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Discussion Starter #1
For anyone new who does not know what this is, it is the dog pulling in opposition to your pull. Dogs that pull when being walked are a common example.. they pull forward, you hold back, they pull even harder.. and it truly is an reflexive behavior on the part of the dog.

It is also something I use in training. For instance, I teach my puppy to lie down (platz) with a clicker. Then I add a the command word. When the dog responds to the command word, I then build duration with the dog next to me. When I get some of that going I start to step away from the dog and back and when that is good I add a leash to a collar and gently pull while saying the command cue (starting back next to the dog) so the dog actually pulls against me to maintain his position. I also do this for Sit and Stand.. all stationary exercises except the sit in heeling because that position is active and the dog needs to learn to "find" perfect heel position (I mark and reward heavily the correct thing and give nothing for incorrect positions).

I have no idea where oppositional reflex fits on the training quadrant discussion. It is the dog's natural tendency and I use it to train those things.

However, I have run into a situation that is perplexing. In tracking, I start a dog with food in a scent pad.. loose line and dog learns to search the scent pad for the food that is there (about 5-6 pieces per scent pad). I put in the tracking flag and all of that. I keep the dog on a line to a flat collar (learning) and keep the line loose. Three scent pads and we are done.. pull the dog off the last one before he gets all the food so he is a little disappointed and not finished when I am (it builds desire for the scent pad to do this).

Eventually we graduate to a scent tail to the scent pad.. food in the tow of 3-4 steps to the scent pad. After a week or so of this (depending on the dog) we start to add foot steps out of the scent pad with food in the toe of very step. The object is to teach the dog the behavior of foot step tracking while building muscle memory as well. I start my 8 week old puppies this way and I start older dogs exactly the same way. The goal the first year is 100 tracks between April 1 and December 1 (you do not track every day and it is HARD to get 100 tracks in). All those tracks have food in every step unless the dog shows me he is ready for the food to come up.

The issue I am having is this. My last dog I used oppositional reflex on the line while tracking. She weighs in at 56 pounds and pulls against the line to track forward. If I think she is off the track OR if she looks like she is asking a question, I simply lean back a little on the line and the message is, "Dig in little dog, you have it right" and believe me she totally does just that. Of course, because she is pulling for the entire track it is tiring for her and handling the line on my end can be a bit tricky on corners as she really speeds up if the line is slack (costs a lot of points).

New dog and a new day. He is BIG and STRONG and I am no longer 25 so I really do not want oppositional reflex to come into play. I would like him to track methodically on a looser line. So, that is how I have started him.. but he is now "rushing" the scent pad and the track. He is missing food (so he is not being as methodical as need be) and he wants to FLY down the track to the point where I might as well get a para-sail and have some fun!

I have taken him back to scent pads, but we are fast approaching tracking training season. I want this loose line. I want the entire thing to stay in the positive side of things (dog tracks in a trial at the end of a 33 foot line.. corrections training this can so totally backfire in a trial.. I just do not want to go there). Tracking has to be entirely a motivational trained activity.

I totally want to avoid the oppositional reflex I have with my other dog. I just do not want tracking to turn into a pulling contest.. that is a different competition. ha.

Any ideas? I have been making the track curves to help him focus and slow down (this was last season when all this started happening).
 

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I'll give a disclaimer that my experience with tracking was a 3-week course. I know the basics of *how* to do it, but I don't have much in depth experience.

A few problem shooting questions:

- What is being used as the treats on the trail? Maybe a treat that smells more or more novel might work- I was thinking something like salmon?

- Is he seeing the track get laid at all, even from a distance? I figure probably no, knowing the level you work at, but I remember this as being a younger dog, so maybe. Possibly he can see it at a distance, as well, like from a crate?

Do you think doing some tracks set up ONLY of food might help him get a bit more methodical? And maybe upping the novelty and value of the food?

That's my clumsy/poorly educated attempt to help, lol. Hopefully someone with more tracking experience can provide some more knowledgeable information.
 

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IPO....., First I have to commend you on your recent threads. I’ve followed them closely but stayed out of them. I have my own agenda and training practices....not abusive but fun forbthe dog and me.

So, obviously you have a lot of experience all the way to very advanced tracking. Especially in the competition end.

I’m not sure I can help, just observe and comment. You have two radically different dogs that each handle the track differently but must be directed to track in the same prescribed way. Attitude changes required.

