E291: Lucy Newton - "Foundations of Tracking"

Lucy and I chat about the skills your dog needs to hone to learn to track, and she answers that frequently asked question: Can you dog do both nosework and tracking?


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Lucy Newton here with me to talk about tracking. Hi Lucy, and welcome back to the podcast.

Lucy Newton: Hi Melissa. Thank you for having me on to talk. Absolutely. To start us out, you wanna just remind everybody a little about you, your current pets and what you're working on with them?

Lucy Newton: I have been teaching at FDSA since pretty close to when it started. 2013 was when I first started teaching tracking classes. My prior history was police canine and search and rescue canine work.

And then I did a brief period of teaching full-time, helping teach detection, and now I have a dog training business in North Carolina, still do detection and tracking work with some one-on-one students and also train service dogs for a national nonprofit organization. Current pets of my own: I have three dogs of my own and I say of my own because I've got quite a few other dogs that I have here mainly for the service dog program. I occasionally have some detection dog training clients that are also with me here for training detection. I currently have a truffle dog that I'm training for truffles. My own current pets. I've got an older Dutch Shepherd, have done tracking with her and now I am just, I'm doing IGP, which used to be Schutzhund, hoping to get her Schutzhund three in a couple of weeks.

That's our final attempt. She's almost 12 years old, so we're gonna give that a try. And if she doesn't get it, then she will be retired regardless, because that's a little bit, she's a little bit on the old side for that. And also my younger Dutch Shepherd, that's what I do with her mainly is IGP. So mainly my tracking focus right now has been more towards IGP, whereas with FDSA, the class that I teach is AKC tracking and we can get into a little bit, a little bit of that later in the podcast, you know, about the difference in types of tracking. So that's pretty much me. And oh, I also have Jacks for how he, jacks always is the, the child that gets forgotten and he's, I know poor guy. He's mainly focusing on AKC tracking with him. We haven't done any trialing. I'm hoping to trial with him next year trying to get my, you know, my medical emergencies and his medical emergencies to line up properly. But both, right now, we're both healthy. So that's kind of my goal for next year is to do some AKC tracking trialing with him. We've been training for quite a while. It's just hitting the right, hitting the times when trials are available on getting him into a tracking trial. So that's, that's mainly what's going on with me.

Melissa Breau: Cool. As you kinda mentioned in there, we're gonna talk tracking today. So I wanted to start with just how did you initially kind of get into tracking? Like how did you end up there?

Lucy Newton: It's a really good question. What happened because within my, you know, the breeder that I was getting my rottweilers from, it was kind of, you know, pre-Facebook days where we were, you know, email connections and face, you know, email discussion list, managed to connect with a lot of the people that had dogs, you know, from that same breeder. And at the time I was doing search and rescue and police canine, you know, with my dogs and connected with some of the people, you know, in that group that were doing sport tracking, really looking for help with variable surface tracking, which is kind of really what we really focus on a lot with, especially with police canine tracking and wanted help for variable surface tracking for that level of AKC sport. That's sort of like the third and final AKC title to get your champion tracking, you know. And so I helped them a bit with their, you know, variable surface tracking and that sort of led to people that I did not know starting to ask me for help with their variable surface tracking.

And at that point I kind of felt like if I'm going to help AKC people, then I need to have experienced AKC, you know, tracking, you know, there's, there's a lot of similarities and in definitely police K9 variable surface tracking is definitely a little bit more challenging because there's less restrictions on what the track layer can do, obviously. But I felt like if I'm gonna take money from strangers to teach them about, you know, AKC tracking then I should have AKC tracking titles. So that's really what I pursued with my, with my police canine and got his champion tracking title and you know, and then I just really like it. I really enjoy tracking and the more tracking the better.

So I just, you know, I like that environment and I just AKC tracking the, the layout of it, especially like the TDX, you know, sort of tracking and VST, the sort of, the more the challenges of the surfaces is just something that, you know, that I just in inherently enjoy. And especially now that I'm no longer doing police canine tracking, just really enjoy doing it with my dog. So that's kind of how I sort of kind of moved into that, into that field from what I was doing.

Melissa Breau: So you mentioned a couple pieces in there. You mentioned variable service tracking, you mentioned something else, so, so talk to me a little more about that. What are the different types of tracking? Are there, you know, different types for different venues? How does that all work?

