We passed our Stage 3 in December as hoped, and have now passed our Stage 4 with Zachary just under 9 months old.
Stage 4 involved searching 25 metres either side of a 1km route through a forest in order to find two “missing people”.
Zachary worked his socks off for the full distance of the search. He gave a lovely indication for his first find, but his indication for his second find was rather wishy-washy, partly, I think because he was getting tired. The assessor passed us but made it clear that such an indication would not suffice for the final assessment. I am now left with a dilemma: whether to work at strengthening his jump-up or trying to train a bark alert before we go for our mocks.
I will also need to build up Zachary’s fitness. He can easily cover well over 2 kms when on a walk. When playing with his best friend, Rommel, he covers ten times the distance of the walk as he leaps through the forest and doesn’t seem to tire. But a two km search is far more demanding. Zachary was fading at the end of just one km, and it would have been even more difficult had the weather been warm.
So our challenge is to extend Zachary’s fitness and focus to find up to four people over a two km route, and possibly change his alert. It means taking things slowly and making sure there is lots of variety in our training to keep his motivation and enjoyment up.
On the theme of taking things slowly, we stopped attending obedience classes in the New Year. Not because I have given up on obedience, but because the distractions of the class are really too much for Zachary to handle. I found myself having to spend too much time correcting him rather than helping him to make the right decisions.
Now we work on obedience in quieter circumstances so that I can gradually increase the level of distraction as he progresses. Already I am seeing an improvement. We will return to our class when I think Zachary is ready, but I am not in any hurry for this to happen. On walks I often sing to Zachary, “Slow down, you move too fast” (from Feeling Groovy), and it’s a lesson I must also take to heart. Both with SAR and obedience, I should not expect too much too soon; I need to slow down and enjoy the journey with my little man.