Today we tried out a new job for Honeydew - "Tracking" (think search and rescue, without someone's life on the line). We took an all day tracking workshop. It was a blast!
I had no idea that dogs could just do this, almost without any training. An absolute "plug and play" adventure. In early training you use tools to help both you and the dog be successful (putting out flags to mark the track for the human, and dragging raw chicken on the ground to mark the track for the pup).
Honeydew instantly knew what to do - I could hardly keep up with her she was so intent on the track. Even if we had to wait for a while for our turn - which meant that the scent spread over a wider swath of path - she still worked it well...nose to the ground, weaving back and forth, back and forth over the scent trail as we wound our way to the end point (which was usually a leather glove with string cheese inside - oh the excitement!).
I think that Honeydew loved it most of all because she got to do three things that were always against the rules as a Guide Dog puppy....she was allowed to smell the ground and follow her nose (instead of following me, at my side), she got to pull hard on the leash (pulling in the harness when she has the scent is encouraged) and she got to eat string cheese she found on the ground. She definitely thought that "being bad never felt so good!"
In the pictures you can see Honeydew and I giving this tracking stuff a try (small specs out in the field), my view of Honeydew's butt - which is what I was looking at most of the day, and Honeydew patiently waiting her turn. She was really into this and could hardly contain her excitement while waiting for the other dogs to finish the track. "Can that pomeranian puhleeze get a move on? What is taking her so long? Is it my turn next?"
I think we found a good "job", at least for the weekends.