Lucy Newton: Really, when you look at sort of, it's a, that's a really big question. I'm gonna try and break it down without making it too confusing. Okay. And if you take a dog, if you take like a predator, you know, a dog that's hunting, they're not using one specific skill. Like you talk about air scenting where they might find, you know, what they're looking for based on scent that's coming through the air or tracking or trailing where they're sort of finding scent that that animal being has left on the ground, you know, or that cloud of scent that the person left behind them as they walk through through an area.

So if a predator is hunting something, they're not using one of those skills, they're not air scenting or tracking or you know, doing some of these. So they're kind of using them all, all their senses. They're gonna even be visual at certain points. You know, they might, they might smell on the ground, they might smell the scent of, you know, whatever they're hunting, you know, a deer has walked through or they're gonna smell the scent of the deer on the ground. When they follow that trail a little bit, they get a little closer to the deer, the wind might blow scent of the actual deer to them. So then they'd be air scenting and then if they get closer, they're gonna actually see the deer. So it's kind of a mix and match. They're using all those tools to successfully hunt and find something.
What we've done with some of the things that we want dogs to do is pull those out and ask them to do one of those and not the others. So you think about air scenting, if a building collapses, you know, you want the scent of that person that's permeating out of the building and you want the dog to focus on that scent that's coming out. So you don't want a tracking dog in that case. So we're always asking dogs to not use some, not mix and match a little bit less. So if we're working with a police or a search and rescue dog, because we kind of don't care as long as we find whatever it is that we're looking for. But for sports especially, we not only want to pull out and ask the dog to just use one of those skills, but we can also get super fussy about how we want the dog to use that skill. And that's where you start, start to go into some of the different venues, AKC tracking and mainly you need to find articles that the track layer is left on the track and the dog needs to follow the track. So they have to have a little bit of accuracy on the track, because if they're not right on the track, they're not gonna find those articles. Whereas Schutzhund tracking is even fussier–Schutzhund, that's how old I am. It's now, it's IGP, but it's just easier for me to say Schutzhund because like I said, I'm old.

Schutzhund is super, like you're getting scored on the precision of the dog following every single footstep, you know, on the track. If you were say a police canine or search and rescue dog, there's no point in being that precise. The whole point is to get to the end and you don't wanna expend that much energy sniffing every single footprint that the person has put down. You wanna just basically follow the track and get to the end. So Schutzhund on one extreme of super fussy, you know, police and search and rescues the other extreme of, you know, we just need to find the person and then AKC kind of falls in the middle. You have to find the articles, there's no requirement as to how you, the dog tracks.

One of the cool things with AKC tracking is it's a pass/fail. You have to successfully meet certain criteria to pass each level, but there's no, there's no scoring of it. You know, you either pass or you fail. So, so yeah, it kind of runs the gamut. So that's when we sort of talk about the different types of tracking and people will get into big debates about it and it's just really a matter of what's, what your specific sport, you know, requires. But we also have to take into account that these are arbitrary, you know, sort of restrictions on what the dog would do naturally.

Melissa Breau: Okay. So you mentioned a couple of skills, you mentioned air scenting, you mentioned kind of following the track on the ground. Can, can you kind of break down the skills that we're looking for that go into tracking for us what skills our dogs actually need to learn to like to compete in some of these venues?

Lucy Newton: Well, I'm not, I, let me, why not? Since the FDSA classes are more oriented toward AKC.

Melissa Breau: Sure. If you want to focus on AKC.

Lucy Newton: You can really open up, you know, a lot more discussion about the other ones. You know, there's people that do a lot more shifts in tracking than me that probably would be, but, but as far as AKC, those skills really with all of it actually is, you know, the reality is the dog already has the genetics to do the behavior. So if you're looking at some other sports, like we were talking earlier about, you know, like dogs catching frisbees, that's really nothing genetically that the dog is designed, you know, really specifically to do. Whereas tracking, you know, hunting, air-scenting, those are all, you know, in the dog's genetic makeup. That being said that there's certain maybe breeds, you know, bloodlines that it's more, it's stronger, but they're all kind of deriving from a predator than those that sort of hunting skills that they've kind of got lurking around in their genetics.

So really with, with the scent work, we're not necessarily so much teaching the dog, you know, from, you know, nothing to do a behavior like we would if we were like, you know, teaching the dog to do like, you know, heeling. We are setting them up to hone a skill that they already have genetically, if that makes sense.

