Training sessions are all good and fun (or should be!) but the real measure of your dog’s skills is when a real-life situation puts your training to the test. I had a chance to test Romeo’s “drop it” skills on our walk this morning. (July 2011)

We were on our usual walk. I am doing quite a bit of off-leash walking when we are up the hill and away from the road, but I keep him on the 20-foot line when closer to the house and the road. This area also has a high concentration of bunnies. He’s getting better at responding and using self-control around  bunnies, but we’re not off-leash ready quite yet.

We were walking past one of our sheds, and Romeo was quite interested in smelling a spot in the dirt. I didn’t see anything, so I assumed it was a spot where a bunny had been recently and left a strong scent. So I allowed him to sniff for a bit. Suddenly, I see something alive in his mouth! I thought it was a mouse or vole, because it was very small.

“Drop it!” I yelled. And he did. Right away. I then called him back to me and told him to wait. And he did. Right away. Then I had a chance to look and see what had happened. There were two baby bunnies – still very young, unable to walk on their own – lying in the dirt. Squirming but unable to move.

Romeo was still quite interested and aroused, but he held his wait perfectly. I also had my Greyhound with me. She’s always off leash. I didn’t want to chance moving in closer and having the dogs break their waits. We were less than ten feet away from the bunnies.

I called my husband on the walkie-talkie to come out and help me. My husband came out, put on some gloves and carefully placed the bunnies back at the entrance to their hole/nest. There were two or three more bunnies still inside.

I told Romeo and Jahzara, “Let’s go” and they easily moved on to other things. These are the situations that I hope never happen, but I prepare for with my training. I am glad that when tested, my dogs responded exactly as I wanted. This is what makes all the time spent training worthwhile!