Over the past few months, some of my agility friends have encouraged me to explore ACK Hunt Tests with Chelsie. As all of you know by now, Chelsie is pure lab at heart - when you hold her kong ball in front of her, she enters a state of being possessed. She retrieves full force until you physically take the ball from her.
So I got in contact with a local hunt trainer some of the people from my club use, and we met with him yesterday up at a training center in near Mt. Vernon. My goal was to let him take a look at her and determine if hunt tests would be something she could have fun with. After I spoke with Mitch, the trainer, I went and got Chelsie out of the car - along with the brand new training bumper I had picked up for water retrieval. When we got out near the pond and I pulled the bumper out of my bag, she went nuts...started jumping around and getting excited. I tossed it in the water and she went flying in - completely ignoring all the duck decoys in the water. Mitch looked at me and said with the proper training ("teaching her the rules of hunt test") she would likely be able to get her junior hunt title in one weekend, and had the drive to get her senior hunt title as well. Master Hunter is the top prize, but I am not sure we will ever see that.
My goal with this whole thing is to let her try and excel in what her natural instincts are. Those natural instincts same out when they brought out a pheasant wing (wings they had clipped from training pheasants to introduce dogs to the scent) She took one whiff of that pheasant wing and went right after it. Mitch put the wing and the bumper in front of her to see which one she would go after, and it was fantastic to see her little brain processing which one she wanted.
So I think we are going to give this a try. We will probably have one lesson a month through the winter and take our test in the spring. I have a few concerns about this - first, I have to touch dead birds. Seriously? Mitch said I would get over that - I am glad he is confident about that, but I am not quite there yet. Second, they use some training methods I am not accustomed to, primarily an ear pinch if necessary. Not sure how I feel about that yet, but I am taking comfort in that Chelsie is a "soft" dog and that one ear pinch correction will be all she needs to correct whatever undesirable behavior she displays. A lot of our agility stuff will carry over, so that will be helpful. But we will see. I am hoping that me asserting myself as the alpha will limit the ear pinches necessary. I did come home with a pheasant wing in a ziplock bag, it is in my garage. A city girl like me with dead bird wing in my garage..go figure
Chelsie's party in the pond lasted 90 minutes, so I am expecting her to go to bed in a few beds today....