So that's really our, our starting point with that is going, how can we set this up in the simplest way as we can to teach this dog to hone a skill that they, they possess, you know? And, and like I said, there's going to be the whole gamut. You can't say, well, everybody's starting from the same starting point, but there is a genetic component of that and that's what we're asking the dog to use is to use that genetics. And, and it's a little bit, you know, like I always say, you know, predators, you know, they're not really good hunters at first. They have to get, you know, they get better as they get, you know, the ones that aren't good at all, you know, maybe get out of the gene pool. But even in, you know, any other circumstance, you know, they're very inefficient like predators when they first are on their own and their moms are not taking care of them. They have to get better and better at that, you know, over time. And that's really kind of what we're doing with tracking is really giving them scenarios where they can sort of slowly, you know, practice that and, and hone that skill.

Melissa Breau: So where do you start when you have a new dog and you're just starting to teach them to track? Like how do you start the process off?

Lucy Newton: We kind of sort of experimented a little bit with this and really the challenge with, you know, setting up the, I always joke about this in the class, you know, and I start, start the tracking 101 is cuz in 2013 when Denise asked me to teach tracking, you know, my first thought was you can't teach tracking online. There's no way, you know, it's like other skills where you can video the person doing it and break it down.

In heeling, yes. Tracking, no, but you know, it actually kind of turns out that you can, you know, there's you know, quite a few tracking titles from people that have, you know, been through the online classes. So, but that was my first thought was, you know, but you sort of break it down. But it's also been really helpful because it's sort of allowed me to try and develop a program that kind of will fit everybody. You know, there's gonna be different, different dogs are gonna spend different times at different levels, but I kind of want something that, you know, everybody can do, you know, go through that process and you know, they can all, you know, rather than having, you know, using one method for that suits one dog and you know, another method might suit another dog. So what I kind of, you know, do is sort of designed a situation where the dog is going from like, I call 'em targets, but you know, little, you know, targets, you know, with food on 'em on the ground and basically kind of just teaching the dog to connect the dots, you know, the targets are the dots lay 30 targets out in a row, one step apart in some grass that's just tall enough that the dog can't see the targets and they're one step apart. So the dog is almost like when it eats food off a one, it's almost right on top of the next one. And oh, that's how we kind of start 101 is just put down 30 targets in direct grass, start the dog and the dog just walks down the row of targets and eats the food off each one. And then the rest of the class is just gradually increasing the distance of those targets. You know, they go alternate one and two steps all, you know, every, you know, two steps, you know, every two to four steps and you're really just increasing the spacing between those, those targets. We do it a little bit randomly so the dog doesn't really get in a complete rhythm of, oh I just walk one step or two step or three steps.

But, and if you think about the targets that makes sense, I'm kind of, you know, rushing describing it, but really kind of think about the targets as the rate of reinforcement. And it's the same idea, how long can you go tracking in this, you know, how much distance that you can track, how often do you need a rate of reinforcement?

So we really kind of just put those targets with food down as discreet spots, you know, between those number X number of steps and eventually pull up those targets and replace them with an article. It's just a little bit easier with the targets the dog just eats and goes. And then once we, you're using articles and you just stop and reward the dog on the articles.

So when you get to like the TD length of a track, you've got an article at the beginning and an article at the end. So that's kind of the thing about going into the obedience ring, you know, with your heeling you're no longer heal, you know, rewarding the dog for five steps of heeling, you're rewarding the dog for 200 steps of heeling.

So that's the basic concept. But as we move those targets further and further apart, because the dogs have that genetic, you know, tracking component, that's what they're honing as you're doing that cuz they're honing that skill. Yes they can follow a track on the ground, but they need to hone that skill, you know, and get better and better.

So when you go from one step to two steps apart, then they're using a little bit more ground set and as the spacing increases in those targets, they're focusing more on the scent between the targets. And I always say it's kind of like they're learning how to cheat to find the next target by following the ground set. You know, we don't, we're not really, we take creating value for the targets and then we're sort of setting them up to go, oh, if I follow this path, it leads to the target or it leads to the article in this case. So it's just gradual, you're not spending, you know, months on one step spacing as soon as they're proficient at one step spacing.

It's just like increasing your rate of reinforcement. The rate of reinforcement is just really a bridge to the final thing that does not need, you know, frequent reinforcement. So when they're pretty good at two step spacing, you know, they've done maybe two or three tracks at that spacing, then we're going to bump up that spacing. We wanna do it in enough of a gradual way that they're tracking really well at every level, but we don't wanna stay at that level so long that they start to learn that that's, you know, that's the exercise.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, that makes sense. You mentioned kind of finding the articles in there. When you get to the point of competition, do you have to fade the food entirely or are you still rewarding the articles in competition?