The first dog is pulling on the leash and you rightly see the problem. While enthusiastic she will have a hard time on a 2-3k yard track if she keeps it up and you will be worn out too. So she needs to be more methodical, IE slowed down. With out seeing her, I say make the tracks significantly more difficult. Lengthen the stride to 6” or a foot between steps. You might have to work into this. Lengthen the steps ever so slightly but progressively in each track. Skip around at first, easy track, more difficult, then maybe back a little easier. Change the rate of food reward. The objects being she will have to use her nose more effectively finding the damaged ground. Maybe change your boots to rubber or leather or bare foot.

Your scent pad sounds similar to what I used. I used a triangle shape and food only at the point where the track started. Then into the steps. No start flag. We give no clue to the dog. Early on we didn’t point the dog to the scent pad. In a trial there might be 4 tracks all starting relatively close together and you might not know who laid the track. The judge might say “ your track is over near that Little Rock”, over there. You and your dog will be expected to heel to the general area then begin the track on command. We were not judged on the heel but then on the command to start. So you needed to be sure your dog found the track. This all may not hold true today but that’s what we did years ago.

Dog two. More or less opposite. Here I think a little more obedience but easy going not too formal. Object being to slow him down but not reduce enthusiasm. I think a far more valuable food reward but less of it. And again more difficult track. This time I think aging more it might help. Reading back, I now remember the curve tracks. Good idea I think. Just be careful not to turn it into sweeping corners, many points lost here. Carefully laid out you could do either 3 or 4 tracks in a giant circle. Essentially making the session pretty long. Even this may take the starting edge off a little and slow him down. You’ll quickly figure out how to reward this. Since he is not particularly interested in food, maybe try laying a track with a mountain bike with limited food drops. The track will be very narrow but intensely damaged ground. I saw stilts used in a seminar. I’m not that agile now or back then. Also bricks tied to shoes. I’m not sure if this was really effective or just showing off of the seminar dog. He was that good no doubt.

I’m more into the process than a process description name. Either way the goal is deliberate, precise and confident tracking on a loose leash. Two radically different dogs screams for carefull documentation of results. I used to keep maps and results endlessly. I often wrote notes with crayons on plastic in the rain. A Go Pro helmet mount would be my choice today.

Keep us posted, I’m interested in your solutions and progress.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Thanks for the responses so far.

Dog 1 (who pulls and has her FH) is not my concern at this point. Changing her behavior will likely louse up a good thing.. and she has two tracking trophies. One for High IPO 3 tracking and one for high FH 1 tracking. She actually beat a world competition dog in that FH.. so I think we will leave well enough alone.

Dog 2 is the new dog I am training. He is not a year old yet. I am trying to avoid the oppositional reflex in dog 2 that dog 1 exhibits.

Currently dog 2 is too young to NOT have food in each step. I do recall the triangle scent pad Bentwings. I have seen that done, but I have not see the dogs trained using it track better than dogs that were not started that way. As to the track itself, I take normal steps that are even. Too close together can make a dog just hunt for food and not track.. so the footsteps are normal distance apart. Some people pound the track in for training.. I do not do that because it can create too much scent and make the dog dependent.

As to the food I am using on the track for the young dog, currently it is Fresh Pet cut up and frozen. This has a LOT of odor and the dogs LOVE it. As the dog progresses I drop back to kibble or something that carries a lot less scent because the food smell can actually mess up the track of an experienced dog. Kibble still does this with an experienced dog, but not as much as something with a LOT of odor.

Back to the young dog.. what I want to avoid is a dog that seeks that oppositional reflex in tracking. As noted.. the dog will be toast if he is hauling someone around an entire track. If the dog is taught to track methodically and slow without line pressure then you don't need to use the line to slow him down and you won't fall into the trap of the dog speeding up if the line goes slack at a corner. I am trying to teach this young dog very differently from my other dog, so I am tossing this out there for ideas on how to do this. In fact, I am tossing it out there on this forum because most of the people on this forum DON'T track dogs or teach tracking so maybe there are ideas that are 'oustide the lines' of regular IPO training approaches.

I have NOT brought up article indication (the young dog has not started this on the track, tho I have used a clicker to teach him to platz at an article with the article between his front feet OFF the track).

Article indication on the track I reward with something AWESOME that the dog will turn inside out for. Dog 1 LOVES to track but finds articles "inconvenient." She always indicates them, but is slow to down at them. To make the article more important to her I have upped the quality of the food reward at the articles to something awesome and admit to even using prime rib which she would kill for.
 

