While most parents cart their children all over town to tap dance, gymnastics and football, I signed my little precious up for her first lesson in the rules of field trial/hunt tests today. We drove out to Frazeysburg, Oh (where???) and met with Mitch White of Gamekeepers Retrievers for our lesson. Mitch is very well known throughout the state of Ohio in the arena of field training.
So off we drove to Deliverance - literally. The last 5 miles to the house was on a gravel road, and the last intersection to get to the gravel road was marked as "Dangerous Intersection", and that it was. Good thing there are no other cars on the road to Deliverance...anyway, she did awesome for her first lesson. Here are some of our homework assignments for the next month:
1) "hold" - she has to learn to have a very "soft" mouth to hold the birds she retrieves. This is accomplished through a series of exercises where I stick my hand in her mouth and force her to "mouth", hold my hand without biting it and release when I say give. She is somewhat confined while this is done - attached to something similar that you would see at a groomer. Not her favorite, but she got it toward the end. A little bit of practice and she will have it down. I took one thumb chomp tonight and decided I was not too into that, so we have to work on getting this down - quickly.
2) Line Drills - throwing a bumper toy in succession. By throwing the toy in succession, she will learn to bypass the scent of the previous throw, which will be a critical skill down the road as she learns to retrieve multiple birds in one hit.
3) Y line drills - same concept as above, only the bumpers go in different directions. This is to get them used to going in different directions in one hit. If we seriously pursue this, at some point down the road in a trial, 2-4 birds will be thrown and she will have to remember where they are. She struggled a little with this, but always found the bumper and brought it right back.
4) Whistle response - I need to get a whistle (like I used to have when I refereed soccer) and teach her to respond to some basic whistle commands. One whistle means sit, three means come. She was getting that toward the end of the session today. Food rewards should help this command easily and quickly.
One other thing that was very positive in all this was her response (or lack thereof) to gunshots. Yes, gunshots - when you live in Deliverance, no one can hear the shots! They were of course blanks, but he shot that gun off while she was running to retrieve the bumper and she never broke stride. We will see if that continues, but that was a very big hurdle to climb over initially.
Most important, she had FUN. His property is quite unique, with lots of GREAT smells - she came across some bird scents before the field, and was just having a grand old time. Mitch walked away with all the training bumpers, which was very confusing to her initially, but she got the "game" of Mitch throwing it, me releasing her and her bringing the bumper back (and handing it right to me!) very quickly. All of her natural instincts were on display today, and I was very happy to see her just loving the environment.
So, in addition to her weave poles, rear crosses and distance work of agility, we can now add the above drills. Hopefully, they will go well and she continues to have fun. Our next lesson will probably be sometime in early December. I was very proud of my little retriever tonight!!!