Lucy Newton: No, no food in competition. You're going to just, you know, so you want the articles to have value. So in training I've always rewarded my articles, you know, then in competition, you know, I'm gonna just, you'll be just praise and you know, just move on a, a little bit of that phase out. But I want those articles to, I want the dog to be seeking the articles. So the goal is, you know, there's a lot of value in the articles and then following that track is just what the dog is doing to, you know, find that article. And then it also if, if you have value in your articles, then when your track layout gets a little bit more complex then you know, you go through a tricky spot, the dog's gotta go over something or through some thick stuff, then you can put an article after the hard thing. So it's a little bit of just think about like that, just that reinforcement, oh that was a really challenging thing, you know, I'm gonna reinforce, you know, following it, but I really want to have, develop a high value for the articles so I can use them along the track, you know, as, as reinforcement.

Melissa Breau: That makes sense. So does any of that change if you're instead trying to teach tracking like search and rescue or like a professional more working role?

Lucy Newton: It, it really does not, this is kind of how I trained, you know, my search and rescue in night police dogs. I did a very similar thing. What starts to change is how long I wanna stay at a certain level and how fussy I wanna be with how the dog is working the track. This type of tracking creates more accuracy than I necessarily would need in a, you know, police and search and rescue dog.

It probably, it creates a little bit less accuracy than I need for say, you know, IGP slash Schutzhund dog. And it's kind of when I, I kind of use something similar for my Schutzhund tracking dogs, but it's not exactly the same as what I'm doing for the, you know, tracking 1 0 1 for the FDSA class. And I have had people, just to get on a little side note, I have had people ask me, because Shade has a self-study course for IGP tracking. I have had people ask me about taking my class for it and I've had people in my class that have, you know, want to do, you know, IGP Schutzhund tracking. And my kind of answer to that always is it will work if you just, if you're not super concerned about high scores, the 101 class would work, but you know, you if you wanna, you know, follow along with that in addition to, you know, Shade's, you know, self-study class, but it's not how I train for necessarily train for Schutzhund tracking and I can't really modify it cuz I'm really presenting it for, you know, AKC and similar other types of tracking venues like Canadian CKC tracking, Canada's got a really similar tracking, you know, venue to AKC and then I have quite a few people in Australia that are tracking that that fall along to it. So, but that's a question that I get commonly, so I wanna just pull that in there that it's not teaching that level of precision, it's not encouraging that level of precision that you necessarily would need for Schutzhund IGP tracking. And I get the same question. I get people that ask me about it for, you know, maybe for search and rescue tracking and that's kind of a little bit different answer because it's probably fussier and more precise than you necessarily would automatically need for search and rescue. But as we know with dog training, it's much easier to slack off and not, you know, lower criteria than it is to raise criteria. So if we teach a behavior that's more precise than we need, then it's pretty easy to not hold the dog to criteria and just allow the dog to be less precise, you know, later on. Versus if we wanna go the other way and go, oh, I didn't teach this precisely enough, now I need to raise criteria that's a lot harder. So if that makes sense. So it's kind of a middle, you know, middle in terms of, you know, your level of precision that you're asking for in tracking.

Melissa Breau: And what kind of dogs are we talking about? So are there types of dogs that typically make for good tracking dogs? Are there traits that might make you think a particular dog is more suited to tracking than another?

Lucy Newton: You know, I don't really, you know, it's kind of something that's similar to nosework. It can, you know, all dogs can do it. You have to kind of look at some physical limitations. But I had just run the gamut. I really hate to, you know, limit a, I had a miniature dachshund in, in an in-person seminar that I taught once. That was amazing. I mean the dog was just, it was so funny because I think it wasn't even like it was on the track, it was so close to the ground and it was right in the track. It wasn't even, you know, but it was just this, the teeniest little dog. But you know, really sort of all the, you know, more dogs that are, you know, more working breeds, more oriented to, you know, using their noses and hunting for things for people, you know, it for, for the, the 101 class I kind of use, because of the way the class structure is, we are putting food on those articles on those targets. So it kind of helps, you know, if the dog is pretty food motivated. That's kind of really the only, the only qualifier that I kind of put on it as far as you know, just because I've had so many different breeds and different sizes of dogs. You know, obviously, you know, the traditional, you know, sort of tracking breeds, you know, some of the hunting dogs and some of the working dog breeds, you know, do really well. But I've also had some, you know, pretty far outliers that have done amazingly well and are super fun to watch too.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So one of the things that I think is kinda interesting about tracking is how much the handler needs to learn kind of about how to set tracks appropriately. Can you, can you talk a little bit about that and kinda what factors handlers need to consider when they're laying a track and then maybe how it can be easier or harder and you know, kind of what those factors are?

