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Tampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: The ABCs of Tracking and Other Games

dog noseTampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender

The ABCs of Tracking and Other Games

By Brenna Fender

American Kennel Club (AKC) is probably the most well-known organization in the United States to sanction tracking. You can read the AKC tracking regulations and get other info at http://www.akc.org/dog_shows_trials/tracking/.

Beginning tracking dogs learn on short, straight tracks with their handlers close by.

Cross-tracks are found in some tracking tests (the AKC TDX test is one). A cross-track occurs when someone other than the tracklayer walks across the track. In an AKC TDX test, cross-tracks are made by two people who walk side-by-side about four feet apart at a 90 degree angle to the track. Cross-tracks add an additional challenge for tracking dogs. There are many specific instructions on how a cross-track should be laid, and those details can be found in the AKC tracking regulations, Chapter 4, Section 4.

Dogs of any breed can enjoy tracking. Although hounds are well known for their tracking prowess, even toy breeds like Papillons have proven themselves to be talented trackers! Some organizations, like the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registration (AMBOR), allow mixed breeds to title in tracking.

Equipment needed for tracking includes a non-restrictive harness, long tracking leash, flags, gloves, and other articles. You will also need a large, grassy area free of obstacles. Other items may be used in training, like treats or toys.

Flags are placed when a track is mapped in order to tell the tracklayer where to walk. In an AKC Tracking dog test, all but the first two flags are removed before the dog begins to track. In Tracking Dog Excellent tests, only the first flag and flags indicating cross tracks remain, and in Variable Surface Tracking tests, only the start flags remain. Flags help orient the handler and give him or her a visual clue about wind direction and strength.

Gloves are frequently used as the articles found at the end of an AKC Tracking Dog test track. Wallets are also allowed.

Handlers must stay 20 feet behind their dogs in AKC tracking tests, except in Variable Surface Tracking tests, in which the required distance is 10 feet. Leashes used for tracking should be 20-40 feet long.

Items dropped along a track by the tracklayer are called “articles.” These smell like the tracklayer and are deliberately placed for dogs to indicate as part of a tracking competition.

Just straight lines? No way! Tracking tests incorporate a minimum of three turns, which can be tricky for dogs to follow.

Know the rules before you enter. Different sanctioning organizations may use slightly different rules, so be sure you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing at any competition.

Levels of difficulty and titling in AKC tracking include Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), and Variable Surface Tracking (VST). Dogs that have earned a TD may go on to the TDX or VST levels next. Dogs that earn all three titles become Champion Trackers and earn the letters CT before their AKC registered name. There are more tracking titles being added as the sport continues to develop.

Maintain your own fitness (and your dog’s) because tracking is an outdoor sport performed over varied terrain over long distances. An AKC Tracking Dog test is a minimum of 440 yards long, and the TDX and VST tests are longer, up to 1000 yards for the TDX.

Novice tracking dogs (with no previous tracking titles with the AKC) must obtain a certification before entering an AKC test. According to the AKC tracking regulations, “A written statement must accompany each entry for a licensed or member tracking test for any dog that has not previously passed an AKC TD test.” This letter must be signed by a person approved to judge tracking tests, and it must certify that the dog has successfully completed a certification test, which should be equivalent in complexity and conditions to a TD test. Other tracking organizations may also require certification.

Other organizations in the United States that sanction tracking include the Australian Shepherd Club of America (asca.org/programs/tracking), the America Mixed Breed Obedience Registration (ambor.us), and Schutzhund clubs like the United Schutzhund Clubs of America for the German Shepherd Dog (germanshepherddog.com).

Praise and petting are allowed in an AKC tracking test when a dog finds the articles on a track. Competitors can’t use the articles to play with their dogs, though.

Quenching a dog’s thirst while tracking is fine in an AKC tracking test, but use of anything other than water or ice is prohibited. Be sure to bring water when you are training for tracking since you don’t want your dog to overheat, or have his ability to scent the track diminished because of a dry nose and mouth.

