Jaroslav Petráček: Your Victory Is Bigger When Many People Celebrate It with You
I come from Česká Skalice, this year I celebrate my 50th birthday and with my wife Jaroslava we have three children. Filip and Barbora are already adults, the youngest Pavlína will be 14 years old this year and I have to say that they are all making us very happy. We currently have five dogs at home.
I studied at secondary school in Hořice and in 2010, I graduated from the Czech Technical University in Prague (ČZU) with Bachelor degree in Cynology. In 1994, I changed my original job as zoo technician and joined the Police. I am currently the head of the Dog Handlers – Crime Scene Response Unit in Semily.
I got to dog sport by quite random coincidence. I was enrolled to Libějovice in 1987 for mandatory military service as a basic soldier, where I graduated from the non-commissioned officer’s school of dog handlers. I got selected and the rest of my duty I served as commander of the dog handler’s squad at the kennel in Libějovice. I served there under the command of Mr. Maršálek. I met him again at the last Championship of the German Boxer Dogs in Staňkov after 30 years, so we reminisced… 🙂 I bought my first dog Eros Jaren after the military service and I was attending training club in Česká Skalice with him. I passed ZVV2 and IPO2 with him. After moving to another county, I became a member of ZKO Semily and I was also a club chairman for many years. At present I am a member of ZKO Lomnice nad Popelkou.
I became the Champion of the Czech Republic in the Police Championship in category “search dogs” with dog Quart od Policie ČR. We also won the title Champion of the Czech Republic in the IPO-FH in 2011 and we finished on the third place in 2013.
I am a ČKS judge, 1st class. Among my personal achievements I certainly count that I was chosen and had the honour to lecture at the 1st International Cynology Conference that took place in 2011 in Domažlice.
Jaroslav, for me, you are the representative of the elite Czech trackers. Do you also consider tracking as your TOP phase for which you have a great talent – or some sort of gifted abilities – perhaps a little bit more than for the other phases?
Thank you and I am delighted with you classifying me as one of the elite trackers :-). As far as my relationship with phase A is concerned, it really is a very positive one. Of course, the fact that I have achieved the greatest successes in this discipline has a lot to do with it, but I do not think that I was gifted by “someone up there” for tracking training :-). I see a lot of work that’s been done and gaining sense for a given activity, but I enjoy all three phases.
In 2014, you were a 1st reserve with your German Shepherd Quart od Policie ČR for the Czech team at the FCI IPO-FH World Championship in Oberdorle, Germany. Were you not sorry that you ended up being a reserve?
Yes and no – it just happened that way and that’s how I took it.
I often think to myself, that reserves are not really counted in at many events – they do not always have representative clothing, so I am wondering what they would actually wear if they had to go. Were you, as a reserve, really ready to depart quickly and go to the competition at the last minute before and even during the World Championship if it was needed?
This is certainly not an easy situation, because every responsible reserve handler will try to get ready and prepare as best as they can possibly be just in case they were additionally called. I was lucky to be supported by ČKS even in terms of clothing. I do think that’s the way it should be, as it is partly a reward for being a reserve handler on stand-by and being ready to travel within few hours to join the team.
Jaroslav, what are your own experiences from the World Championships? Which one of the competitions you have done do you consider to be the most difficult one?
After winning the IPO-FH Championship in 2011 with Quart, I qualified together with Vladimír Košťál for the World Championship in Velten, Germany. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the second track, although I was on the 6th place after the first one. 🙁 This competition definitely had a big dog sport influence on me, mainly the positive one, but I also found out that “big” things are sometimes happening at the big competitions… Unfortunately, I found that out for myself and I was not alone. 🙁
And the hardest competition? Probably one a year later after I became the Champion of the Czech Republic, it was a selection trial for trackers and due to a tracklayer’s mistake I had to have another track laid, which was unfortunately also devalued. So yet another new track was laid for me, which was on the meadow between the houses. When I arrived, there were several dog walkers walking their dogs and organizers were chasing them off :-). On this track, in my view, Quart performed one of the best tracks in his life. Unfortunately, because of the tiredness after completing the two tracks that were 1,800 paces long, but also because of the terrain on which the track was laid, he made a few mistakes. He was therefore awarded only “very good” and 93 points, although the judge Teodor Krajčí praised his work immensely. Unfortunately, these points were not enough to go and compete at the world championship. To this day, I feel sorry about this, because in my view Quart was in a much better form than when we got the Champion title. It was one of the reasons why the ČKS training committee suggested that the Champion of the Czech Republic and the winner of the qualifier will get automatic entry in the next world championship :-).
