We realized we'd been hammering the blind search a little too hard, and she probably wasn't going to improve while we beating that particular deceased equine. So Monday night I said, "Let's do just one blind search, let her circle #5, do a hold and bark in #6 and get a bite, and then let's do something totally different."
Laev must have heard me say that we were doing only one, because she did it perfectly. :-) Prompt, speedy search, straight to me, straight to the final blind, clean hold, good bite -- all wonderful. So we set up for some close agitation and control.
I held Laev's collar and cued her onto the helper, who raged and threatened and teased while she roared and tore up turf. Then I dropped her from midair and called, "Sit!" Laev did (the helper froze at the same moment), watching him intently. "Watch!" Tough, but she had to look at me, and she did -- though not without a few barks of frustration. Then I stepped backward. "Come!"
Oh, no, we can't do that! Turn her back on the helper? Not a prayer. She'd follow me well enough, but always swinging to keep one eye on him.
So we set up a couple of chairs with assistants in them to keep them steady, and I backed between the chairs during the next rep, so that Laev didn't have room to turn. When I had a solid front, I sent her to the helper for a reward bite.
Rage. "Sit. Watch." Five seconds. "Come." Five seconds. Send for bite. Repeat.
Saturday, her initial blind search wasn't as pretty (but it was successful, and that makes 3/3 correct), but we faded out the chairs, moving them wider apart and then discarding them on the third rep. She knew the game by then -- "You're not taking me away from the helper, you're telling me how to get him. It's a trade!"
For her second round on Saturday, we added criteria, and this is where she really stunned me: Rage. "Sit. Watch." Five seconds. "Come." Five seconds. And then I turned and started in the opposite direction. "Heel." Laev moved right with me, with full eye contact, as if we'd done this a thousand times. I heeled away about five steps and then sent her back to the helper.
The second time, my training director told me to heel away in a curve to the left, so that she could see the helper over her left shoulder. He told me afterward that he thought she'd just been too surprised to protest the heel and had gotten it right more or less by accident. But Laev had no problems with this, either -- "Yep, I heel, you send me to him! I'm on it!" So we quit on that awesome note.
Now, if only I can make myself work long, long durations....