Reinforcement in the form of small treats is often left along the track during the early stages of training. In fact, some training techniques involve placing food in every footstep! Other training methods leave treats in various spots, called food drops.

Speed is not necessary for tracking. There is no maximum test time in AKC tracking tests. But if a dog is not working, he may fail the test, so don’t expect unlimited time for a dog that is fooling around.

The sport of tracking involves a dog following a human scent over a track laid previously by a person (the “tracklayer”) who walks in a pattern designed by a judge. Tracking is not the same as man trailing or search and rescue, where dogs are encouraged to scent both ground and air to find a human who is missing, hiding, injured, or deceased.

Unfortunately, scavengers and insects can be attracted to treats left in food drops. Be very careful using food on the track in places where fire ants may infest your treats. A tracking dog that gets a mouthful of ants may be put off of the sport for a long time.

Variable Surface Tracking tests are different than TD and TDX tests, which generally take place in open fields. VST tests show a dog’s ability to work on a “non-vegetated surface.” According to the AKC tracking regulations, “The track will have a minimum of three (3) different surfaces, which will include vegetation and two (2) areas devoid of vegetation, such as concrete, asphalt, gravel, sand, hard pan, or mulch. The areas devoid of vegetation will comprise at least one-third (1/3) but not more than two-thirds (2/3) of the total length of the track.”

Wind plays an important role in tracking. The scent will drift off the track so dogs may track downwind. When training, it can be useful to know where the wind is blowing the scent so that you can be aware when your dog appears to be off track, but may be following the scent after all.

X is added to the letters TD when an AKC competitor earns the Tracking Dog Excellent title. The TDX test is longer, with more turns, and four different articles to be found on the track. It also has cross-tracks and various obstacles like roads, ditches, and woods.

You want to try tracking? To find an AKC training club in your area, go to the AKC website’s club search (akc.org/clubs/search/index.cfm), but be aware that not all of these clubs offer tracking classes or training sessions. To find an ASCA-affiliated club in your area, visit asca.org/ascainformation/affiliateclubs. For Schutzhund, one option is to visit dvgamerica.com and click on “Clubs and Officers by State.”

Zebras on the track? No problem! The appearance of animals or vehicles in the tracking area or crossing a track is considered to be part of the testing environment and the dog will continue to work the track.

Tracking has practical applications for those who want to help others you could learn how to teach your dog to track lost animals, and of course search and rescue focusing on finding people is also a form of tracking.  

A fun version of teaching your dog to find something is Fun Scent Games which centers around your dog finding treats which are hidden in harder and harder to find places.  This game starts with boxes but builds up to a dog searching an entire room or area. Most dogs learn this game very quickly and it can be a great way for with issues to learn to focus and to tune out the environment.  Come join the fun and sign up for a Fun Scent Games class group or private instruction today by visiting www.CourteousCanine.com. 

A version of this article first appeared in DogSport Magazine and is shared with permission.

Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball, Fun Scent Games and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!

Tampa Dog Trainer Angelica Steinker: Helpful Pet Insurance Information

Dog secretHelpful Pet Insurance Information 

It can be hard to find helpful pet insurance information, so today we are sharing a link to a huge chart listing many of the pet insurance companies and presenting a list of client ratings of these companies.  Check it out. 

http://www.petinsurancereview.com/dog.asp

Happy Pet Insurance Shopping, The Staff of Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa! 

Tampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: The ABCs of Canine Freestyle

Stevie Leg Weave webThe ABCs of Canine Freestyle

By Brenna Fender

A dog sport that combines obedience moves, tricking training, and dancing: that’s canine freestyle!

Breeds that are good for canine freestyle include… all of them! Because routines are varied, you can showcase your dog’s strong points, whether he is a Beagle or a Border Collie. A strong working relationship and good partnership with the handler are more important than breed.

