I’ve spent the last week thinking about how to write about Tooey’s successes and failures in the hunt test game. She ran 6 hunt tests in April: one almost pass, one spectacular pass, one failure in a very difficult test, and 3 utter failures.
I went to watch the last two hunt tests. It looked to me like every ounce of enthusiasm had been wrung out of her. She marked the birds’ falls well, but barely moved out at a trot, avoided water (which is amazing, considering how much she has loved water in the past — see here, here, and here), and gave up hunting way too early. This after 5 long months of training.
And it means I’ve got some thinking to do. Maybe this just isn’t Tooey’s game. If this is the case, then I need to find something else for us to do together. But going this route wouldn’t be easy for me. Because this is a game I want to play. I’ve been watching Russ and Cooper for 1.5 years now, and I’ve been waiting for my turn.
So maybe it’s something else. Some folks have suggested that the problem is that her hunt training was done using an e-collar. But I don’t think that’s it. I watched that training, and I could see that the pro used the collar carefully and fairly. I could also see that Tooey understood that she could turn it off and didn’t resent it.
I think the problem is that she’s not a kennel dog. During the first 6 weeks of her training, I was asked not to visit. During the next 8 weeks, I attended her trainings, watching and learning at least once a week. Those 8 weeks were a joy. I saw 125 yard marks, 200 yard blinds, and happy splashing through the water-filled ditches. I saw her find her birds, pick them up, and deliver to hand.
During the last 6 weeks, though, she was in California with the pro, so I didn’t get to see her at all. And during that time, her performance steadily diminished. My working theory is that that is the problem: she was away from home and away from me.
So — what to do now?
I’m going to try to do it myself. Russ will help. My main goal right now is to rebuild the enthusiasm, and I think a rewards-based program is the way to go. Tooey has always been a “what’s in it for me?” type of girl. Plus she has always l-o-v-e-d food and attention. I think we may stand a chance if I can firmly associate in her mind success in the work with food payments and “adoration therapy.”
Russ made a little video of our early steps this past week. I think I see some enthusiasm here: