In May I took part in my first North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association hunt test. In the Natural Ability test, young dogs up to 16 months old are judged on their natural hunting attributes — pointing, field search, tracking, swimming. But trust me, nothing comes natural. Training is a big part of it.
Since the beginning of this year I’ve been preparing for this day with Oskar, a now one-year-old Spinone. Portions of each day were dedicated to introducing Oskar to basic obedience and building cooperation until it became second nature for the both of us. More and more time was dedicated to training each day as test day drew ever closer. Once the day arrived, Oskar and I felt ready and well prepared. We were a team.
At IMPO we regularly feature articles providing preventative maintenance tips and information on safety guidelines, all with the goal of keeping your facilities running smoothly and workers safe. However, it seems there is always a new press release or news story about how some small maintenance issues, that went overlooked for too long, ended up in injuries, lost productivity and fines. Having plans in place, and adhering to those plans, is one of the best ways to mitigate these risks. However, you can never be fully-prepared for the unexpected.
This is something I learned the day of Oskar’s test. What was first forecast as a sunny 78-degree Saturday afternoon ended up being 50 degrees in non-stop drizzle and wind. Wet, cold and shivering, we pushed through the 20 minutes of field work and Oskar hunted like a dream — pointing all the quail his nose could find and retrieving every bird to hand.
Then came the tracking phase where a pheasant is released in a field out of sight of the dog, and the dog tracks the bird’s scent while the judges evaluate. Again, this is something we prepped for. I knew Oskar was up for the challenge. What we weren’t prepared for were the barn swallows that would swoop in to dive-bomb Oskar’s head just as he set off on the track. Distracted, Oskar took chase after the offending songbirds. He is a puppy after all.
The judges gave us the opportunity to regroup and go again at the end. Thankfully, the pesky swallows didn’t follow us to the second track line, and things went more smoothly.
Last but not least was the swimming phase where the puppy must swim in a pond twice after bumpers. I know Oskar swims, but when you’re soaked to the bone from standing in the rain all day and cold gusts of wind are blowing through, I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to dive right in. Again, this is something I had trained regularly for with Oskar, so I knew how to take on the unexpected challenge and triumph by coaxing the pup into the pond for two successful swims.
At the end of the day, Oskar walked away with a 97 Prize II, and I came away with a deeper understanding of the importance of proper training and never becoming complacent that things will always go as planned.
Preparing for the unexpected is as important in day-to-day life and dog training as it is in the manufacturing world. Keeping workers safe by implementing consistent training procedures is more than just a regulatory requirement, it guarantees positive results and helps decrease workplace injuries and hazards. And while you can’t always predict the future, a properly trained workforce ensures they are up to whatever challenge comes their way.