Filled with belief in the future, self-confidence and gung ho, all ready to take the next step, I returned to Tomas at Knektagården for another visit to Flush school. It had been 2-3 weeks since our last visit. It was time to add a flushing to the hunting. Considering how well the other two lessons went – Quling’s progress line had been going more or less straight up – I was looking forward to moving ahead and pictured him flushing so well and then stopping short.
I am not normally a person in denial. Sure, I can be a bit distracted and unfocused sometimes;) but normally I can put two and two together, my ability to come to conclusions is pretty decent and I love to analyze things. This makes writing this a bit difficult.
Because it didn’t turn out anything like I’d thought. It was suddenly INCREDIBLY hard to sit down as a bird flushed. I immediately started to worry. Was his tummy issues back? He was a little off yesterday, wasn’t he? Hadn’t he been a bit hard to reach for the last few days?
We had to back, back, back way up in the training. This lesson actually ended up back in square one. Sure, we got some good repetitions in too. But it was striking how unsteady and inaccessible Quling was throughout the lesson. He ran far too wide – and not just when hunting a bird, but he’d take off out of the blue and suddenly be 200 yards away from me.
It took me the whole lesson figure out why this happened.
Life with Quling is full of long lines and not getting to be off leash on our walks. I can’t give him an inch of freedom in the woods, because then I have a dog that starts hunting and disappears, literally, behind the nearest bush and is gone. There is so much hunting in him that if I let him out in my garden, he jumps over the fence and hunts like a maniac. He also uses running to vent if he feels pressured. He just runs like a maniac, straight ahead and I don’t have a chance to stop him. I don’t even have a chance to react. So, I use a long line at all times, or make sure to be in a fenced area when training. Not least now, because here in Sweden dogs aren’t allowed to run off leash during the months when wildlife is having babies. I’ve also worked on his recall a lot. I’ve worked on the stop whistle and I have worked on making me more interesting when we are out together. I have worked with our contact and our cooperation in different ways. And things have most certainly improved! We haven’t had any real disasters in a long time.
But just over a week ago we had a huge setback. Which I was in complete denial about. I had the flu and three bored dogs. I dragged myself to a place where I sometimes train, a large field intended for dog training, which is fenced with sheep fence, and sat down in the middle of the meadow and let the dogs run around me. The others are both very obedient and stay close and if I am not near any shrubbery, Quling usually also stays close, sniffing for field mice. But what happened next was that Quling bolted. He found a hole in the fence (he’s done that before, so I should’ve expected that to happen) and it took me ten minutes to get him back. After this incident, he’s completely stuck on all the birds on our usual morning walk – something I’ve also worked on getting rid of – and he basically just runs around as much as he can on leash.
Thus, this lesson and how it went really shouldn’t have been a surprise at all. The only odd thing was my denial of what had happened, not altering the training after the fact…
Before the next training session, I’ll take him out on a long line and challenge him with difficult throws and a lot of “hunting games” where he has to control himself, especially when moving away from me. I will also work on my stop whistle, which is my emergency brake when nothing else works.
It’s ever so sad and boring with such a huge setback, but I’ll get him back to where we were before. Then we’ll move on from there with more difficult challenges.
Here’s a compilation of all the repetitions from the third session. You’ll see us going back to pure obedience training with a thrown dummy occasionally in order for him to be successful with the task.
I have to laugh at Tomas and my conversation at the end where I can’t find words for how I see Quling. I end up saying that he’s “full of life”. And that’s right! He is pretty crazy and makes me pull my hair a lot, but I also laugh out loud every time we train together. He really is full of life! For better or worse. 😉