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When I first started tracking I didn’t really understand the event rules and nobody was there to help. So I created some issues that needed fixing before we could trial. One was the down on the article. I agree that this needs to be taught outside of the track. I think you wind up with a bit of a step backwards when you finally put it in the track. The dog is confused at first. We can add all kinds of human thoughts to this, but we have to begin thinking like the dog....or how we think the dog thinks...for another human thought. The dog probably thinks this “I wish he would change his socks this track smells terrible.” Then he finds the article with your scent. “Oh yeah, i remember now, yesterday we were doing lots of this laying down by these things. I’m supposed to lay down with this thing between my feet. I’ll be getting a nice food treat now”. And he does. Then” humm, he just said I need to sniff some more, hey I wonder if there might be something else on this path. I think I’ll check it out”. And so the dog has switched from tracking for food to tracking for the article where he gets a greater reward.

An interesting thing we did was not use a normal walking pace. A deliberate “ waddle”. So steps had a definite one side then the other. Much harder to lay the track however. This caused the dog to begin searching for each footprint. Definitely slowed the pace. You can alternate this with normal steps too. You might want to experiment with this on a one time test. See what happens. A variant is to simply step over say 18” or so. Watch what the dog does. Does he overshoot the break and begin frantically searching or does he immediately stop and carefully search out the new track. Maybe only half as far is all he needs. I like to think things like this challenge the dog to really use his natural instinct and he gets self satisfaction for the success of finding the original track.

Your idea of slow and methodical tracking is very good. I never used truly smelly food. For most part only small slices of hotdogs or boiled and dried liver. Our training was in the south and it gets really,really hot in the summer. This brings out every bug that creeps,crawls or slivers. All hunting for food. Fire ants especially. So food on the tracks was good only for very short and limited aging. We had to ween off food way too early in training. However even by that time I was fortunate that the dog lived to track. Ironically he didn’t search out non track items so that was a blessing in disguise.

By only using food as a reward at the end of the track then at each article, it kept up his interest. Other dogs more or less did the same. I understand what you are doing. Obviously you have done a great job with your #1 dog, just going at it a little differently on #2. Being able to alter your training to suit the dog is the mark of a good trainer. Certainly necessary.

Maybe try a couple tracks with very little food on them and very small pieces as a test to see if the dog really needs the food help. Test the nose as it was called. The bugs and ants forced me to stop food as the dog would not eat it anyway if there were bugs on it. I think the articles became the dog’s reward. I used many and varied articles per track.

The triangle vs other methods, I agree, use what you are comfortable with. The bottom line is showing the dog what you want him to do.

And of course you add the prime rib. I’d normally do about anything for a prime rib dinner too....except my doctor says I can’t have the fat. I need to stick to much leaner and healthier meat....chicken and fish. Not my favorites.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I had forgotten the step off. I will try that.. I will also give the "waddle" a try and maybe change stride length as well.

I watch the videos of this dog's Father tracking and he is just great (but also the benefit of truly inspired training hence why he won the worlds). The big difference is that I do not have any desire to use pressure on the track and this dog's father was trained with pressure. Always my concern with using pressure on the track is that at some point the dog may well tell you to take a hike and QUIT tracking in trials. Tracking is very independent of the handler.

An interesting remark made by someone who has done all this MUCH longer than I and with MUCH greater success was that a great tracking dog is usually NOT a great obedience dog since the dog prefers to work more independent of the handler and obedience requires team work. My great tracking dog can be a bit original in obedience and way too original in the secondary obedience in protection. In fact, her attitude in protection is she wants me on the field with her, but I can just stand over there because she knows everything and I am just slowin' her down.

This young dog is male and very different both in his drives, his very nice balance, his clearer head and his desire to be a partner. Thinking of the comment about dogs that like to be a partner often not being great tracking dogs, I want tracking to be this dog's happy place where independence is rewarding (even tho it may never be as self rewarding as it is with my other dog).

One suggestion I have also gotten was "grip the line tightly but keep it slack." The oppositional reflex thing is MY FAULT as I try to exert control (my reflexive response!). So here we are today.. trying to brainstorm before we create a mess that we may never be able to fix.

In a pet dog that pulls on the leash there are various ways to stop the pulling but still allowing the dog to be looking around at his environment. One way is to 'be a tree' which I think is counter productive in tracking. Another way is to simply keep changing direction so the dog does not have a straight line to pull against. I am sort of thinking going that way but having the TRACK change direction.. I dunno.. just thinking out loud...
 