What is your biggest cynological success, then? 🙂
My greatest success in dog sport is certainly the title of the Champion of the Czech Republic in IPO-FH, but also the 8 times CACT title and the title of Czech Champion of Work with Quart od Policie ČR.
You mentioned tracklayer’s mistake in one of the qualifiers. How do you rate the work of tracklayers?
So here, I think a great deal of work has been done. I am very glad that only tracklayers and track laying supervisors on whom the judge can 100 % rely are nominated for the top events. This already minimises possibility of a tracklayer spoiling the entire season for a competitor. It is demanding and responsible function and I appreciate the work of tracklayers very much. They are sometimes quite fun, too :-).
How many dogs have you trained so far and do you train other people’s dogs as business?
I don’t think I will be able to put the exact number together, but I estimate about twenty. They were mainly service dogs I worked with, or puppies I’ve been preparing for other handlers. As far as training dogs as business is concerned, I sometimes help my friends in training, but me training dogs a business? I don’t do that.
You already mentioned your first dog – why did you choose him? And how did he influence you?
As I wrote at the beginning, I bought my first dog in 1990 and it was German Shepherd Eros z Jaren. I found an ad in the magazine and I went to Karlovy Vary to collect him by bus 🙂 and I will never ever forget the journey back with him, but that’s a long story :-). He certainly influenced me so much that I stayed in dog sport :-).
So tell us at least briefly about the return journey by bus, please :-). You cannot just lure us and let it go! 🙂
It really cannot be described just like that, I have told the story several times among friends. I will just give you a brief insight then. Imagine you get a puppy that’s been fed, obviously part of the food were minced chicken feet and you travel with it in a crowded bus almost 300 kilometres with three changes :-).
Oh, so I have clearer idea now, thank you :-). Jaroslav, let’s carry on then. Do you think that a person and a dog will always find their way to each other, or do they have to “get on as house on fire” from the beginning?
I’d say it’s like with people. You won’t necessarily get on with everyone, but if you want to work together, you have to respect each other. However, the handler has an advantage in this as he/she can choose his/her dog… I once read an interview with Mr. Adamuščin and he wrote that it is ideal if you like the look of the dog. Then you will forgive him/her more at the time when things don’t go to well – that’s probably why I’m only training German Shepherds! 🙂
…because you like the look of them 🙂
Exactly, because I just like the look of them and their nature and versatility suit me.
How did it happen that you started to devote yourself to tracking that intensively?
Certainly this has changed with the title of the Champion of the Czech Republic in tracking, when suddenly people began to ask me if I could help them with tracking, and also the requests for seminars started to come… I think I taught a few people not to underestimate tracking, to think more about it and especially to love the tracking.
You have described that really lovely and I absolutely agree with “not underestimating the tracking”. Many handlers do not have according to their own words “patience” for tracking. What is the tracking really about in your opinion?
Again, I do not think that tracking is anything different to obedience or protection. It’s always about the work, the right methodology and the time I’m willing to devote to it. Tracking is perhaps more demanding in terms of time and physical condition of the handler. I also see a bit of a problem in the fact that when we are training obedience or protection, everybody is watching and learning. However, not many people are coming to watch tracking…
Do you think that with training and correct guidance even an average dog can become a great tracking dog?
I’m convinced about that.
How do you see in a dog or perhaps even in a little puppy, whether he or she has any prerequisites to tracking?
I think this is the same for all parts of IPO. It is ideal if a puppy is self-confident, can be easily motivated and willing to cooperate. All other things depend on the handler and how well he/she explains to the dog what he/she wants.