Lucy Newton: The biggest thing I see and it's a lot is because a lot of people come to tracking from other sports is they're trying to have input into the dog's performance like in the moment. And really the goal, we want the track to do the teaching. So your job as you know, the track layer, you know training your dog to track is to be mindful about what you're putting out for a track. We want, we don't want to have a lot of input from the handler because that's very hard to fade early on. Like in the first, you know, like right now we just started, you know, we're in the first week of Tracking 101, the handlers are holding the dogs pretty close to the track, but we wanna fade that pretty quickly because that line can just start to just become just a little bit of help and information to the dog. And that's really hard to fade and it's also sometimes too subconscious for the person.

So they continue to do it not realizing that they're doing it. So our really our goal, our main goal is to lay out a track that allows the dog to self-teach, hone that skill to track. So that's a little bit of a challenge for people that have come, you know, come into the sport from other things, you know, know agility where they're giving the dog a lot of information.

You know, I work with somebody in person that also does agility and some of his sort of bad habits and agility, I mean in tracking are really good habits and agility. You know, if the dog misses a turn and he kind of knows which direction the track goes, he's apt to take a couple of steps in that direction. And that's kind of, you want the dog in agility picking up on that cue. That's what the information that's giving them, you know, where you want them to go is them watching your, you know, body language. Whereas we don't want that in, you know, in tracking. So that's a little, I do that a lot, you know, when I'm, you know, doing, you know, teaching in person classes is really trying to cut down on the involvement of the handler, which is really hard sometimes for, you know, from people. But that's the main thing that you want to look at as far as the handler is, you know, just really setting up that track so that they're minimally involved in queuing the dog as to, you know, which is the correct direction to go.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned you're in the, you know, kind of first week, you're the first little bit here of the foundation's tracking course and it's running in December for anybody. Can you talk a little bit more about what you cover in the class and maybe what people should expect to learn or not expect to learn?

Lucy Newton: It's 101. So mainly people are coming in, the majority of people are coming in with no tracking experience. So we're just really starting with the real basics of, you know, like I said, putting those targets down one step apart. We really try to set things up from the beginning to really minimize the dog's error. Especially cuz like I said before, there's not a lot of ways we can prevent error where the dog doesn't come to rely, you know, on our help. So we're really setting the track up to minimize error and letting the dog just figure it out. You know, a lot of dogs when they first start, they eat food off that first target and they're like, no, that was great.

You know, and you're looking for the light bulb of them to go off on them and going, oh hey, there's, there's another one, one step apart. You know, and that's what we're really looking for in that first week is just the dog becoming aware that there's a row of targets. You know, we kind of don't even care if they're tracking yet. We just want them going, I just ate the food off this target, you know, I'd like another one. And that's what we see over the first, you know, week or you know, two weeks is just that dog starting to move down that row of targets, you know, eating food off one and then moving on to find the next one.

And once we have that, then that's what we need. Then it's just a matter of what kind of spacing do we want to gradually increase, put introduce in there and also then what kind of other changes do we want to, we want put turns in, you know, how are we gonna lay out the targets in a way that shapes a turn, you know, it's just all building upon that first steps of the dog going, I just got, got food off of a target or I just found an article, now I'm going to move on and find another one. So in a little bit of the mechanics right now we're just sort of like working out the mechanics of, you know, I mean it's, it's the how do you walk in a straight line, you know, we kind of want those targets to be, you know, in a little bit of a straight line right now. So it's just, you know, really working through those mechanics of, you know, just the, the setting up of the, of the tracks is, is what we're, you know, people are working on now.

Melissa Breau: Kind of who should think about taking it?
Lucy Newton: Kind of, you know, anybody that wants to, you know, give tracking a try, you, you know, get reasonably far along in the first class there are, it's set up in a series of classes, so there's 101 and then 102 is just continuing on, you know, from what we started at 101. So 101 I get a mix of brand new people that have never tracked before that want to track. And then I often get people that have started tracking previously and want to go back and build some better foundations or, you know, want some troubleshooting. So that's kind of 101 and then 102 for this sequence of classes.