Canine Freestyle Federation is one of several organizations that sanction canine freestyle events. Their mission statement, in part, is “The Canine Freestyle Federation, Inc. (CFF) is an international organization dedicated to defining and developing the sport of Canine Freestyle and providing the structure necessary to offer competitions and demonstrations.” Read the rest of it at their website: http://canine-freestyle.org/.

Dogs Can Dance is another canine freestyle organization. It offers titling opportunities, not competitions. They offer the Dogs Can Dance Challenge, which has the following mission statement: “Dogs Can Dance Challenge®, a division of Dogs Can Dance® was founded to promote the art and sport of canine freestyle, worldwide, by offering musical canine freestyle titling opportunities. The premise of the Dogs Can Dance Challenge® is based on the following concept; each performance should honor and showcase the dog by emphasizing the beauty and grace of the dog’s natural movements in a manner reflective of the musicality of the chosen accompaniment…. The Dogs Can Dance Challenge® goal is to encourage training of dogs at all stages of their lives and further educate the handlers toward future success.” For more information and the complete mission statement, visit http://dogscandance.com/.

Even dogs that are overweight, retired from other sports, elderly, or have physical limitations can enjoy the sport of canine freestyle. In fact, moving to the beat of music can help shed pounds and increase strength and fitness (for both dog and owner). You can tailor your routine to make it safe for your dog. Check with your veterinarian to make sure that your dog will remain healthy as you train and compete in canine freestyle.

Freestyle began as a dog sport in the late 1980s. It seems to have begun almost simultaneously in several countries. There is no one “founder” of the sport. In Canada in 1991, the first canine freestyle organization, Musical Canine Sports International, was created.

Getting ready to choreograph your first canine freestyle routine? You will need to mix a wide variety of moves together in a smooth routine, taking into account your dog’s strong and weak points. Get help from instructors and the internet while creating that first routine.

Heelwork-to-music (HTM) is a category of musical freestyle that involves having the handler and dog very close to each other throughout the routine. In World Canine Freestyle Organization events, heelwork-to-music is described on their website as a routine where “on all moves, the dog and handler team should move as one entity throughout the routine, displaying heelwork and creativity in the many positions and behaviors possible in HTM.” There should be no weaving between the handler’s legs or distance work in HTM events. In other canine freestyle classes, a wider variety of moves is allowed.

Interesting fact: according to their website, the World Canine Freestyle Organization (see “W”) is “a 501 (c)(3) public charity, the only organization to achieve this status in the world of dog/people sports.”

Join facebook freestyle groups (just type in canine musical freestyle and you’ll find many options) or attend seminars to help you learn more about the sport.

Keep freestyle training fun, according to enthusiast Jan Mayr, who has been involved in the sport for 15 years. Happy training sessions will be reflected in upbeat, lively performances.

Leashes are allowed in most organizations in the beginning levels, but more advanced levels of competition require off-leash work.

Musical Dog Sport Association is another organization that sanctions canine freestyle activities. Their mission statement is “is to advance the sport of canine freestyle and to share the joy of the canine/human bond achieved through positive training, enhanced by the artistry of music and choreography. Created by freestylers for freestylers, the MDSA defines Canine Freestyle as a dog sport in which training, teamwork, music and movement combine to create an artistic, choreographed performance highlighting the canine partner in a manner that celebrates the unique qualities of each individual dog. It is built upon the foundation of a positive working relationship of a dog and handler team.” To read the rest of their statement and learn more about MDSA visit http://www.musicaldogsport.org/about

Never correct …. Dogs can create too,” says Mayr.

Organize work sessions around learning behaviors first and then create your routine by sequencing those behaviors together,” says Mayr.

Pairs and team classes are offered in some organizations so you can dance with your friends and their dogs too!

Quiet? Not at a canine freestyle event! While competing dogs are generally quiet, the music isn’t.