What if a dog has all the attributes, but the handler doesn’t have them, and apart from that he/she is also incorrigible and doesn’t understand…
None as deaf as those who won´t hear, none as blind as those who won´t see, I know a few people like that :-). As a rule, those are usually people who start to oppose me with a sentence that begins with “but”, when I am explaining something to them. 🙂
Which dog that you’ve seen so far really amazed you? Is there a dog that you think is a phenomenal tracking dog and you will never forget him/her?
I certainly meet dogs like that and I have to say, that I enjoy it immensely when I can watch or possibly judge the excellent work of such dog on the track. I certainly will not forget my Quarto whom I buried on the very day of his 12th birthday last year, I owe him a lot… Out of the other dogs I know really well, I really like the work of Staffordshire Bullterrier Bred ze Zálabské samoty owned by Aleš Sucharda. If I have the right information, he is the only Staffordshire Bullterrier in the world with an IPO-FH exam.
Define your ideal conditions for tracking – time of the day, time of the year, weather conditions etc.
Spring or autumn, early morning with dew on the ground, no wind, max 15 degrees C, lush meadow with 10 cm tall grass. Well, I have not been tracking for a long time under these conditions :-).
People motivate dogs to track in different ways – what kinds of motivation did you come across? Was there any kind of motivation that you found really interesting or even funny? 🙂
I absolutely prefer to use food on the track as a motivation, but I was most amused when one of the handlers at the summer training camp was using chopped apples for tracking. To my surprise, she just answered that her bitch just loves apples! 🙂
Has any quaint situation ever happened to you while you were tracking? We all know stories of an angry farmer, locals taking away articles, fellow citizens accusing the tracklayer from placing poison in the grass, etc.
I am very glad you asked me this question and I would like to appeal to all handlers who use fields that are not theirs for training tracking – be polite and humble! I have personally never had any conflict with the owner of the land or with gamekeeper. I always tried to politely explain on the spot what I was actually doing there or I would ask him if I could work the laid track, and if he does not want me to, I will not go to that particular field ever again. Unfortunately, I know cases when the handler responds to the owner’s question about why he is walking over his just sown field very arrogantly. Then I do not wonder at all that the farmer is raging and becomes “allergic” to any dog owners.
But to make the topic a bit lighter, it was certainly funny when at the Police training centre, we went to train tracking in the city and one of our colleagues used a piece of fish as a drag. It was quite funny to watch a police officer in a uniform dragging a piece of carp tied on the string behind him on the pavement :-). …and since then we do not have to train in the uniforms! 🙂
What specifically do you track for? What motivation do you use yourself?
I use chopped salami or dry food that is soft, dog doesn’t have to chew it and the pieces are right size. I put the dry food that I normally feed the dog with at the end of the track.
Would it be possible to determine what motivation will be the right one and how to proceed with training from looking at some of the puppy or young dog behaviours?
Every motivation that works is the right one :-). I, because I prefer food for training, am trying to establish such a food regime from a day one to make the puppy ravenous. So I feed the puppy three times a day and at the beginning, I only feed it from a bowl. If the puppy stops eating, I immediately take the bowl away and so we are beginning to communicate with each other. “I do not want to eat, take the bowl” says the dog to the handler. Gradually, I put some of the food on the track or I feed it during the obedience from hand. I have to say that this is absolutely working for me and my dogs always excelled in being greedy :-). If I have a period, when I am training intensely, I divide the whole meal and feed it during the training.
Is being ravenous same thing as being hungry?
I really do not think that ravenous = being hungry. From my experience, a hungry dog is nervous and rushes. It has been proved that stress reduces the scenting abilities in dogs and by that the performance of the dog on the track is reduced. A dog, who is at ease, will be picking the treats up even a few hours after he/she has been fed. Of course, I am not saying that it’s good to overfeed the dog and then go tracking :-).
Would it be possible to generalize some of the predispositions for tracking in some of the breeds?
I saw a Dachshund, Prague Rattler and many other breeds working on sport tracks. I was very pleasantly surprised by Giant Schnauzers at last year’s selection tracking trials. Rottweilers or Boxer dogs are also excellent tracking dogs. I would not be trying to look for the difference in the breed 🙂
How and where do you enjoy tracking the most? Do you prefer being alone or with someone else?
