Saturday, April 9, 2011

Agility and Obedience Class

This week both of Leo's classes started up again. Tuesday was our first week of Next Steps agility. One of our previous classmates returned, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Hannah. Plus, one of my students and her Lab, Hemi, are in our class. There's an Australian Shepherd that was in our first round of foundation agility, Tucker, and the other students are new. We had a great time getting back in the swing of things. I was a little concerned right off the bat as Leo drug his feet just going to the building. He acted like he completely did not want to be there and was pulling against me when I tried to direct us to the building. He finally got over it and I just tried to be playful with him inside. We had a few minutes to work on sit/down stays and I also jogged Leo the length of the arena once or twice.

Then we got into the first of two sequences. The setup was nice as it wrapped around three sides of the barn and let us both get out and move with our dogs plus work multiple obstacles. The first setup was jump > a-frame > tired > tunnel > dog walk > tunnel. At first Leo bypassed the tire. We went back and got it and the second time he definitely understood the tire. It's still going to take some practice as later on in class he alternately took the tire and went through a small gap around the tire, but he's not afraid of it which is good.

The next sequence reversed the first but added a jump between the dog walk and the second tunnel. Leo did that sequence with equal flair! From there we reviewed the weaves again and Autumn cut us loose to practice and drill whatever we needed to since we'd all had some weeks off. Leo and I practiced the weaves about a dozen times from both directions with me working both left and right. The weaves were almost straight but with gates around them. Interestingly enough, twice Leo went on the wrong side of the fifth pole, between the gate and the pole. And then I saw the lightbulb moment. Even though his body wanted to go straight sometimes, he corrected himself to pull through the weaves versus going outside the pole. It was awesome! And he's actually getting the weave motion when he's working them! I love it!

We then worked the a-frame quite a few times then the tire. He was doing really well with the tire the first few tries then I must have changed something I was doing because he was going under. I ended on a good note with him doing it correctly and moved on. We'll continue working the tire to be sure he solidly "gets" it. When I had about run out of things to practice, I decided we'd hang out with the teeter again. Little man seemed to remember the teeter is "evil" and was resistant walking near it for the first part of class. I started by talking him up to the teeter vicinity first. Then we worked on just getting on the teeter and getting off. Pretty soon he was offering contacts on the teeter, albeit going the wrong direction. Then I started luring him up the teeter. Before I knew it he was taking the full height teeter with me supporting the down progress. Fast forward 10 more tries, Leo took the entire teeter, by himself, without me supporting the weight going down, three whole times! Yahoo!!!

I'm under no illusion that the teeter issue is resolved. However, this was a step in the right direction and I was so proud of my little fluff-dog.


Obedience class was Thursday and wow was it a memorable one. The 6 o'clock class was still in the ring when we arrived. When 7 o'clock rolled around, our instructor decided we would all work sits or downs and stays together. Long story short, all of the 6 o'clock class dogs, Cocker Spaniel size and larger, were in sit stays along the back wall. The 7 o'clock class was on the left side of the ring, just the three of us there at that time. The earlier class was sitting and off lead. Their handlers were about a dozen feet out, perhaps a little more. The three of us in our class were in heel position with our dogs, still on lead, and working on focus. The fourth member of our class came in, a Beagle, and he just started to come in the ring and was about three quarters across the front of the ring when all hell broke loose. Every single dog from the first class broke their stay and charged at the dog. Everyone was barking and howling. It was a complete cacophony. I don't even remember what I did other than watch and keep hold of Leo. Handlers were scrambling for their dogs. The gates around the ring were falling. And then I became aware of Leo frantically trying to get my attention, pawing at my leg. He was shaking so badly and his little heart was beating out of his chest. Even holding him close it took some time to get him calmed down.

The rest of the chaos finally got under control and, surprisingly, nobody was hurt. We finished our stays and the early class left. We continued on with our class and the Beagle came in for a while and tried to work. Eventually they left and didn't come back. We worked on focus with heeling taking a single step or two at a time. We also worked on figure-8s and recall to front. The method we tried wasn't working with Leo. She had set up the broad jump panels on edge to form a chute and he was afraid of them. It was difficult for me to maneuver between them and not touch them at all so as to avoid scaring him, plus the point was to get him right up in the opening and me to go to the other end and recall him to front so he was limited on space and would end up straight. Well when he had no enthusiasm on the recall and was more likely to jump on my legs to get me to pick him up - a fear sign - it just wasn't worth it. We'd been working on this on our own and I showed her how he could do it with enthusiasm and relatively straight. Sometimes ideas work, and sometimes they don't. I am getting much better at recognizing what works for my dogs and what doesn't. Not all fear barriers are worth pushing through.

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