Laev's retrieve has been a bit lackluster of late. Okay, worse than lackluster. It had been stellar, but suddenly it vanished -- she would not go out at the first cue, or she would run out to the dumbbell and then do a chin rest upon it rather than bringing it back. I had no idea what was going on.
Probably I'd screwed something up -- it wouldn't be the first time -- but it's relatively pointless to spend time wondering what went wrong instead of just fixing it. So I got some extra-tasty new treats (raw chicken feet!) and got to work.
Within a couple of weeks, Laev was enthusiastic about retrieves and almost always going out on the first cue again. She also is now taking the Schutzhund jumps well. (Schutzhund jumps can be a bit of a challenge; the high jump is 1 meter or 39 inches tall, and the wall is 1.8m or 71" tall, with an angle much steeper than an agility A-frame. The dumbbell to be carried back over these is 650g or roughly 1.5 pounds.) Laev prefered to take the wall in hell-for-leather fashion, which I worried would cause injury, so I trained her to pause at the apex for a treat and then descend. I think this pause will fade smoothly, and it's better to have a slight hesitation than a dog with a damaged front end!
Tonight Laev was a bit sloppy going over the high jump, using her feet as she crossed. This is likely due to her banging her knee on it last week and she's cautious now, but we'll have to fix that. No touching allowed! But she was retrieving eagerly.
I decided to finally add the dumbbell to the wall exercise, which until now has been only wall technique. With Laev on a long line, I sent her over the wall, directed her to the dumbbell, and then ran with her back over the wall. First time went well.
The second time, I decided to make it look like a real retrieve. I set Laev up, threw the dumbbell, sent her over the wall and then ran alongside to help her find the dumbbell if necessary.
As Laev scaled the wall, a sharp pain jabbed through my clicker hand, and then again. Without thought I began tearing at my hand, sending my clicker (wrist coil and all) off my wrist and through the air.
Laev paused, because this was an entirely new set of hand signals for her. My friend Melissa was laughing at me, wondering why I'd thrown a clicker. I stood shaking my hand, which was really hurting now, and reached for my treat bag; Laev hadn't done anything wrong. "Something stung me," I said.
Ah, well, we move on. I asked if anyone in the group had an antihistamine. My mother is highly allergic to some stings, and I have somehow made it to my present age without any real stings to test my susceptibility. No luck, though the two RNs in our group offered to perform CPR if necessary.
After a moment I sent Laev for the dumbbell. She picked it up and carried it back to me, then suddenly dropped it and pawed at her face. She'd been stung, too!
We moved well away from the retrieve area and I had her work some heeling circles around two volunteers so we could end on a good note. I also sent her for a very short retrieve, so that she didn't think it was the dumbbell which had caused the sting. She was as eager as ever; I love this dog. Still, our retrieve isn't good enough that I can afford to have her stung while training, so we were done for the night.
A club member examined the wall and found a nest of wasps had moved in. They'll be moved out before our next training session! I found my clicker a good 25 feet away; I'd thrown it hard!
I spent the next hour with an ice pack on my swelling hand. No allergic reaction, though, so that was a good thing. :)