Back in August WTM I spoke about tracking. After four weeks of feeding The Golden Wonder only on the track he did finally learn to track. I can pretty much ‘guarantee’ (a word guaranteed to embarrass one in dog training) that my Golden Wonder can track to his sealed food pot on a track of about one hundred paces and comprising two legs as long as it is newly laid in good conditions. He no longer needs food drops en route and remains pretty accurate if I keep tension on the line.

He has been at this stage for some time. I do not track him very often because I thought he might be more enthusiastic if he does not get to play this game very often. As we have not progressed for some time so I thought a change of tactics could be beneficial.

Over the preceding months his play drive has improved. He will now chase and retrieve a ball when I throw it. I can make him lie down with my two other dogs and send any one of them by name to fetch it. If I allowed them all to run free the Golden Wonder would only chase the moving dogs and make no attempt to fetch the ball. But on his own he will play fetch. I never repeat this game many times always stopping whilst he is keen. He likes tug too, as long as it is tough and noisy he is up for it. Whilst exercising him in the field before one of my workshops he found and picked up a toy. This was a milestone for the Golden Wonder. He had retrieved an inanimate object of his own volition. I thought we had struck gold, but when I asked the people in the workshop if the said toy belonged to anyone there, unfortunately somebody claimed it (shame). However, shopping in Wilkinson’s this week I found a similar toy. Delighted of course, I purchased it and took it home to play. The Golden Wonder responded well, obviously pleased with his new toy. We had a brief game before I took it away from him, not wanting him to become blasé about it. At the earliest opportunity I laid him a straight 30 odd pace track and placed his new toy at the end. I smugly thought that he would be delighted to find his new toy at the end of this track and that after a few of these he would begin to increase in speed and drive to get to his toy.

With great anticipation I put on his tracking harness and asked him to track from the pole as usual. He set off in his usual half hearted way, gaining commitment as he progressed. He was deadly accurate as he approached the toy now in sight on the grass and he got to the toy sniffed it and continued along the track hoping to find his food pot and totally ignoring the toy. ‘Hey’ I said, ‘look, your new toy’ I grabbed the toy and we had a game. He did play but looked as though he had been robbed!

Well I thought he just needs to do this a few times before he realised that if he tracks to his toy he gets a good game. So I repeated the exercise again... and again... and again. It was no good. The point of tracking à la Golden Wonder was to find a food pot. Ok that is what I had trained him to do and to expect. I had just hoped we had a way to fast forward. Wrong again!

I make a mental note to teach him to pick up and present a small article for a click and treat (food), (he knows this exercise) and then progress to placing the small articles on the track. This will produce a well trained tracking dog but will not create the drive and enthusiasm I was hoping to get by tracking to a toy. We may well never have time to complete a competition track! I am still not sure if his nose is good enough for him to ever become a serious tacking dog. If I age the tack at all he does not track.

However, we may have found his forte! There is one trials exercise in which he is showing promise. Any guesses what this might be? It was apparent since he was a tiny puppy. It is of course the ‘speak.’ (Who said, ‘well dogs do take after their owners.’?)

The new toy is useful in this exercise. I can hold the toy up out of his reach and give the command ‘speak’ and he barks with great enthusiasm until I throw the toy for him. He loves this game! I can get him to bark whilst walking around freely and have just begun to ask him to sit and speak, I will also try the down speak and then select the one he is naturally better at to train further. Wow an exercise he is really keen on. I can’t train this one indoors as everyone complains and all the dogs barks, so I can’t wait until the morning to go out and have another speak session. A certain killjoy has pointed out to me that there is no speak in competition until TD and my dog can’t track that well. Huh - well what do I care, we are having fun, and he is soo pretty.