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April 20, 2014: Dog Training: I Believe in Many Dogs

I decided to resume doing K-9 search and rescue work because I had begun feeling a bit disconnected from Ryder. It’s sort of a juggling act, pay attention to the horses and the dogs get neglected. Or, pay attention to the dogs and the horses get neglected. Time, I decided to pick up the dog ball and toss it high in the air. This is exactly what I did. This was a tough thing to do because I am quite sore from yesterday’s fall. My lower back is bruised, but hey, my legs are working. Also, it was a bright, beautiful day, with temperatures in the 50s.

Today Pete and I went out to Nicolas Park, near the Hay Flats, for a formal K-9 training. A good number of the group

members were there. This surprised me because it was Easter. I finally realized most attending must, like me, be Pagans. God is dog backwards, right? So rather than their being many gods, there are instead many dogs.

I first followed Lisa and Big “Jaws of Life” Mac. Aaron, who is a big guy, was her subject. The dog, a young lab, is very ebullient – in fact, so much so that I stay out of his way. I think it’s an age thing – I didn’t used to worry about being bowled over by overly energetic dogs, but I do now. He also has an ear piercing, toothy bark. But I must say, he’s doing really well at search and rescue work. He found Aaron all three times, and very quickly. I was impressed.

In appearance and manner, Ryder is a contrast to Jaws. She’s small, quiet, moves slowly, and in what appears to be a very thoughtful manner. I have had my doubts about her cutting it as a search and rescue dog because she doesn’t appear to have Mack’s high drive or enthusiasm. I think that as she ages, she’s going to become even more serious than she already is.

Leah was my subject, Stacey Re and Aaron followed. Leah cut a long path through the brush (seems like I’m always going through brush) and Ryder, after being given the search command, took off – she didn’t go fast, like Mack, but rather moved in a very purposeful manner. She went down trail – came to some brambles on the side. She then elected to go around the piles, and after picked up Leah’s scent. Ryder zoned in on Leah, went to her then after I tapped Leah on the shoulder, began tugging hard on her come along rope.

The second time around, Ryder started out okay, but then she stopped to do what in the search and dog world is called “crittering.” Crittering is when a dog stops and begins sniffing, nose down. Stacey explained to me that I need to get her back on trail when she does this by saying (perhaps) “on trail,” or “leave it.” Or if I must, pull her away from the distraction.

Very important. I am not supposed to get ahead of Ryder. She must, when on lead, be ahead of me at all times. I could have cast about; that is, had Ryder go in a large circle, if say, she failed to pick up on the correct scent. I didn’t have to cast – she went straight to Leah – it was like she was saying “Oh yeah, this is what I need to do. Leah then rewarded her the same way as before.

Stacey Re wisely said that two runs were enough. This was because Ryder’s attention appeared to be wavering the second time around. I was pleased because it appeared to me that Ryder is getting it, meaning, she is figuring out the search and rescue game. This time, we increased the distance, and she had no problem finding the subject.

After, while waiting for the others to finish, I practiced with her on sit, stay, and come. This was in a distracting environment. There were other people and dogs around. She did amazingly well and broke too soon just once. I called her and had her come anyways.

Then a handful of us went to the Palmer Alehouse and had Easter dinner. It seems like reverse logic to me – the dogs (who did all the work) should be the one’s eating out, and the rest of us should remain in the car.

I must say, a very good day, a very good practice.

Next: 111. 4/21/14: Manure Management: Spring has Sprung