Missy Lemoi is no stranger to the predatory instinct. She has been around hunting dogs since she was a young girl. As a child, her father owned two Cocker Spaniels that he used for hunting, and from the time she was 14 years old, she been a lover and owner of Labrador retrievers. Her expertise in the area of hunting dogs made her the perfect candidate to help harness the prey drive of author John Grogan’s purebred Labrador Gracie and channel it into more constructive pursuits.
When the Grogans approached Cesar in the third season of Dog Whisperer, he eagerly answered the call. A fan of Grogan’s best-selling book Marley & Me, Cesar was surprised to see that while Marley (the titular badly-behaved Labrador) had been virtually uncontrollable, their new dog Gracie was quite well composed. Her two biggest problems? A refusal to come when called, and a predatory instinct so intense that she had already killed and eaten one of the Grogans’ pet chickens! Once Cesar took care of the initial consultation – including discouraging Gracie from entering prey mode when in the presence of the remaining chickens – it was up to the Grogans themselves to implement his advice. To help them harness the hunting instincts of their purebred pup, they called in Missy, a local trainer of hunting dogs.
Missy’s experience ranges from training and competing with horses, which she has done since childhood, to preparation of her Labrador retrievers for field trials and hunt tests. In field trials and hunt tests, hunting dogs are brought together to compete in hunting exercises to showcase their skills in finding and retrieving game. Missy has also trained two of her own Labrador retrievers to the Companion dog level in the obedience ring, her second moving on to become her husband’s partner on a search and rescue team. Her new dogs Hawkeye, Tex, and Colt run field trials with her, and occasionally help to train other dogs to fully realize their hunting potential. Five weeks after Cesar’s initial consultation, with help from Missy and Hawkeye (and one unlikely partner – a duck standing in for a chicken), Gracie’s instinct to retrieve began slowly to overcome her instinct to hunt and kill.
To address Gracie’s refusal to come when called, Missy’s solution was a simple game called “Runaway.” In this exercise, Gracie’s hunting nose was put to use seeking out members of her own pack, who would use the command “come!” upon her arrival, providing the necessary conditioning and positive reinforcement.
“It’s like a giant game of hide-and-seek with the dogs,” said Missy. “Gracie needs to use her nose in hunting mode, and what better than to have her go hunting for her family?”
These days, Missy runs Hope Lock Kennels in Easton, PA, using her teaching degree to help local families work together with their canine companions to establish obedience and trust. She still competes in field trials and hunt tests, and has trained her partner Hawkeye to the Master Hunter level, allowing him to successfully complete the Master National three times, earning him a place in the Master National Hall of Fame!“Many people get a hunting dog – a high energy dog – and they don’t understand what drives it,” says Missy, “I would encourage those people to find a local professional or skilled amateur in the area who knows that breed well, and use that as an opportunity to spend a little time with the breed. Watch what well-trained dogs can do. These dogs need to be conditioned physically and mentally. If you take the time to learn, you can enjoy a relationship with your dog on a much higher level, and the dog will live a more fulfilled life.”