Bailey finally got to track today. I've either been too busy or it's been dark since we were given clearance to track that the poor dog had to wait until today to track for the first time since June. Part of me was terrified to take her, for fear she'd be a complete nut job... and part of me was so darn excited to be able to work my dog again.
First surprise. She offered loose leash walking, despite wearing her tracking harness. I rewarded that heavily with hot dogs (hot dogs are not a common treat around here, so they're like... better than cheese).
Second surprise. When I switched her lead from collar to harness, she didn't immediately lurch forward like I expected. She was interested and started checking the ground out but there was no distinct "WHEE!" behavior I'm accustomed to.
Third surprise. She indicated and STAYED while I picked up the first article (see, we all have our faults, I've not trained that piece of the chain very well... I'm lazy and normally wing it).
Her track was aged 3.5 hours, had 2 ninety degree corners, and 4 articles. It started on short grass then went into tall grass and on into a wooded area. I sent her over some downed trees and her first corner was just past a pine tree with no low hanging branches. From there we headed onto a hayed path and into a hay field. Here she really shocked me by turning to check in (she NEVER does that) and then getting off the track and finding deer poop to eat. I was seriously peeved because I've worked so hard (in the past) to keep her ON the track and not allow extraneous sniffing and crittering. After we had a discussion (that was more aimed at me about laying shorter tracks to start back with... duh), she moved into the final leg where we had a lot of fun.
The track exited the hay field, into a lightly wooded ditch, across the driveway, back up a lightly wooded ditch on the other side, and her end article was about 15 yards in the field.
She worked the exit from the field nicely. Checked both ways before committing to heading down, moved quickly across the road (head down, YAY), then checked left and right before heading up the other side. She was rewarded with her final article not far in.
I was really surprised by her relaxed working style. I'm not overly concerned about today's session. She hasn't done much of anything in over 3 months, so I'm sure there's a lot of other factors playing into this. I do plan on laying tracks at least once a week though, and hoping for twice. My biggest stumbling area is aging them. I don't have a lot of daylight now and I'm not fond of tracking in a field in the dark... Hopefully I can set aside some time one day of the weekend though and we can prepare for a TDX test in the spring!