You know, we'll start in February and then I have 203 which will, for this group, we'll start in April, but 101 is kind of, you'll get far enough along that people can get an idea of whether they kind of, whether it's fun for them and you know, whether it's something that their dog is going to like. But that sort of, and I also get like a usually class, I usually have a few people that the dog has done other sports and they're looking for something lower impact now, like older dogs that you know, need still wanna be active but are not necessarily, you know, doing anything that's quite, you know, high impact. And on the other hand, I sometimes there's no puppies in this class. I always feel like I should just have a puppy discount just so I get to look at a puppy, you know, I'm just like, people always ask me, you know, is my dog too young? And I'm like, no, absolutely not. Please, I wanna watch puppies track. My first, my first patrol dog was a Shepherd and I started this exact method with him and he was like watching a little baby raccoon from behind, you know, and I learned, taught him to track. But a lot of times dogs aren't quite ready for other sports, you know, physically. So it's a good kind of just something to do, you know, with a younger dog that isn't quite ready for, you know, other sports too. But it, you know, it really runs the gamut but it's really assuming you know nothing in terms of, you know, the dog's skill level. There are some requirements as far as conditions, the whole sequence gets offered twice a year. So this three c you know, group of three classes starts now in December and then it'll start, another group will start in April. So tracking 101 will also be offered in April. And because the challenge with tracking, unlike a lot of the other classes is you, you have to do it outside and you kind of want really to set up the conditions to be favorable. So I wanna, you know, kind of if there's three feet of snow that's kind of not ideal. Dogs can definitely track in snow, but we really, most of the trials, you're not gonna necessarily trial in snow. There's a few exceptions, but the majority of the time you're gonna be trialing on grass. So you wanna lay a foundation on grass and it's just a little bit challenging to start, you know, on snow and then you're gonna have to switch over. At some point it's gonna, the dog's going to learn to fall that path in the snow. So I try and generally avoid that if people are somewhere where it snows off and on or you know, you don't get much snow and you get like, you know, a couple of inches, it doesn't last long, you know, or something, it gets a workaround. But if you're in sort of an area that it's gonna be full on winter, then sometimes it makes sense to, you know, take the, the spring class. But that's kind of always the challenge of sort of offering the class when you know the conditions are the best for people.

And that's why I do another group like, you know, in April because this Fall, like this winter class is perfect for, you know, down south, you know, if you get into July and August in certain parts of the country and world. Yeah. And you get fire ants and you know, there's other issues. So I try and split the difference and kind of get as many people as I can,

you know, so it's offered whenever it's, you know, when the conditions are best.

Melissa Breay: Makes sense. Is there anything else that you think students should know if they're considering signing up?

Lucy Newton: We talked about snow and conditions, you know, we want, we want, you need, you know, an area that's got some grass. A lot of people contact me privately, you know, to ask about, you know, what they need in terms of grass and you know, I definitely encourage people to do that. There were some people in the class, you know, the grass is a little bit too short so we have to kind of work around that. But you know, we really kind of like, you know, any other type of training, we really wanna set up that environment to be most favorable to the dog. We really wanna set them up to be successful. So, you know, we gotta kinda look at the, you know, that big thing of where we're laying the track we want to, you know, I'm super fussy about that with my own dogs, you know, I'm like, I will wait till the time of year if I get a puppy that I wanna track with, you know, I'm gonna wait until the time of year where, you know, I can best set up the, you know, the best conditions to, to shape that behavior.

One question people ask me a lot is whether you can do nosework and tracking at the same time. That's a really common question and it kind of makes sense that, you know, people would ask that, you know, they're kind of wondering if the dog will be confused as to which of those, you know, venues that they're working on. And the dogs can figure out the difference in the context, you know, the context. There's, you know, there's sort of an exterior outdoor searchie element, you know, know of a lot of, you know, nosework trials, but you're really kind of, your start rituals are different, you know, the dogs are well able to, you know, figure out, you know, the difference in context. The only thing I would not necessarily do is they wouldn't necessarily probably enroll in like, you know, nosework 101 and tracking 1 0 1 at the same time. I think that would, that would kind of, yeah, I mean doable in a perfect world, but I think, you know, it'd be better to, to split those up.