I love practical tracking and it is the best done at night time when the track runs through the forest, I do not know the course of the track and we will find the track layer at the end. But when I am doing sports tracks, I definitely enjoy it more as a part of the team. We just pull the chairs and tables out, prepare a buffet, lay the tracks, chat, and work the tracks… 🙂
Opinions on tracks laid by other people differ. Some people say that someone else’s track is easier than a track laid by the handler and that you do not need to train tracking on tracks laid by other people much… What do you think?
As far as sports tracks are concerned, I prefer laying my own tracks. This is mainly for practical reasons – I do not need anyone else :-), but it’s also because I want to know exactly where the track is. Of course, before the exam or competition I want to practise on someone else’s track. Mainly because of the articles, but also because of me and the behaviour of the handler on the track. When the handler does not know the course of the track, it is always a bit different. We adapt our behaviour without realizing it if we know where the corners or articles are, and the dog is very receptive to this kind of behaviour. That’s why I recommend to everybody to try tracking their own track with the dog blindfolded. We are trying this sometimes with good dogs in training and the nervousness and insecurity of the handlers are quite obvious :-).
I am also interested in your opinion on using the full length of the tracking line on training tracks. Yes or no, when and how?
Again, tracking training has certain phases of teaching. I personally want to get to the 10 meters on the line as soon as possible and I am also trying to convince people I train with about this. The dog is very aware of the angle of tracking line and even of the distance you are moving behind him/her. In order for the dog handler to know how the dog works with his nose and to praise him at the right moment, we use an assistant who gives instructions to the handler through the agreed signals. If I’m tracking on my own, I do sometimes shorten the tracking line so I can better communicate with the dog and respond more effectively to the situation.
What do you think about influencing a dog by tracking line or by voice in training? This of course cannot be done at exams and competitions. Preparation in training should simulate conditions of the trials – so what is your opinion on that, Jaroslav?
This is one of the most frequent questions in my workshops and my answer is as follows. When you train obedience, do you praise your dog? Do you motivate him by a reward to get the desired outcome? Definitely yes – and it is the same in tracking. Everything has its own phases of training. When I train tracking, I am above all trying to explain by voice what I want my dog to do and I use treats in each footprint to make it clear to the dog. So to simplify my explanation, at the beginning I am praising my dog when he is eating treats in footprints and by slight correction I am convincing the dog to check in every footprint. In next training phase, I praise him checking even the footprints where there is no treat. So I don´t use treats as a reward, for me they are just means how to check each footprint. The main reward is praise.
Do you have any special recipes for treats used in tracking? There are some recipes for various “cakes” that repel insects etc.
The ants on the track are definitely a problem. To deal with them when I am at the stage where I am putting minimum of treats, I use bacon or special dry dog food which does not attract the ants. If I need to put a lot of treats on the track and the ants go even for dry food, I don’t go tracking at all and rather train obedience and protection.
“Special dry food” not attracting the ants??? Will you tell us the brand? 🙂
I very often use “Platinum”.
Jaroslav, will you, please, explain to us in which direction should the marker be placed in the ground – where the “flag” should be pointed to? There are sometimes speculations about that…
Start of the track is always marked to the left of the scent pad. The IPO track is always laid in a straight line, perpendicular to the marker surface. Track according to the Czech National trial rules can be laid in a deviation of up to 45 degrees to each side. It is similar when a “flag” is used, the surface of it is decisive. I recommend putting the “flag” in a direction and to the left of the track so it’s not in dog’s way.
What about the scent squares? When to use them and when not?
To be honest, I don´t use them :-). I don´t have anything against them in principle, but I prefer laying a straight track right away. It is true, that laying for example 200 paces long track with treat in every footprint is quite demanding – and I think that is a major problem. Many people will soon skip putting the treats in every footprint, or they will go back to the scent squares that are not so strenuous.
What kinds of terrains should be puppies and young dogs trained on?
