotouk)

Maybe another explanation, if you don't buy the idea that the tracking dog is not following the human scent is.......(OK and this is just my brain working).....

Perhaps the dog is doing something analogous to the starting problems bloodhounds can use where they negative out the people present at the start (e.g., if someone else collects the scent article, you want them present at the start of the problem so the dog can "cancel" them out.) You know, the dog smells YOU at the start of the track and, therefore, eliminates your unique scent from the problem. Is that a possibility?

One experiment I thought would be fun would be to lay a Most's square with two different people having identical shoes and of identical weight. If the dog is following only ground disturbance then it would not make the turn.

(Since I have only seen this described in a tracking for SAR book, and I can't google it....I can describe it if anyone is interested.)
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Any person involved in tracking for sport, competition,SAR PSD who has not read Syrotouck's book on "Scent and the Scenting Dog" is missing out on the most valuable piece of information on what and how dogs track. It is a must reading!! My students are required to read it front to back.
In SchI you lay your own track. In SchII, III, FH1, FH2 someone else lays the track. Always nice to have a friend to track with! I was always told (once you get beyond FST, the dog is tracking the crushed earth/grass/human gasses mixed together.
Does any one lay there own tracks for their dog? I was asked a question the other night, when I stated that I have layed my own tracks. The question was, why does the dog not just go to the handler when he is started at a scent pad, if the handler layed the track? Why will the dog continue along the trail until he reaches the object be it food or a toy? I gave an answer but wanted to see how some of you might have answered it.
If you lay the track that the dog is commanded to track what are you attempting to accomplish? I would say you want the dog to run the track and it does not matter who it belongs to. That is all fine and dandy if you and the track layer are the only ones present. Where are you going to find those conditions in the real world? Your not going to.

If someone else crosses the track then the dog has a grab bag or multiple choice right. If the dog switches tracks on you then it still does not matter because you were not concerned with whos track you were running in the first place so the dog is still right and has done exactly what you trained it do do because it satisfied the training standard and has failed, redirected you in the wrong direction and let the bad guy get away or worse allowed someone to die.

If you introduce a scent article of yourself and the dog runs the track the dog obviously does not respond to the article but rather your command so it can go eat what ever you chose to put along the trail if you are a track baiter. This would be an indicator that the training is substandard to real life and the dog will most likely fail in a real callout so do not deploy the dog.

It is just as important for the dog to indicate where the track does not go when compared to the dog confirming the track and indicating a direction of travel. In your scenerio the dog is unable to do that whcih is another indicator that the dog and the training is sub standard for call out.

In my opinion you are training to fail if your arena is the real world.
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If we are talking sport track then i cant think why you wouldnt lay your own track to train. The dog is following not only the human scent but the smell of disturbed soil, broken grass etc.
By starting on a scent pad the dog learns the reward ie food is only where the disturbance and scent is. if it gos out of the pad then no reward. once the dog will search the pad for several mins with minimium food and does not go out of the pad then you know the dog has learnt and move on to footsteps. Food in the the footsteps and then less food over time. Then you have a dog that will follow the track hoping it will be led to its reward or food.
I have seen the same done with toys or jackpots at the end of the track, dog learns follow the track get the reward.
as for service dogs the basics can be taught roughly the same but with out the emphasis on controling speed and footstep to footstep. once the dog learns to use it nose to follow a track ( more air scenting ) to get its reward (toy, tug, person) then you can introduce another person and the dog will quickly learn.
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There's nothing wrong with laying your own track, the problems start when you try to tell the dog where you tracked :-D
If you are training your dog for the real world of tracking badguys or finding lost folks, I most certianly would not reccommend that the handler lay his own training tracks. The point of real world tracking is to find the carcuss of the person being tracked. Why on earth would a dog follow a scent when the source of the scent is standing two feet away. I want a dog to track only to the point that he airscents the source, at that point he should go to the source and indicate. If one of my dogs opens on my scent while I am present I will stick my boot so far up his ----- that it will require a surgical procedure to alliviate the affliction. Asking a dog to look for something that he is dragging behind him on a 20 ft piece of leather is, well, ------- ummm, at best pointless, at worst insane.
great point terry--i never thought about it like that before (which is why i'm on here). i will certainly keep it in mind when i seriously start tracking w/Ike this spring. even tho i'm "only" doing Sch tracking, it's still a darn good point. have to round up some volunteers....
I know everyone does not train for real world tracking, many folks simply enjoy training dogs to compete in various manmade games that are light-years away from the reality of serious tracking. I have no problem with any of the games or the methods used to train dogs to excel within the perameters of the rules. I do think when a certian game rises to prominance and folks begin to breed the individuals that excel in the games, there is a very good possibility of dumbing down the natural instincts.

I cant think of a better example than asking dogs to trail something that is walking a few ft behind. The really good tracking dogs that I have had the pleasure to train and use all have one thing in common. They have a burning desire to catch what they are tracking. Track dogs should be bred first and foremost to pass this trait on to the next generation. After that, consideration should be given to the nose, stamina, obedience, and in the case of hounds, their voice. I think many of the breeds have already been dumbed down to the point of uselessness. Anyway, I feel blessed that the hounds have been largely overlooked by the show crowds and still have their natural instincts to track and catch.
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Terry, I firmly believe you as to WHO should lay the track - though I don't imagine puppy stuff with food drops has ever really hurt a dog - even schutzhund dogs can be switched over to trailing [which may render them useless for future competing unless they can switch their little doggy brain from tracking to trailing to tracking based on situation....] but.....