But there's really, you know, it's not going to influence the, you know, the dog's nosework, they're just gonna figure out the difference in that context pretty fast. Especially with the way that the tracking 101 is started initially cuz we're not really even leaving anything up to the dog to figure out. We're just, you know, putting those targets so close together that the dog's just gonna go out and, you know, follow those targets. And similar to nosework, we kind of wanna have a start routine, you know, we will develop a start routine at the beginning of the track, which is just cueing the dog into, you know, the exercise that we're asking them to do. But that's a really common question that I get a lot is whether those two things can be done together.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, I can see why. I mean, if you're into that kind of sniffy stuff with your dog, I can see why you wanna be like, okay, I don't wanna mess up the one thing I'm working on the new thing, but also this new thing.

Lucy Newton: Exactly right. Yeah.

Melissa Breau: So to kind of round out our chat, if we were to kind of drill down what we've been talking about and do like a key takeaway or one piece of information you really want folks to kind of understand, what do you wanna leave folks with?

Lucy Newton: I guess probably for me, I always remind people that all sensing, tracking nosework whatever you're shaping behavior, it's really no different than if you're teaching, you know, any other, there's, you know, who's have a joking thing of like, you know, it's not magic, you know, it seems like magic because we can't re we can't, we can't analyze all the variables as well as we can from other things. You know, if you take your dog to the park, you can go, okay, there's squirrels and there's a dog over there chasing a Frisbee and there's kids on the playground. So you kind of know like if you're working on your heeling, here's how distracting I'm making it, here's how challenging I'm making it. Scent work is a little bit harder because a lot of that stuff is invisible. I have a park near me that, you know, there's always something crazy going on in this one park. I take, it's always, every time I take the service dogs there, there's always some new bizarre thing. You know, one day there was a guy, there was a guy walking a pig on a, in a harness, you know, and you couldn't see it initially.

Melissa Breau: That's different.

Lucy Newton: Yes. And the dogs could smell it from a long ways away and they were just like, there's something really weird in this park. And that's sort of like, that's the big thing with, you know, scent work, is that we don't have a good grasp of the variables. So we kind of have to set things up really incrementally for the dog and, but recognize that they're not the expert. But we are shaping behavior, you know, those targets are, you know, I increase those in increments and I give as much thought to the spacing of my targets as I would to my rate of reinforcement.

You know, cuz the same thing obviously. Like I wanna fade that reinforcement, you know, I'm like, you're going to, you know, I've got your toy, I'm gonna go into the ring, I'm gonna do this and I'm come out and you're gonna get your toy is me starting that dog on the track and then following the track to the end and finding an article. So, but that's sort of my one take away. And anytime I'm problem solving or I'm introducing a new concept, you know, with both nosework and tracking, I wanna look at that from a point of I'm shaping behavior, finding that scent, following that track. Finding scent is, you know, reinforcing to the dog. They do a certain behavior and they locate scent, then you're going to get that behavior again. So that's kind of always my take my reminder people is just really think about it from, in terms of shaping behavior and that's really what 101 is that we're just shaping that behavior and then we're just making it more challenging, you know, in 102 and, and then skill building, skill building is kind of the third in the sequence and that doesn't have any lectures.

That's just kind of, that sort of started with the very first class when everybody went through the first 101 and 102 and then just felt like they still needed some supervision. So that's why we added skill building. And a lot of times people come into skill building that have taken the class in previous years and you know, just wanna come in so it's not, doesn't have to follow one-on-one and 102 directly, but, but that's all the classes that I teach, all the, the tracking classes are really from that, that standpoint of we're just, we're shaping behavior. I like that. It's not magic. I feel like that could be a good registered name for somebody's dog. Exactly. Yes. That actually is awesome.

I'm gonna have to write that down so I remember.

Melissa Breau: All right, well thank you so much for coming on the podcast to talk about all this Lucy.

Lucy Newton: Awesome. I'm happy to, you know, I'm always happy to answer people's questions, so if they have any questions about whether it's suited for their dog or whether they have the right conditions or you know, whether their grass is too short, you know, then they can always just, you know, contact me through FDSA and you know, I can answer those.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. We will be back next week with Denise Fenzi and we're gonna talk about integrating your online and your in-person classes. If you haven't already subscribed to our podcast in iTunes with the podcast app of your choice of our next episode, automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty free by bensound.com. The track feature here is called Buddy. Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang. Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

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