It's Not All About the Puppy Breath (Pt. 2)
Gracie in Training
Three months later and Gracie is still away being trained. As a doggy mom, I am furious because I have missed three months of my puppies cute and quick growth. She was teething the last time I saw her and now, she will have a full set of teeth. She was so little when she left and the next time I see her, she will be almost full grown. Am I being selfish for feeling cheated? As a puppy parent, I don't want to miss those moments but I also don't want to be self-absorbed and prevent her from fulfilling her desire to retrieve. I don't understand the sacrifice that I, as a puppy mom, had to give up because who purchases a dog "TO RETRIEVE DUCKS?" I am going to be honest with you, I don't get it, probably won't and most likely never will. I've been allowed one visit, and very few pictures since she left and yet since this process began, each day that the sun rises and falls, that brings me one day closer to her coming home for good. In spite of it all, I know her journey was worth my sacrifice of heartfelt tears. Although I am not an avid hunter, it makes this mom proud to know that each step that she blazes through makes her a stronger, better duck retriever.
The dog hunting training involves various stages and despite my knowledge for them all, I will try to explain them to you as best as I can. If you get the chance to start them early, it usually starts with the puppy head start. This is the foundation that you build for their introduction. By introduction, I mean "EVERYTHING" that you can introduce them to—people, noises, places, different surroundings, etc... We started Gracie off here from the start so this was a step that she did not have to take. We got lucky with Gracie. She was a social dog from the beginning so we knew that was not our main focus. Our challenge were things loud and noisy like lawn mowers, weed eaters, four wheelers and blowers. Those noises scared her to death and that brought out the fear of what hunters would call "GUN SHY." Not a good trait to have in a hunting dog. My heart knew that she wasn't, however, her dad feared that she was too timid and would be best fit as an expensive house pet. Me, as a proud puppy mom, had no problem with that theory, however, I knew that was not what my husband wanted. I tested that theory one night on July 4th during a fireworks show and I saw a dog not timid to loud bangs just noises that she wasn't use to. The way I see it, I may not be a hunter but the last time I checked, I could still see. In my eyes, she already was the perfect hunting dog. She had passion, she had the desire and she had the need to please. She may have been skittish of some things but the one thing that she did have was "HEART." The one thing that only a mother could see.
Enjoying the Focus
Once your puppy hits those training doors, it becomes their version of boot camp. It goes from puppy basics to basic obedience on leash followed by off leash. Each progression results in more extensive training. Gracie was a pleaser so even though we didn't get to visit, her desire to please her trainer made her a good student. Within two months, she had mastered her basic obedience, e-collar and was heading into what had to be explained to me as "FORCED FETCH." Before I explain what that is, I must explain what the e-collar is all about. Don't let that fear of the word "SHOCK" scare you. It is more like a "ZAP," however, you are in control of how much current you are sending your dog so if your dog yelps when you push that button, well, my advice to you is "TURN DOWN THE DAMN CONTROL." It's your fault, not the dogs. You're the reason that your dog screamed in pain. Send just enough current to make them stop. Gracie never went above a one. This teaches them the obedience boundaries. If they do something wrong, you send that current, they stop, look, get redirected and correct their actions. Forced Fetch is all about teaching that dog to "HOLD." The dog is forced to hold that duck until they are given the command to "DROP." If they drop before the command was given, well, a pinch on the ear or the toe is administered to let them know that what they did was not what they were asked to do and it needs to be corrected. This is another painful technique for the dog. One that I never got to experience and hopefully never will. Some dogs go through it easily and others it takes a while. Gracie was one of the lucky ones. As I write this, she is heading towards field trials. What I would classify as the "FUN" part of training. The worst is over and the best is yet to come. We can now not only bring her home for a visit but we can go see her as well.
Loving the Focus
The love for any sport whether you're a dog or a human takes hours and hours of training and sacrifice. I get it. I work out, I understand the reasoning behind it. It doesn't need to be explained to me. I wish that I could have been there for every step of Gracies journey. I could have been there to experience every moment of her "BRIGHTNESS" and "SUCCESS" but I couldn't. It wasn't because I didn't want to, it was because the trainer told us that she was in a part of training that couldn't be interrupted. On a good note, she is past the hard part, it is all downhill from here. I hope that you stick around for our first visit since leaving. I am sure that you are going to enjoy that moment of house bliss, chaos, as well as training.