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My dogs have always tracked on a loose line so that wasn’t a problem. Now, early on I noticed that the dog would ever so slightly “bend” his body line when viewed from the rear, depending on which side of his body the line was on. Did it make a difference, no I don’t think so. I used a leather tracking harness so the line went over the top, one side of the other. But I tried to maintain a consistent side if I could. Obviously you can’t be switching sides in a trial...handler help, but you can at least start consistently. Does this matter to the dog? I think the dog feels it but it’s not a big distraction. My current Aussie is not being trained for tracking but does go for walks on a 60 or 90 foot line. I can direct her by lightly pulling the line one way or the other. I use a command “this way” for go to the right and “ that way” to the left. If she looks to me then I simply point the direction. She has learned to respond to “conversational “ commands very well. I use a tone of voice just for her so I suppose she connects with this.

If you are going to try waddle and side step I’d be ready with a high value reward for the very first success that he works out. It will reinforce him for working out the track. I think it will build intensity as he has more confidence in his ability to search out the track. The track being the path to even greater rewards. Ultimately your praise at the end will be a great enough reward. I think dogs have a much longer train of thought than we give them credit. Once imprinted they seldom forget especially things they learn themselves.

I saw the forced tracking at a seminar and dogs that were being trained using force methods. I didn’t like it even when there were successes using it. I also saw exactly as you noted, the day the dog simply says “I’ve had enough, I give up” . Liken it to prisoner torture. It may get you answers but you will create a dangerous enemy for life.

I never had a prong or e collar on the dogs for tracking. Early on we used a harness and graduated to the really expensive leather one. When I brought out the harness my dog knew it was going to be his fun day. He couldn’t wait to get in the car or truck to go tracking. Many of the forced dogs would slink to the field.

As for obedience outside the tracking field, certainly it’s common to see great tracking scores and much lesser scores in obedience and protection. Or great scores other than tracking. You don’t see many triple 100 point scores. Of course training makes a difference as you pointed out.

There is a bomb dog in our apartment building. Very few know what he does as the owner/ handler rarely says more than hi. His obedience is not very good. Pulls on the leash, rushes through the doors and is wary of other dogs. For a Mal I’m a little surprised as I would think obedience would be part of his training. Maybe he just lets the dog have his head at home and works hard all day or night.

It’s great to have multiple plans but as the military teachs plan A,B and C will fail in the first few seconds so be ready with plan D. This one you make up as you go based on your training. And you have to be inventive....do something you have not had training or experience. Learn from these too. What worked on one dog may not work with another. That to me is is what makes working with this level of dogs is fun, interesting and challenging.
 

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I haven't done any formal tracking, so take this with a grain of salt.

I believe that scent tracking, in some cases, is rewarding in itself. The final treat or success, is the cherry on top. Hold that thought...

In obedience training [not trials], one method was to teach differents cues for hurry-up, slow down, stop, continue, etc, using those until the dogs incorporate the different behaviors, then fading the cues during heel training after weeks or months of practice.

Another method, Premack, might also be used, allowing the dog to follow a scent trail - as a reward, if he walks slowly [off-leash?], but requiring a Sit if he pulls or rushes. You might pre-teach a 'slow-down' cue to help the dog understand what is wanted. You might want a marker, like a clicker (but not exactly clicker-training) when he is doing what you want [OR, you might use the 'clicker' or a sound: Dunbar calls it an instructional reprimand, when you want the dog to make a change in behavior.]

Finally, It's Yer Choice is a related way to slow things down. You might look it up, but I consider it to be similar to my Premack description above.

This sounds a bit incoherent, but I'm assuming that you are familiar with these terms, and it sounded like you wanted some brainstorming outside of the box...



Re: Oppositional reflex - The “Law of effect” states that any behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and any behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is likely to be reduced or stopped.

So, in an operant conditioning perspective you are allowing the dog to fulfill a reflex, which is positive in this case, so the associated behavior is repeated. [Compare this to giving the dog syrup of ipecac to make him vomit, and the behavior might diminish.] So, to over-simplify, in the behavioral quadrant, this is a reward. Personally, I'd use a different label, but this is just an academic categorization for discussion...
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you Hanksimon. A LOT to consider here. The sit is probably out as I can see the dog choosing to do this behavior when it is least desired in a trial. I will really think hard about the rest of what you have said.

One thing for absolute certain. I will NOT put Syrup of ipecac anywhere near the track!! (I know that is not what you meant.. just making a bit of fun Haha).

