I trained 2 dogs in water rescue training this summer: Skimmer (my 4 yo male Leonberger) and Karma (a friend’s 8 yo female). Each dog tested my patience and training abilities in unique ways…
Skimmer: I actually started out only training Karma; as far as Skimmer, I figured that I would spend the whole summer teaching him that jumping from the boat is fun. Last year, Skimmer could do all the advanced Water Rescue Dog (WRD) skills except… jumping. He’d dance, kiss the rower, hunker down on the platform, cry and thump his tail, but he simply refused to jump.
So after a couple months of “happy jumping” he was looking good and in mid-August I thought I’d give the Sept. trials a shot. I turned in my entry form. About then we had some doggy guests stay with us (Yay for awesome GSPs Penny & Pepper!) and since Penny loved chasing a tennis ball I spent much of their visit throwing the ball in the backyard. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I’m pretty sure that doomed Skimmer in the water; after Penny’s and Pepper’s visit, Skimmer decided that, since I was throwing him the ball on land, he could ignore jumping off the boat and there’d be no negative consequences. He stopped jumping… nada. I’m 3 weeks from the test and he won’t budge!
What to do!?! Time for the big guns, no more playing. With the help of Newfy friends we did a crash course in mandatory jumping: 1 – 2 – 3 and off the boat you go, Skimmer! With just a couple days left before the test I still wasn’t sure. My little boy came through, jumping like a … ok… not really good jumping but he at least did it, and passed his test with a near perfect performance. Phwew!
Karma: and then there’s Karma… Karma of the “I’m old enough to do what I want when I want” age. Karma was perfect by the end of the summer and the only thing I was nervous about was land exercises – she would look for her real owner and give me the cold shoulder. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the land that gave us fits – it was the Drop Retrieve. The first two days she would bring the cushion within 5′ of me and drop it… and give me a dirty look like “nope, I want to stay in the water, it ain’t coming any closer”. After the test the judge gave me some insights: be softer with her, don’t give too many forceful commands. Alright, worth a try.
Last day rolls around. The judge was right: this last day, I was nicer and happier in my commands and Karma brought that lifejacket so close, so temptingly close, and dropped it about 1/4″ from my hand. Aaaarrrggghhhh, so close – time for “anything goes”: I cajoled, I hyped her up, I commanded, she’d pick up the lifejacket and get it caught on her paw and it would slingshot back to the ground… it seemed like forever… one last try “take it! Karma”… she picked it up and I snatched that jacket so quick she didn’t have time to drop it. The judges call? PASS! And with that, and one minor scare with Take-a-Line, we passed the rest of the test. I was exhausted and out of breath and happy as could be. Karma earned her title but she worked it!