Barbet News (page 53)
Fish tracking? Well not as strange as it sounds, even for a waterdog!
Having read an article last year by a member of the Finnish Barbet Club all about the `sport` of blood tracking, and always looking for something new to try with the dogs, a date was set for a trial run. Re-reading the Finnish article, it all seemed fairly straightforward, a pint or so of blood, a wet sponge on the end of a length of string and a suitable reward for the dog at the end of the trail. In Finland apparently, frozen cow blood is available in supermarkets and for a reward an elk or deer hoof is used, so we were going to have to adapt things a bit for the UK. The first obstacle was obtaining a pint of blood. Since meat production in the UK is now very tightly controlled and regulated this proved difficult; the abattoir which supplies our frozen dog meat drew a blank despite assurances that we had no intention of drinking the blood ourselves. We had an offer of some deer blood from a gamekeeper but since we would be doing the tracking in an area where large herds of deer roam freely the last thing we wanted was to encourage the dogs to start hunting deer.
Dolly, on the scent.
In the end a suitable alternative was found on the shelves of the local supermarket - Sardines ! Cheap, readily available, aromatic and not likely to give the dogs a taste for something they shouldn`t be eating. Three small tins of sardines were mixed with water in a bucket and a short length of fleece, tied with string was left to soak in the mix.
On the morning of the track two trails were laid of about 500m each by dragging the fleece across a mix of forest path, boggy ground and woodland. The trails were marked at intervals with strips of material tied to trees and bushes so that later we could check that the dogs were in fact following the intended trail and not off on their own mission.
The trail was left for a couple of hours over lunch and then our two Guinea pigs, Dolly and her mother, Betsy were taken to the start of the tracks with their handlers Jilly and Wendy who had not seen the trails being laid. In each case, at first both dogs, being new to to this, sniffed keenly at the ground but showed no inclination to follow the trail. This was resolved by dragging the fleece back over the first couple of yards of the trail with the dogs following and then removing the fleece quickly. Both dogs, nose to the ground simply carried on following the existing track. As a trial run we had used a very strong, fresh scent and both dogs followed their respective trails to their reward, sardines of course. Both, even when losing the track at a sudden change in direction, back-tracked and picked up the scent again. Once completed each dog then tried the other track.
We certainly learnt a lot from this trial run, both dogs did better on the trail that went across less frequented ground and we can now work on using older tracks over longer distances. It proved to be a very enjoyable day for dogs and owners and one we are sure to repeat soon.