Oppositional Reflex it s term that has been around for years and years in dog training. I first learned bout it when I did AKC obedience. It is, after all, just vocabulary... but interesting that you would suggest a different word.
 

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Sorry, I wasn't clear. If you have a Lab, you can use Ipecac for a reward [Jk] ...

No, I know what oppositional reflex is; I meant that I wouldn't call it a 'reward' ... but that's a discussion for later in a comparison of the Behavioral quadrant vs. cognitive methods...
 

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I don't know the rules of tracking (and don't care to know, with all due respect). But I gather that the goal is to slow the dog down so he is more methodical, keep the line loose, and not lose enthusiasm.

My idea would be to teach specific walking rules (don't pull, maintain a certain pace) on the tracking set of tools, but outside of tracking. Of course, the context of tracking might override the desire to follow those set of walking rules... But my thought for that is, AFTER teaching the walking rules practice with the 'goals' (articles, scent pads, etc.) in a training environment (so not a full track), do a couple minutes of walking before approaching that training area, then give him the tracking cue to go towards the articles. However, I'd set it up so that the distance between where you start and the first article (or whatever the goal) is close enough that he will very likely come off fresh from the previous walking exercise and maintain a good pace; I'd use gentle praise for good pace, and the follow up reward is permission to go toward the next article. OR, if it's appropriate to end the game you can reward slower/more patience with a high arousal game of fetch or tug. Or, in this training situation, perhaps a little P- can be used and excessive pulling can result in termination of the game, or a 1 minute time out. My gut tells me this wouldn't decrease enthusiasm for the game because it is said in many circles that 'ending the game when it's fun leaves the dog wanting more', AND he is already nutso for the game. But you would want to make sure that through repetition the dog is understanding it is the pulling that's being punished, not the tracking itself. With good timing I think this can be clear.

The trick trainer in me says: Teach a cue that means "slow down," like what hanksimon said. But I think that would interfere with tracking in the long run since you want the dog to think independently. I think there is more value in teaching your dog to WANT to be slower.

Again, all of this training is outside of an actual track. And disclaimer again, I have nothing to do with tracking. But, I have a lot of experience in functional loose leash walking since it is one of the focal points of my group classes. In general, part of keeping a leash loose is building muscle memory for how to walk when that specific set of tools is on. Especially for dogs who are not motivated by food, or very independent dogs, the walk and movement in itself is a reward. You can have a dog that is not focused on the handler at all, nose to the ground, or slightly ahead, but still maintaining a loose leash. The age old saying is 'stop when the dog pulls'... I actually stop 'when the dog is walking at the improper pace', well before it pulls. After some training the dog can sense this; for my dogs I rarely stop to punish (P-) pulling, all I need to do is slow down as if I'm about to stop, and they will slow their pace - the result is we keep walking at the correct pace with no need to stop at all.

I'd be curious if making the track harder and less linear (which is what I assume is being suggested by Bentwings) will help your cause, or if he continues to blow through things. I've seen instances where increasing difficulty in a task slows the dog down, makes it give up, or makes it frantic and sloppy. This is why increasing criteria in a way that maintains enthusiasm and performance is one of the most challenging things in dog training, regardless of the task.

My two cents.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I love what you have suggested Canyx. We do a LOT of tracking training off the track. Often it does not transfer TO the track (we teach articles off the track, but the dog often fails to generalize that behavior to the track but we try anyway because SOME dogs DO generalize it to the track).

The trick to the "cue" is it can NEVER be something someone else can "see" and call handler help (you can DQ for handler help).

I agree that in some dogs if you increase the difficulty (especially before the dog is ready for it) you can get hectic behavior.

In the end it is behavior we are training and rewarding. In "real life" foot step to foot step tracking is not really natural. Natural tracking involves the dog hunting for something he understands is rewarding to find. SAR dogs use all their senses and will air scent as will police dogs. My good tracking dog will do this if allowed (she just loves to hunt because her hunt drive is over the top). She will open her mouth and use the roof of her mouth to help her scent the track (BTW that is points off.. *sigh*). My good tracking dog, if she can be made to understand WHAT we are searching FOR, will find ANYTHING and she will find it ANYWHERE. She should be doing human searches and she should be doing those a LOT. She would love it.

I admit.. my young dog and I are still figuring each other out. About the time he is three we should be pretty much on the same page. Yes. Building a partnership takes that long.

Thank you again Canyx. I will think about this and see what I can come up with.
 
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