I am trying to find the ideal terrain to see each footprint and thus to correct the dog. So a sappy green meadow where the track is still visible even the next day. 🙂
Do you go tracking with your dogs when it is raining or snowing?
I certainly don´t avoid the rain, but I don´t look for it either. Not that my dogs would mind the rain, but I simply cannot fully enjoy tracking in the rain. When there is a little bit of snow cover on the ground, I am using it especially for training cross tracks and scent crosses.
In your opinion, is it better to train indication on articles as a separate exercise outside the track? If so, why? Or is it good just for some dogs?
It is a difficult question for me, because I don´t have much experience with that. I am training indication on articles right on the track as soon as the dog knows “Down” command and is confident on the track. However, I would certainly teach articles separately to those dogs, who do not for some reason cooperate regarding articles. Teaching articles away from the track is good in my opinion for teaching concentration on the article and because the exercise can be repeated more often, the dog understands it quickly. Focus on the article and concentration on the track before the command, that is, I think, where the evaluation of tracking is going to be directed in the future.
Could you, please, as a judge describe to us what should start of the track look like, I mean before reporting in? Should the dog already have a tracking line on for reporting in or not? That is the most frequently asked question by team leaders at all World Championships…
The handler goes to report in to the judge with a dog who has a tracking line already on and it is unrolled to the full extent. The tracking line does not have to be in the position used for working the track, and dog should be heeling on the slack line. The handler adjusts the tracking line to the position for tracking after reporting in, approximately 1-2 metres in front of the scent pad, where the dog has to stand or sit, down position is incorrect. The dog must start tracking on command, not on the body language. In the new IGP trial rules, there is also a possibility of starting the track on the move, but again the dog has to react to the command.
How far from the scent pad is usually the judge standing for reporting in?
As far as I know, this is fully within the competence of the judge. I do it, so I am not in the handler’s and his/her dog’s way after reporting in and that I already have a good view of the dog to start judging. I am especially interested in dog´s confidence before the performance.
Jaroslav, will you reveal to us any of your tracking tricks?
I won’t – I don´t have any. 🙂
Do you carry treats for tracking in your pockets or in a special bag? Do you wear special clothes when tracking, different from those used in other disciplines?
In training, I am generally using training vests that have to meet my requirements and I have to feel really well wearing them. The best training vest for summer is for me a light vest from “Z Polytanu” company, which could be already purchased in the Czech Republic on Guamani website.
Yes, I also have it and it is perfect for tracking. 🙂 What about the tracking articles, how do you handle them? Do you keep them on you to get the scent on them? Do you have your own articles?
I am using various types of articles, practical ones as well as articles required by the trial rules. However, I am trying not to use any of them for too long and get new ones after a while. I recommend to everybody not to keep all the articles on one place. It is important that the tracklayer´s scent is the only identical scent for all articles, not a scent of e.g. the surrounding where the articles are stored.
Jaroslav, you are not only a seasoned handler, you are also a judge – how did you become a judge? 🙂 Which trials have you judged so far and what is awaiting you in 2018?
I think it was around 2012, when Mr. Luboš Jánský asked me if I were not thinking about becoming a judge. I have to admit I didn´t think about it at all before that. When I arrived home, I counted the number of passed exams that are necessary for applying and found out I met the requirements. So I filled in my application form and started to prepare. I asked a few judges if they would not mind having me around during the trials and exams to get the opportunity to learn from them. I would like to thank Luboš Jánský once again for preparing me for the judge´s tests. He is still my teacher.
I know that the ČKS representatives do not like to hear that 1st class judge is judging competitions on regional level, but for me those trials are great challenge and lessons learned that help me to improve. Judging competitions is completely different to judging exams, there is much more pressure put on you from the audience and competitors, because every point makes the difference. 🙂 I am therefore very grateful for being regularly invited to judge the biggest regional trials in Liberec and Hradec Králové regions. To name them, Liberec Cup and Jaroměř Cup are both trials with IPO3 category where many top handlers are participating.
As for national championships, I judged together with Martin Matoušek the RTW Nationals in 2017 and IPO-FH qualifier with Jiří Lasík. I have to say I really enjoyed both trials and it was great to be there.
