Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Laev Learns a New Skill!

It isn't often that I get to see Laev stumped or apprehensive. Getting to see both at once was quite unusual.

Laev had never really been swimming. She enjoys splashing in wading pools and shallow bodies of water, but she hadn't had opportunity to swim in deep water. I wanted her to learn, as the weather grew warmer, how to immerse herself. There's a pond beside our Schutzhund field, so after training on Saturday I enlisted the help of a partner and went to experiment.

I'd let Laev wade in before, after a turn at bitework. She went in fully, slipping accidentally into the deep water and beginning to swim. She turned and came back to shore, probably surprised that the ground had left, but I saw no real signs of panic or stress. She swam well enough, no splashing. I supposed she understood the concepts involved.

I put a long line on Laev, left her on the long side of the oblong pond and circled it so that she had the narrow angle to cross to reach me. I called her and Laev raced down the slope and made a dramatic flying leap into the water. Water splashed up around her like a thrilling movie scene. Laev spun and swam back to her bank, startled by what she'd done. After that, she tried circling the pond to reach me, but my partner blocked her with the long line. Laev began to grow frantic, unable to reach me.

Okay, time to try something else. I went back to my car (listening to Laev bark in frustration and stress) and returned with a second long line. I walked it around the pond and left the snap end, returning to my shore. My partner walked Laev to the line and attached it, so that now we had two lines on her collar. I moved toward the end of the pond, so that Laev could shoot across the narrow, shallow edge, and called her. She came, just bounding through the water, and was thrilled to reach me.

So she wasn't afraid of the water; she just wasn't sure what to do with it, despite her accidental swim earlier. I tied the two long lines together and took her back to my partner. We returned to our original points, Laev on one side, me on the other, with the combined long lines stretching across the pond between us. I called Laev, who descended to the water's edge and hesitated. I held the lines, making sure they weren't tight (I didn't want to drag her across!) but simply blocking her from trying to circle. She also now could see a line leading to me across the surface of the water.

Laev barked and finally struck out across the pond. I cheered her on wildly as she swam -- badly, her head high and her paws splashing water everywhere. She reached me and I gave her several dozen hot dog slivers and then her favorite tug toy.

We tried again, hoping she'd be more confident this time. No hesitation! but her swimming was still ugly. But just as she reached my side, she seemed to right herself in the water; perhaps she was reaching for where she knew the footing to be and therefore was more level in the water? I let her finish the hot dogs and carry her toy back to the car; that was enough for one day. She can work out swimming details another time.

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