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OK, at last here is my week 2 homework video–late because we had another trip canoe camping in the Boundary Waters. Some important context:
After weeks of seemingly rocking the training, Mo and I have been stumbling lately. He has had numerous sessions that were very successful in both the backyard setting that we used in week one, and in this setting, which is just across the street. After the troubles we had in the yard (which I documented in the week one video), Mo did great across the street working on this week’s homework. Two sessions ago, though, Mo entered this training site, raised his nose to the breeze, and promptly ran through the site up the hill, where he chased a deer out of its bed. I eventually refocused him and he did OK finding the mushroom targets.
Then, in the session prior to this one (and immediately prior to our canoe trip), he was completely unfocused on the task at hand. I’d hoped to shoot video and submit it but captured nothing that reflected what I’d seen in the previous days. I bagged the effort, we went camping, and I vowed to return to the site after our trip. This was the first time that I’ve ever planned or tried to video and then not posted exactly what transpired, unedited.
Upon our return Mo and I went back to the site to video. He ranged widely, far beyond the area that we’ve been using for our training, and he didn’t seem to be trying to find the targets. He paid attention to songbirds, he found and sniffed up several deer beds, he paid attention to dogs being walked on the street below, and at one point he took off up the hill and into the woods. I suspect deer were the distraction again, but when I went to retrieve him I did see either a raccoon or a fat porcupine slink off through the brush. Fortunately Mo wasn’t aware of that critter, and fortunately he came back to me. (I did give him a nice reward for coming back on his own, even though he’d gone on a several minute walkabout.)
This had occurred with Mo trailing a short check cord, which I hadn’t been holding. I stepped on it when he started watching the dog being walked across the street, but he never bolted that way.
I decided to give it one last try, which resulted in the video posted here. After the previous fiasco, I held the check cord but tried hard not to put pressure on him with it (especially since at the moment I’ve been dithering over what harness to buy). He did find the targets, but not nearly as efficiently or enthusiastically as he had been a few sessions prior to this one.
I suspect that either the neighborhood whitetails have changed their movement patterns somewhat and are now passing through our training space, or that Mo has suddenly become aware of them and is now intensely distracted by them. Maybe we need to give this space a break and take it back a step or two into simpler environments, maybe even inside? He’s been doing well outside for a couple months now, first with box finds and then with partially obscured targets, both in sites he’s familiar with and at novel sites. (The sites he’s unfamiliar with have been very simple–for example, mowed grassy areas adjacent to softball fields where my daughters have had games, or highway rest stops when we’ve been traveling. I haven’t done anything when we’ve been camped in the forest in the Boundary Waters.)
I do keep reminding myself that he’s still very young (five months), that he’s done very well already, and that I’ve complicated things by doing some bird training in parallel with his mushroom training. I have confidence we’ll get back on track, but this has been a challenging week or so.
Thanks in advance for your feedback!