This year, I was delegated to judge tracking in IPO selection trial as well as Belgian Shepherd Nationals and I am finishing the season judging the Czech Nationals in IPO-FH.
The year 2018 seems to be the most interesting one for you as a judge, is that so?
It is certainly a big challenge and I feel a great responsibility. But I am looking forward to it very much.
What don´t you like on tracking as a judge? What are the most frequent mistakes the handlers are making over and over again?
I am absolutely against stamping the footprints in when laying the tracks, because I am convinced that this is eliminating the differences between performances of the dogs. I would not be against lightly stamping the ground when the terrain is extremely heavy, so that the entire competition is not devalued, but I definitely don’t tolerate it on the standard terrain and under normal weather conditions. I totally agree with Martin Pejša on this, who spoke about it during the interview here at ProfiDOG, and as Martin described it very aptly, I would just be repeating it. The news on the television from the FCI IPO WCH in Roudnice in 2013 always comes to my mind when we are talking about this topic. It began with the words: “There are blokes walking on the fields strangely stamping the ground at the surroundings of Roudnice.”
As far as handler’s mistakes are concerned, I try to evaluate the performance of the dog and the handler in front of the spectators in both competitions and exams. This is how I am trying to get into the trial participants minds how the handler should behave on the track and also how the dog’s work should look. I’m also very pleased, when I manage to convince people not to be afraid to go and watch tracking at the events from a place where they do not interfere with the work of the dog, but they still have a good view of the working team. Unfortunately, people still have this thing in their minds that the spectators are not welcome at tracking – I am trying to change this.
On the other hand, what performances will please you?
If I see a happy dog and a happy handler during my evaluation.
What are you willing to forgive as a judge and what you never will forgive?
When judging, I am able to forgive a minor mistake if my overall feeling from the exercise is excellent. What I will never forgive is, when I see that the dog is working under pressure from the handler or if the handler tries to cheat.
Do you remember any funny moments from tracking? 🙂
I judged tracking of one of my friends in the past. She is known to be very nervous in front of the judges. So to calm her down, we were chatting when coming to the scent pad. However, she could not remember her dog´s name when it came to reporting in. I managed to keep my poker face and helped her with the name. But when she told me that her female is indicating the articles by barking, I couldn’t hold it anymore and burst out laughing. Greetings, Pavla! 🙂
Jaroslav, do you also have a different hobby apart from tracking? Is it actually possible to have other interests when you are involved in top dog sport?
Each judge who is training dogs, goes to work and has a family, knows exactly what the answer is. Yes, it is very, really very time consuming. I had probably one free weekend last year. It is the right place to say thank you to my wife who is supporting me, even though it is hard for her. She also trains dogs, she has two German Boxer females and 8-month-old GSD female, she regularly participates in the Czech Nationals of Boxer Dogs, and she has qualified for the FH World Championship of Boxer Dogs twice. I sometimes do hear from her though: “And when are you going to have some time for me?”
So it is quite difficult with other hobbies. I used to be a member of amateur theatre and I really loved that. We like to go to Prague for musical or theatre at least twice a year. In the summer, we often have barbecue with our friends. I and my wife love mushrooming and I keep budgies for pleasure. I am trying to do some gardening and grow vegetables. And we sometimes go skiing with the children in winter
What life values do you consider important?
I really like when people are positive :-).
Do you have a life motto?
The more people is celebrating your success with you, the bigger your victory is.
Do you have a message for our readers?
Enjoy moments when you can do what you like. Treasure every moment when you can be with people you love.
…and for the handlers doing tracking and competitors participating in tracking trials? 🙂
Message for the tracking handlers? For many years, there was a really lovely tradition at the Czech National Championship of Tracking Dogs. This tradition was usually led by Jarda Hartl. I´ve heard that this tradition has been neglected for the last few years. So let this tradition be reborn in 2018! I am sure that those concerned know what I mean… 🙂
Thank you very much for the interview! I wish you the best in training and judging, let everything go to plan! 🙂
Translation: Markéta Braierová
Photo: Terka Vajnerová