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February 26, 2014: Dog Training: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Turn Pro

Today Pete and I went over to Mat-Su College and met up with search and rescue teammate Kathy Day. We checked out the possibility of there being a dog training session on Saturday. There are woods and trails behind the school, and also residential streets and residences. We decided that this area would be ideal.

And since we were there, we did an informal training session. First Ryder did a bit of foundational training, with Kathy being the subject. We tried something new – we put Kathy’s beefy dog treats in a toy ball, so as to get Ryder interested in finding her subject. This worked – sort

of. Ryder both ground and air scented Kathy, and the first two times went for the toy. The third time out she again ground and air scented Kathy, but after finding her, showed little interest in playing tug of war. This, I noted, was in line with her previous behavior.

Kathy and I simultaneously decided that I’d next be the subject. The first time I was in sight, so she raced right over to me. (Now that I think of this, this at the very least indicates good recall, which was something we were previously lacking.) The second time I hid behind a snow berm. She air scented, and again found me. I rewarded her with a long tug session when she did this. I still don’t think that Ryder yet has any more than what she’s been given, that is the varied pieces of a puzzle. (Assembled, it is probably going to resemble the Eiffel Tower.) But I’m okay with this. The knowledge needed to put the pieces in the right place will come in time.

I’m trying to keep track of what is and isn’t going on because I do think that one day, good old Ryder is going to experience the so called Aristotle-based click of recognition. All this is also going to be good subject matter for my book on how border collies think. I do not know if the way border collies think is similar to the way in which other breeds think. However, my insights as well as those who I will interview will be useful to owners of dogs of various breeds.

Pete took off down-trail when Kathy was working with me and Ryder. My job was to follow Kathy, who was following her dog Tara. Pete’s directives to me as to where he was going were somewhat sketchy – as he later explained, he thought I knew the area better than I did. So, I wasn’t, when Kathy, Tara, and I took off, sure about the exact whereabouts of where he was going.

Tara got off to a very good start. A few hundreds down trail she did as she was supposed to do, and veered off the main trail, right, onto a side trail. We meandered along, and finally came back out on the main trail. We eventually came to a “T” – it was my thinking that Tara should continue straight in the direction of where Pete had said he’d be, that is on an observation deck. Instead, Tara turned to the left, clearly indicating to her owner/handler that this was the direction that she should go in. I who was dubious said no to Kathy and suggested that we instead go straight, which was what we all did. Tara tried really hard to be cooperative, but in a very polite way (a repeated turn of her head) let her owner know that she was off track. After going another quarter of a mile I suggested that we return to the trail intersection, which we did. Tara then headed back down trail – this time in a more animated fashion. She veered off trail to check out a picnic table area, then seconds later got back on trail. It was then that we heard Rainbow’s distinctive throaty bark. We all, including Tara, looked to the left. Pete, Rainbow, and Jenna were on the deck.

Tara’s actions were very impressive. I later told Kathy that this was real life. She was initially given directions by someone (me) who acted like they knew what they were talking about. This could easily occur on a search. Like me, most people think they know more than their dogs do. This (I learned) can be erroneous thinking. I added “you just have to trust this dog!”

I would like to think that someday Ryder and I will be able to do what Kathy and Tara are doing. We’ll see. If so, we’ll have a good time together. And if not, we’ll still have a good time together.

Next: 58. 2/27/14: Making Progress