Tonight we drove to join the Eatonville Rat Rangers for a practice. It took 1:22 minutes to get there using the route my navsys selected. I tried a different route home and shaved it down to 1:03. This route will probably be a little longer going, since it's in the middle of rush hour.
The set up is a bit chaotic, but I was able to make it work. Gimme got to do three runs for $5... its a per dog fee. She did a novice run (1 rat tube) and I waited for paw action before calling it. She barked quite a bit. Then she did an open run (2 rat tubes) and she was quicker with the paw and things went pretty fast.
Our last run was senior-lite (3 rat tubes). Gimme found a tube right away and pawed at it first, but I was distracted and didn't call it and by the time I would have she was only barking (no paws). So I ignored her because I'm trying to make it clear to her, its paw action I want. So then she ran around and found another tube and despite her awkward position, she got her paws into action pretty quickly and I called it. She went back to the first tube, again only barking, so I still didn't call it. From there she searched and found another tube and again put her paws into it, so I called it. Then she found a completely empty tube and barked and pawed it. I picked it up and after confirming it was indeed rat-free, I threw it on the ground in exaggerated disgust. After this she went around several times, went back to bark at the empty tube again and checked the places where we'd already removed tubes and barked at them. Finally she went back to the first tube and barked at it. I encouraged her to "use your paws" and when she did, I called it.
I think the whole false alert on the empty tube was all about frustration - which we know is her Achilles' heel. It was unfortunate timing for me to be momentarily distracted when she pawed the first tube, but stuff happens and we'll have to work through it. I think its just going to take her a bit to get clear in her head about what I'll respond to and what I won't. In time I want to increase the duration of her pawing.
And, I was happy to see she was willing to hunt. She has just started a false pregnancy and this is the time when she usually can't function at a barn hunt trial. Of course a trial has the prolonged wait in the blind, which I think really increases her stress.
These practices will be very helpful. We'll be going back in about two weeks... and will aim to practice twice a month until we get things going well. Gimme is contentedly snoozing as we speak...