Rhythm is significant. Dogs generally have a comfortable, rhythmic trot. Fit your music and routine to your dog’s rhythm rather than to yours.

Selecting just the right music for your dog is important. Choose one that matches with the rhythm of the dog as he moves. Music that suits the dog is important. But don’t choose a song you hate. You’re going to be listening to it many times!

Titles are available in all the freestyle sanctioning organizations.

Uncomfortable dancing in public? No worries! While the handler can dance in many freestyle organizations’ events, it’s not a requirement and it may, in fact, distract from your dog’s performance. Remember that freestyle is about a partnership between a human and a dog.

Video competitions are often an option in canine freestyle. In fact, some freestyle organizations, like Dogs Can Dance, are only (or almost only) based on videos alone; they do not hold “live” events.

World Canine Freestyle Organization, Inc. (http://www.worldcaninefreestyle.org/) is one of several organizations that sanctions canine freestyle events. The WCFO was founded by Patie Ventre, who created it with 13 other people in 1999. The mission statement of the WCFO, according to their website, is “WCFO, INC. is a non-profit corporation, founded to globally promote the joys and fun of responsible pet ownership through musical canine freestyle, both as a sport and an entertainment medium.”

X marks the spot where you can get started in canine freestyle! The Canine Freestyle Federation lists clubs that offer classes here: http://www.canine-freestyle.org/guilds/, but if your area doesn’t have a club listed, check with local obedience clubs and schools. Just because a club isn’t listed on an organization’s website doesn’t mean it won’t have great freestyle classes. Don’t forget to look on facebook for clubs near you as well.

You can create freestyle routines for places other than competitions. Mayr says, “Many do freestyle for therapy dog visits.” Can you imagine doing a freestyle routine for an auditorium full of school children? Or in a nursing home lobby? Or for spectators at the county fair?

Zillions of dogs, handlers, and spectators like canine freestyle. Maybe you and your dog will too!

Special thanks to Jan Mayr for her assistance with this article.

A version of this article first appeared in DogSport Magazine.

Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!

Tampa Dog Pet Therapy Guru: Scott Baggett Makes it to Capitol Hill

LA  and Cancer Kid )A few weeks ago our Pet Partner evaluator and highly experience pet therapy guru, Scott Baggett, was contacted by American Humane to do a story about therapy dogs and cancer kids. Just 2 days ago Scott was interviewed by NBC News on the phone.
 
American Humane Association went to Capitol Hill with this story (via You tub see link below) to attempt to get grant money for more research. Scott Baggett and his amazing LA, a Golden Retriever, made it to Capitol Hill since this you-tub video was played at Capitol Hill on May 9, 2014.
 
 
Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!

 

 

 

Tampa Dog Training School Student: Judith Destasio and Tucker Go From Rescue to Pet Therapy!

DSC_0138Tampa Dog Training School Student: Judith Destasio and Tucker Go From Rescue to Pet Therapy!

by Judith Destasio 

June 2012 we adopted Tucker, a magnificent 18 month old purebred from Golden Retriever Rescue Mid-Florida.  It’s hard to believe but he had been surrendered twice already!  Tucker was ready for his forever home.  We were so happy and blessed to bring him home.  He is a big strong boy so we thought we should get him in training.  We have been customers and friends of Courteous Canine for a long time so we signed up for Basic Manners.  Tucker did great so the next step was to work toward his Canine Good Citizen (CGC), he passed his test in November of 2013.  Then with a lot of positive feedback about Tucker’s skills we decided to start training with the goal of Therapy Dog.  We decided to take the CGC/Therapy class again as a refresher, which was a good idea.  He passed his Therapy Dog evaluation with flying colors April 26, 2014.  Thank you to everyone at Courteous Canine, with special thanks to Angelica, Pam, Monica and Jan.  You all provided so much support and guidance we wouldn’t be where we are without you!

Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. DogSmith of Tampa is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!