Stuck's food drive or lack thereof has been a BIG struggle. It is hard to teach her simple things like perching for our Relationship & Engagement class when she refuses to lure. I guess 'refuse' isn't the word, she might try but if it is 'hard' she doesn't have the food drive to want to keep trying.
It's also been difficult because she bit a bee in tracking and will no longer track for food. I honestly was panicking this past weekend that I was going to have to give her back to her breeder. Initially I thought she had a personal problem with me and tracking but my friends that I train with watched her and the issue mostly seems to be food/food on the ground. My training director from club showed us how to start tracking for a ball. Stuck's entire body language changed, she was actually excited to do it and completely loosened up. If I ask her to track for food she goes into complete avoidance.
I was mostly panicking because long-term deprivation is not something I want to do. I can't tell you how many times I've left from training her and come home crying lately because of this whole issue. I just have no desire to continually starve my dog to get them to do something be that food or attention. It made me start questioning if I was really cut out for this sport - if that is something I have to do to participate. But it's actually not. I mean for some dogs and some trainers, yes, but it's actually not the whole of IPO to have to do these terrible things to your dog to make them work.
When I saw that she could track for the ball it made me feel hopeful and after thinking and talking with a close friend I decided this was something I wanted to continue with. Initially I was very torn because Seppel was my project dog and Stuck was supposed to be my IPO dog, but I also felt if I couldn't train her how could I train another dog? Other dogs will have challenges, training is hard, IPO is hard, if I can't get beyond this challenge, how will I get beyond others? That thinking isn't entirely realistic because low food drive is a very hard problem to have, but a big part of me was like - if I can't do this, how can I train another dog?
This is not the first time I've struggled with thinking of giving Stuck back. A few weeks ago we went to a seminar with Forrest Micke and I contacted my training director and friend for some advice. She suggested sticking with it but also getting a second dog to take some of the pressure off of Stuck.
I got Stuck to help take pressure off of Seppel and to also have a "real" IPO dog. Now that Seppel is gone all of the pressure is on her. I don't want to jinx it so I won't go into detail but I am getting a second dog hopefully in October. When it happens, if it happens I will definitely share more info because it's not set in stone yet. For IPO Stuck is my primary focus, the second dog will be training relief - so I can rotate between the two, and is also for my personal mental health.
Some realizations that I have made:
- I know that Stuck is capable of getting an IPO title but it is going to be a challenge and take a lot of work. If it gets to be too stressful we will just focus on OB and protection, we can get titles in just those things and that is okay. My next dog can go all the way.
- Stuck fits my lifestyle well especially for her breed. I took her to the fair for dock diving this past Sunday and she handled the crowds super well. She was touched by multiple people and was super chill being in such a crowded venue. I was super impressed by how well she handled everything. We did some OB in the crowds and she was awesome which made me feel fabulous.
This has truly been a ridiculous emotional roller coaster and I've struggled a lot but I am finally feeling really good about everything. Things can only go up from here and I'm ready to actually be part of Stuck's journey. I am still battling some emotions over the loss of Seppel but this is a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.