I have a problem with my young dog chewing up and sometimes swallowing track articles, I've tried telling him 'down', but he seems so full with the excitement of tracking that he doesn't listen to my commands. His down is reasonable in everyday life but disappears if there is a strong distraction.
I'm concerned that the struggle to get him down on the track will cause him to lose his interest in the track. Can you help.
I tend to agree with most of the points you have made.
First you really do need to resolve the problem with chewing and swallowing articles not just from the point of view of lost marks, but also from the veterinary side. Some years ago it cost me a £107 to have removed from the lower bowel a small rubber ring which I was using as a track article. The ring wasn't important but the dog would have died, he's still alive at 14 and a half years old, senile and deaf but happy enough.
Second I think you are quite right to try and down the dog. When you have perfected this it will create a few moments of calm which will allow you to maintain the dogs drive while you are retrieving the article. A lot of chewing is caused by excitement and a period of calm should improve the dogs reaction to the articles.
Thirdly your concerns about struggling to get the dog down, causing problems on the tracking are well founded.
My solution to this problem is to teach the down in unrelated situations, when the dog is hungry, place some titbits in a tin with a secure lid, (tobacco tin is ideal) smear the outside of the tin with the food that's within. Then when the dog is with you and loose, drop the tin on the ground near the dog so he sees it, as he sniffs it, quietly give him a down command in an offhand manner. The dog will realize he cannot get to the food so is likely to become compliant to your command and lie down; at this point you reinforce with a second or even third command to keep the dog in the down position as you reach down and without letting the dog get up, open the tin and give the dog the food. Repeat this until the dog learns to ask you to give him the food by lying down and waiting patiently to be rewarded by you feeding him from the container. When the dog has learned this and is responding with great regularity, start using small Tupperware pots then film containers, without getting any food on the outside of the containers. Never let the dog have the treats unless he waits for you.
The next stage is using food pots on the track and commanding him "down" then feeding him while he's down and calm. Then start to down him on empty pots but feed from the pocket, then it's a small step to downing on articles and rewarding with food until the habit of going down on articles is set in stone.
This is a very good way of making the dogs article indication reliable and calm without conflict. Another useful side effect is, it will create calmer tracking which will make him more consistent when tracking at trials.
The initial stage of getting the dog to ask you for the treats by downing on your container must not be rushed, when this is solid the rest should go smoothly
Hope this helps, the very best of luck