When training a young dog like Tai…I’m often reminded that skills are built bit by bit. Those individual skills form a matrix that when cemented make a solid foundation. Rushing the process can result in a pretty shaky house!
I’m writing this post from Florida…where we have escaped from winter for a couple of weeks. When packing…clothes, cameras, computer, some food to get us started, crates, pads, dog toys…I thought…surely there will be room for a couple of jumps, 2×2 weaves and the travel plank? Sure enough, we managed to fit it all in.
We are renting a house with a partially fenced small yard. Move aside the outdoor furniture, do a little raking and there it is…my agility “field”. What a welcome change to walk outside, play agility for a few minutes – with at least a little room to “rock” — without slogging through the white stuff — and then repeat the fun later in the day. Then a short walk and we are at the beach. At low tide….perfect place to practice sit-stays and flat work handling. I’m happy; dogs are happy.
One of my continuing challenges with 13 month old Tai is his excitement around other dogs doing agility. I guess its a reaction to the motion and the noise – dog’s barking, the whoosh of a dog running through the tunnel, the bang of the teeter. He can lose his mind. No use complaining or judging…it is what it is. This little demon didn’t appear until he was about 7 or 8 months old. So…starting in the late fall, I’ve been working regularly with other people training obedience….which is clearly not as exciting and was a good place to start. He’s made good progress in this context…able to keep attention on his work while others work or play with their dogs. At the few agility events I’ve attended over the winter, we’ve worked on attention around the rings or simply watching calmly. Making progress but a long way to go.
At a trial we attended on our way to Florida, we had a perfect setup for this type of work. The arena entrance and crating was at the top level and looked down on the rings. Thus, we were pretty far away and I could back up toward the wall and remove the visual or go closer to the top of the stairs and give Tai a full ringside view of the dog running. First day, we spent most of our time near the wall. But by day 3, he could sit next to me, respond to cues and even watch calmly for a few minutes. And at one point on day 3, he was lying quietly by his crate as we got organized for a walk and a handler RAN past Tai with two shelties in tow; practically leaping over him. He never moved. Problem solved? Not a chance. This is just one step in the journey. Case in point. I trained with a new friend here in Florida this week. While her exciting “talkative” sheltie was running, Tai and I were behind the car where I could at least remove the visual.
The skill of self-control around running dogs is an important layer of our agility house. Right now the matrix is a little weak but we’ll keep working on it!