Definitely my favourite non-fibre related hobby is a dog related one. I compete in a lot of different venues with my dogs. Conformation (beauty pageant that is merited on structure and quality), obedience and rally obedience (brains, biddable nature and attention), agility (speed, obstacles and athletic dexterity), and tracking (nose or scent work). The passion for me is definitely tracking. It's amazing and humbling at the same time. The learning curve is steep and very long. It's great to spend a lot of time outside and enjoy the seasons, we track year round from scorching summer heat to deep snow and ice... and every weather in between. This autumn weather is my favourite. The colours, the cool temperatures, wearing my hand knits and no bugs!!
I often knit just for tracking. Just yesterday in his test I was cheerfully warmed by a Plucky hand dyed 100% merino Luxe Neck Warmer. The "Urban Sweater"??... still on the needles. I chose to spend a bit more time training my dog instead of knitting the sweater for me to wear in the test.
That was hard for me, I really wanted to knit! Now I can finish knitting it stress free and enjoy the rest of the process. Hand warmers are a favourite project to wear for my tracking too. Chase could care less I track in hand knits, he loves to track and it doesn't matter the weather. Gorgeous or storms and high winds, dog doesn't care. Poodles are no sissies... some days I am.
He's successfully passed his TD (Tracking Dog), TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent) and UTD (Urban Tracking Dog) tests. While the initials that will forever be around his registered name don't mean much to laymen, believe me -- they're a big deal!! This dog gets steak and his own deboned roast chicken for doing this for me. lol
The rule books states the purpose of tracking tests is to demonstrate the dog's willingness to work with its handler under a variety of conditions and to follow a defined track, to discriminate scent, to locate and indicate articles (small items that were left intentionally for the dog to find).
There are 4 tests that vary in difficulty in Canada. Dogs start by tracking where a person walked for 400 - 500 metres (1312 - 1476 feet), 30 minutes to 2 hours ahead of time making left and right corners and has specific dropped stuff that the dog has to find. That's the basics. I won't bore you all with the advanced test details except to say the distance doubles, the person walks 3 - 5 hours before we get to go search out their path, they drop a variety of things made of leather, plastic, wood, fabric or metal and drop them in areas can be on hard surfaces like pavement that holds very little scent from the foot steps of ONE SPECIFIC PERSON they need to follow. So all the enticing smells of other people, kids, food, other dogs, cats, squirrels and stuff like cars and whatever else was anywhere on the path the person took before or after their track layer put down the track has to be ignored after it's been analysed by the dogs nose. It's amazing to see a dog do that... just because I asked him to for me, because he's learned to follow just that one person that I told him who by starting at a marked spot the person stood still for 60 seconds and then go tracking them hours later.
This is probably incredibly boring to read about when you've not done the work and don't know the dog... but trust me, this is beautiful and awe inspiring stuff when you're at the end of the lead 10 metres (30 feet) behind your own dog and haven't a clue (well, I know in training -- not in tests) where the person went, what they dropped or where the dog is leading us. We have to learn to read the dogs body language to know when to follow and how to handle the dog by the signals they're telling us. It's a team sport, but the dog is the leader in this working team. If you miss any of the multiple turns, you're done -- you failed. If you go too far off the track, you've flunked. If you miss the dog indicating the specific items that were dropped and smell like the track layer, your toast. If you try to guide the dog in a test, you're not passing that day. If you're dog stops working or is distracted by another scent, a critter, people or anything else and doesn't get right back to work, yeah... failed. The tests are few and far between. Just getting a spot to run in the test to attempt to pass is difficult.
Chase has completed 3 of the 4 tests in tracking and has done so with great accuracy. I'm incredibly proud of his work ethic and wish I could do everything with that much dedication. We'll continue to train to test the last level next spring and upon passing that (which he's done repeatedly in training already) in a test situation under a certified judge he'll be able to have the initials TCh. forever before his name. Tracking Champion. That will look great on his resume, it'll be another a feather in cap. It will also make him a dual Champion.
At this time Chase's officially known as Champion Pannovia's Chasing Hearts CGN HIC(s) TDX RN UTD. All the initials refer to the conformation and performance titles he's already earned. We're just getting started, there'll be many more!
That's me on the right in the picture with Chase for his TDX just before Labour Day weekend this year, the judge is wearing red. That day was HOT. Sweat pouring down us in rivers. I mean... I was "glowing". His track was a km long, lots of obstacles and things to work out and things to find.
Is tracking a practical skill outside of the test situation? Oh yeah. Chase's found my brother's missing keys, dropped items, lost things for us. And hey... even when they don't smell like the track layer out in training he's keen to the hot scent of human hands. He's found numerous cell phones (most on the university campus and we just hand them all in to the lost and found... regularly!), jewelry and cash. That boy has a nose for coins and bills. Oh yeah, baby!!! Money is always interesting to him. I wonder (especially the bracelets and watch he found) what the person who lost the item would think when/if they retrieve it from the lost and found if they find out the item was found by a poodle???
He's very good at finding what he's supposed too, but I think he likes to hear my reaction to the extras he shows me. His indication is different for what's work and what's just interesting stuff to him so he knows the difference when he shows me the "extras". Some things he's found I just won't mention on the blog... but he cracks me up!