I do wonder if there are any differences between how you are training that bloodhound who will work older stuff and urban stuff vs. how you train the bat out of hell hounds you follow on horseback? If they are, how are you approaching things?

I think it would be different as the trail really ages and having to go into detail mode to bridge trail gaps is something more that the bloodhound would have to face on older stuff.

Interest for me is SAR where the trailing dog may start 4-12 hours or more after the victim left and after cars, people, dogs etc. have trampled the PLS.
Nancy, I am finding the pack dogs have the ability to slow down and work much older tracks than I thought possible. It was just a matter of letting them know I wanted them to run the old ones. The Bloodhound is being trained on leash and we are concentrating on a lot of hard surface, contaminated tracks. She gets a treat once and a while when we let her roll with the big dogs. She loves it and it helps build drive. Really there isnt a lot of difference in the training of the packs and the bloodhound, both picks up the track and goes to the end. The packs do it because they want to whoooop somthin at the end and the Bloodhound does because she likes the lovin. To me it is simply not necessary to use food drops to train a dog to track, I think it is counter productive and distracting. I realize it makes the dog work more slowly and more accurately and racks up points in the games. If the games are not reflecting the needs of the real world, I think the games should be changed, lest we run the risks of producing a bunch of useless dogs in the future. This has already happened to many of the so called WORKING BREEDS. Not trying to start a flap, just my opinion.
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Terry, I read the articles and your track record speaks for itself.

The argument the tracking first folks always made was that it would make the dog be able to better pick up the peices - but you are finding that to be the case without out.

How do you start a puppy? Does it run with the pack or get separate training. It would be interesting to know what you do there.
The pups are started as a litter. The trainng starts with bonding while their eyes are still closed. They are taken out away from their mother and the kennel at about six weeks. As soon as they are strong enough and are following by sight I begin running short distances away from them and let them chase me by sight. When they get to me I will get on the ground with them and let them tug at my clothing and play with an old pair of leather gloves.

These games become more lengthy and intense. By the time they are 12 to 14 wks they will be actually tracking using only their nose. By this time they have become too fast for me to uot-run so they have to be contained in a stock trailer whlie I run away. after a few minutes my helper will open the gate and the race is on. I usually climb a tree or get up on a big rock etc until they all begin to tree. I let them get all worked up then get down and wrestle and fight with them. After they are 16 wks or so and have mastered these games I let my helper run from them and I will follow on foot.

Once they reach this point it is just a matter of aging the track and making it increasingly more difficult. Also during this period they are exposed to trash in a controlled enviornment. Those that show too much interest in trash or do not open well will be dropped from the program. They are usually around two yrs old before going on areal deal.

Thats all there is to it. They come here with the ability and drive. Training is just a matter of putting them in the right circumstances at the right time and give them rewards for getting it right.
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great point terry--i never thought about it like that before (which is why i'm on here). i will certainly keep it in mind when i seriously start tracking w/Ike this spring. even tho i'm "only" doing Sch tracking, it's still a darn good point. have to round up some volunteers....
I almost never let any one else lay my tracks maybe 2 times in three dogs I've done Schutzhund with Only on trial day dose someone else lay my tracks. This is pretty much the norm for Schutzhund tracking training.
I'll toss in my favorit tracking video of Wallace Payne and Merlin It dont get any better enjoy
Always loved that video!
I will say that I started my dog in SAR work first. He was a natural at it and using similar methods as Terry mentioned with his puppys, he was finding me in the woods at 12 wks old.
NOW switching over to FST (Schutzhund) I had one hell of a time getting his nose on the ground. He would pick up the article scent from the other track leg and go straight to it. Corners be damned! He knew where it was.
I have always read, and since found out, that if your going to do both do the FST first.
What I saw was a dog that would fall back on his foundation (real world trailing) when he got lost in FST. Miss a corner and the first thing that would happen was his nose came up and he had no problems going to a article then (if the wind was correct).
Did I say that FST sucks?! :lol:
It's a game, not real world scent work! :wink:
Bob alludes to a common mistake track layers make when laying tracks for the pack dogs. If the layer makes a lot of turns in a small area the pack will simply blow through all of it and come out smokin on the other side. One has to be extremely careful how the tracks are configured if the handler wants the dogs to stay honest in the turns. Frankly, I dont want a dog to keep his nose on the ground if he has the ability to run with it up. All of the dogs in the pack will go nose down if they have to. I also like a dog that tracks until he catches direct scent, at this point the nose needs to go in the air and he should fly up the scent cone to the source. Some get so good at it they will cut crosswind and even stop and stand on their hind legs while testing the breeze. I really dont know why they do this, I assume they at least believe standing enhances their ability to detect the scent carried in the air.

Anyway, the world is a big place and there is room for all kinds of folks, with all kinds of dogs, training all kind of ways for all kinds of games. I just worry that since slow and methodical is a sought after trait in many of the games, the participants will have a tendency to breed the slowest most methodical dogs for generation after generation. Soon you will have a bunch of pot lickers that couldnt catch a fat widow women.
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