Winter Fun for Earthdoghs
by Karla Deithorn, Executive Field Representative
Don't let winter keep you from training your Earthdogs, even in the cold
climes. Now is a good time to work on trailing to the den. If you are lucky enough
to live where you get a dusting of snow periodically, watch for mouse, squirrel
and rabbit tracks to encourage your dog on. If you are in an area where snow
is a rarity, then look for tunnels under the grass and encourage the dog to follow
that trail. All this can be done in your backyard! Other good places to take
your dog are the edges of fields and industrial parks. The latter often support
a good population of rabbits.
Why work on trailing to the den? Even if your dog is working on Senior or Master,
getting to the den is the first step to passing. If you reinforce the trailing
regularly as the dog progresses up the ranks, then you will run less risk of
your dog overshooting the entrance and entering at the wrong hole. For dogs who
haven't been to a test yet, teaching the trailing can mean success at your
first test. If you dog learns to follow a scent, and you praise him for it (quietly,
since you don't want to distract him), then he could just walk into that
den full of confidence the first time!
Trailing isn't the only training you can do. If you have puppies in the
house, a piece of PVC pipe can be a play tunnel. You can even use small cardboard
boxes for tunnels. Throwing a toy through the tunnels or dragging a toy on a
line through a tunnel with turns can build confidence in puppies and adults.
Plus the toy gives them something to 'rag' once they get to the end....a
And don't forget to start early training for Master. Many times I hear
handlers comment that they haven't a clue what their dog will do on the
walk-up since they never get off leash in a big field. START EARLY! This is basic
obedience training. Just walk around the yard with the dog and have a toy or
food to reward him when he comes. Lots of short, rewarding recalls in the yard
can progress to longer recalls in a field on a long line. Don't use the
long line to reel the dog in as you are trying to build confidence in a working
relationship between dog and handler. If you progress slowly, then the long line
can be just a safety line when you work near roads or livestock. Speaking of
livestock, at one event the Master den was next to a field of cattle. Although
none of the dogs had been exposed to livestock, they all stayed focused on the
scent and den area. So regularly training the dog on trailing and control in
the field can pay off big time when circumstances arise that are unusual.
Another project for clubs to consider is holding an Earthdog Test seminar. Contact
the AKC Performance Dept. for information on how to schedule one. This seminar
is required for those who wish to judge and is a definite plus for those who
wish to compete.
Last but not least, those of you in the south and west, where the weather is
more benign, check out the upcoming Earthdog Tests in Texas and California!