Bolt decided to have a magic moment at Search and Rescue K9 training yesterday. The team asked me to take Bolt out of the car so they could meet him, and while we were talking, Bolt was doing his usual loping around exploring things. He comfortably ranged 30 yards or more away from me, which was reassuring to the team because many herders are "velcro dogs." Then the team leader asked me to go get Bolt and put him on the lead. I have two whistles for Bolt. One of the whistles means, "I'm over here, let's keep going," and the other whistle means, "I'm about to change direction/activity so come to me." I did the "come" whistle and Bolt ran over to me and sat down while I put on the lead. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then the team leader said, "Uh ... he has good recall. What else can he do?" I said Bolt could sit, and I moved so Bolt would stand up, and then said, "sit" while giving the hand signal. Bolt plunked down immediately. The leader asked me if Bolt could sit with just the hand signal, so I moved forward again, and stopped and gave the hand signal. Plunk. There were murmurs of, "He's got a strong sit," and so forth. The leader asked me if Bolt could do anything else, and I said we're working on loose lead walking. I gave Bolt the hand signal for heel and walked forward a few yards with Bolt close on my leg, turned, and walked back to the team. As Bolt turned right with me, the leader whispered, "Shit," in amazement. He asked if Bolt could do anything else, and I said we're working on stay. I decided to push my luck and gave Bolt the hand signal for sit, the hand signal for stay, and walked away and turned around. Bolt was sitting there staring at me. I signaled him to come, and he ran over to me. I told the team that was it for Bolt's repertoire of behaviors. People were saying things like, "How old is he?" and, "Four months?!!" and so forth.
Then the team leader said we were going to try a runaway with Bolt, which is the first stage of training the dog to find someone. The "victim" shows the dog a treat, runs away a few yards calling the dog, and slips behind a tree. The leader said we would do some activities with Bolt first to, "... get him jacked up." I told him Bolt lives in a perpetual state of being jacked up, so that wouldn't be necessary. Everyone looked at each other and rolled their eyes because Bolt seemed so calm, but the leader said, "Okay, we'll do it your way." We walked over to the starting area with a large trunked tree a few yards away. The leader showed Bolt the treat, and I held him by the collar while the leader ran toward the tree calling him. I could feel Bolt coiled for action, and when the leader slipped behind the tree, Bolt reared up on his hind legs pawing the air. The other team members whispered fiercely, "Let him go, let him go before he loses interest," like THAT was really going to happen. Hah! I let loose of Bolt and he went from zero to sixty in a split second and raced behind the tree. We did two more runaways, and Bolt was hyper-focused for each one. Then the leader said we should stop, "... so we don't burn him out."
We walked back to the cars with everybody talking ... "He's a what?" ... "A McNab?" ... "The dog is made for this, right down to his coat," because they've been having trouble with burr removal on recent call-outs. When we got back to the cars, the leader said he and another team member were going to do one more activity with Bolt. "Don't get concerned," he told me, "We're going to do a pick-up with him every training session. He'll hate it at first, but then he'll start to calm down. We have two years to get him used to being picked up by a stranger and handed to another stranger. This is a requirement for CARDA certification. It will all be over in a minute, and then we'll give him a treat. In a year or so, he'll start to look forward to it." He reached down and picked up Bolt. Bolt went limp in his arms except for reaching up with his mouth to try and lick the leader's face. He handed Bolt to a team member, and Bolt just hung there in the woman's arms ... he didn't even try and lick her face. The leader asked me, "Did you train him to do THAT?" I never thought of it as training. From Bolt's first day here, Greg and I have taken him on off-lead walks with us, and whenever we get to a difficult or dangerous situation, we pick up Bolt and carry him over/under/through whatever we run into. Sometimes we pass him over to the person who climbed up the boulder/woodpile/drainpipe so we can continue on. We do the same thing with Lucy, so to Bolt this all part of a normal exciting outing with the Porter-Zaller family. He was just waiting patiently for the good part ... a run in the woods. Needless to say, the idea of giving Bolt a treat was forgotten, which is fine with me because I don't see that skill as something to be rewarded.
As everybody pulled out in their cars, I took Lucy out of the car where she was waiting patiently, and the three of us went for walk (Lucy) run (Bolt) in the beautiful woods of the Sierra Nevada foothills. Just another day in Bolt's world ...