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May 23, 2014: Dog Training: Human Problem Solving

Formal search and rescue training was held this morning at the edge of the Palmer Hay Flats. Pete and I were late because we’ve been burning the candle at both ends. Yesterday evening I worked late in the garden and then took the dogs for a late evening walk. This morning, at 4 a.m. Pete heard squealing in the horse enclosure. He got up and gave them some hay, which put an end to that. However, I was not able to get to sleep because by then it was light out.

We were late; however, we didn’t have to wait long for practice. Vicki Parks was Ryder and my support, person and Kathy Day was Ryder and my subject. We did

Lisa and Ryder

three short runs, going down a trail like path, each time Kathy hopping off into the brush.

I have to say that Ryder now knows what trailing is all about. The first time she easily found Kathy. The second time we overshot the jump off point into the brush, but Ryder did double back and find her. And the third time Ryder found her without hesitating or stopping. Problem was, the final time she came within a few feet of Kathy and refused to go up to her. This means that technically, she didn’t find the subject. I felt bit discouraged about this since this time I did everything right.

I later mentioned to Stacey Re that I wanted to do another session, this time with a differing subject and support person. My rationale was that I needed to know if Ryder was having an off day or just didn’t like this particular subject. She agreed that we should do another go-round.

This time, Stacey was the support person and Lisa Jeager was the subject. Turns out that my idea was a good one. We did two problems at the field’s edge. Both times Ryder bounded off and found Lisa, without missing a beat. Stacey Re mentioned after that I could have slowed down on the second problem – what I didn’t tell her was that I moved quickly in order to keep Ryder energized.

It is difficult, actually impossible, to know exactly what’s going on in any dog’s mind, much less a search and rescue dog’s mind. I do think that Ryder does best with upbeat subjects who actively work to get her to play. And it could very well be that she remembers subjects that are more lackluster, and acts accordingly. If this is so, then she’s a very smart dog. If there is an upside to this, it’s that I can now specifically tell subjects what to do and what not to do when Ryder’s concluding a search. I think my being more specific is going to help Ryder immeasurably.

Next: 144. 5/25/14: Horse Sense: Eklutna Lake