This was a busy weekend with Orchid. At over three and a half years of age, Orchid is becoming a beautiful, gentle dog with her own special personality. Yesterday, Orchid and I went to Fun Field Day with the Keystone Labrador Retriever Club. It was a lovely day: a great day to spend with friends and the dogs we all love.
The day started off well. Orchid and I went up for our turn at the land retrieve. Orchid has very good manners, waiting quietly until the “gun” blasts and she is sent to retrieve the bird. She did well on running out to get the duck and coming right back and delivering it to my hand. Good job, Orchid. Repeat. I was very happy with her performance.
She had another practice session on the land retrieves before the focus moved to the water. Last time we practiced at this location, she had not liked the edges of this particular pond. It’s very muddy and soft. Again, we went to our spot. The gun went off, the bird thrown and I sent her to retrieve. Well, that didn’t go well. She started out, objected to the mud and turned around to come back. I tried again. She then decided to trot on the pond bank to see if she could find a better spot. Not ideal, but, it was something. There was no spot that met her expectations, so she turns and thought it might be time to head back to the car. So, I trotted after her and caught her by the collar and led her back to the pond. At that point, I decided I really needed to convince her to go in. I refuse to be harsh. She is a good dog and deserves kindness. So, we both went in. I immediately sunk to my knees in the smelly, nasty mud. That was all it took. She swam out and successfully completed her retrieve. I miraculously made it out of the pond, very glad no one had a camera.
I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing after that. It wasn’t. I continued to have to convince her to go in the water for several more tries. She made improvements for sure. My pride was damaged, my shoes and jeans were soaked, but we got through it and I try to remember that dogs are not robots. They have their likes and dislikes and she did everything else I asked her to do that day.
Today was a different activity. It was a Rally Obedience competition. It was Orchid’s first try at a Rally Excellent course. I always get apprehensive, sure that we did not train often enough or hard enough. I need not have been worried. Orchid was amazing, going through the tough course with ease. Many of the dogs before her had gotten distracted, but she was right on target going through the pattern of obstacles. She won her class! I am always proud of my dogs. In this case, I was also a bit proud of myself for making the right decision at the pond to work WITH my dog and not use aversive methods to make her do my bidding. In the long run, it paid off; I got her in the pond and I still had a trusting, happy dog to show the following day.