Two incidents in the last week have made me re-evaluate my approach to Uisce’s training going forward. Both involved water.
My approach to puppy training has always been very organic. Most of what they learn in their first 6-9 months is purely by virtue of the fact that they are running with my adult dogs. Recall is learnt by turning when the older dogs turn. I love to give them a lot of free running as I feel its the best way for them to develop an awareness of their own bodies .
Uisce appears to have inherited more than her fair share of independence genes than any of my previous puppies. She is not a follower of the adult dogs and will quite confidently explore by herself when out walking. Her recall on land is improving. There is still that one or two second delay when called , as much as to say ‘in a minute I’m just smelling something here’. Now in many ways I like to see this in a puppy. It bodes well for hunting that she will persist and stick with a retrieve until found. However I need a reliable recall so I’ve started curtailing her freedom on walks by placing her on lead at intervals. Only letting her off where I can see her and when she’s on her own.
The water episodes really blindsided me. We went to the estuary for a walk last Monday. As usual it was blissfully quiet. I let the dogs out of the trailer and they rollicked around enjoying the freedom. Winnie likes to swim parallel to shore as I’m walking and recently Mossy likes to do the same. They dip in and out as they need to. I was delighted to see Uisce do the same. She was turning out to be a natural in water.
On our way back a slight wind rose making the water in the estuary churn up a little. This seemed to excite Uisce and she swam further into the waves. When she was about one hundred meters from shore I called to her , no reponse..she just kept swimming away from shore. I started to panic. She had been swimming for quite a while at this stage and I knew she was bound to tire as she is still less than five months old. If she tired out there she would drown. The other dogs on the shore and in the water seemed to have the effect of pushing her further out ot sea. In desperation I put them away and roared her name . She turned. I threw a stone and the splash made her come closer, only for a second though before she headed away from shore again. Once more I filled my lungs and bellowed her name across the waves, again she turned and I repeated the sequence of stone throwing and calling, taking no gap until she came to shore. My heart was pounding. It was a mixture of relief and confusion that I put her back in the car and headed for home. I hoped it was a one off. I was wrong.
Wednesday evening came and we headed to Lough Ennell for our usual training session. At the end of the evening I took Uisce on her own to the water , threw in a tennis ball and let her in to retrieve it. She swam straight to it, picked it up and kept swimming. I was quicker to call for her to come back in but she completely ignored me. On and on she swam . Nothing would entice her back. My friend, Marianne, was on shore with me and was as perplexed as I was. I took of my wellingtons and waded into the water until I was thigh deep. I called her name and threw stones between me and the shore. The stone throwing again seemed to break the spell . She started to come to shore. I was relieved but angry and when she came within reach regrettably I shook her and dragged her back to shore. A very subdued Uisce sat on the shoreline while the humans discussed this connundrum..
After seeking advice from a wide variety of sources in the dog world Uisce will be longlined when near water for the foreseeable future. Land recall will be perfected . Schooling will begin much earlier than I’d anticipated . I can afford to take my time training and working with her but I cannnot afford to lose her.