After being off for two weeks (trainers went on vacation), agility classes started again last night.
(Note: Photos above are from a practice session last week.)
Gatsby did pretty well last night. He has improved at the weave poles, so I’m glad we focused on that during his off weeks since he’s gotten a lot comfortable with it. We did some work with the teeter. Well, the baby teeter. It’s set up low to the ground. The goal is to get them to be comfortable with going on it, and more importantly, staying on it — especially at the tipping point. Now, it’s probably because it’s set up low to the ground, but Gatsby is totally fine with the baby teeter. He will go on it no problem and walk aaaalll the way down. He doesn’t jump off after the tipping point. If anything, I think the sound of the board hitting the ground once it tips is what will make him nervous. But so far, so good. (There’s a little padded board thing placed directly underneath where one end of the board will hit the ground once the teeter tips. It’s there to muffle the sound so dogs don’t get nervous.)
We did A-frame work (which was fine). Then we worked on jumps (tire, regular, triple). Last week, Gatsby was missing jumps for some reason and I could not figure out why. Like, he was refusing to do the tire jump and then he would miss the third jump altogether. In class, he did the tire jump just fine, he did the second jump fine, but kept missing the third jump. Our trainers tell us that if a dog misses an obstacle, it’s always the handlers fault and never the dog’s. Well, most of the time anyway. They say that the reason why dogs miss obstacles is because they’re unclear or are otherwise unable to read your body language and therefore do not how what you want them to do. After all, in agility, the dog is supposed to look to you for directions. So I started thinking about what it is that I’m doing that’s making him miss that third jump. One of our trainers said it was because I’m going too fast. I found that interesting because I feel like Gatsby is going too fast and I’m just the poor little short girl with short legs struggling to keep up with him. So, she said to slow down and tackle each jump separately. She said to stop right after he does the triple and call him back to me and redirect him and then approach the third jump. We only got to practice that way for one turn (since class was ending) so hopefully we can bring him by for practice sometime before the next class next week and work on slowing down — both of us.
There was one particular sequence that we worked on that further solidified just how much Gatsby is improving with listening and taking direction. The sequence was a fairly simple one: tire jump, jump, triple jump, jump, and tunnel. It would have been easy had the tunnel been set up directly ahead of the last jump. But it wasn’t. It was set up almost at a 45 degree angle from the last jump. The dog walk was set up directly to the right of the last jump, so it was going to be super easy for Gatsby to assume that that was the next obstacle. So before we started our turn, one of our trainers said to us, “What do you say when you want to get his attention?” I was like, “ummm. Touch?” And she said, “Exactly.” I failed to make the connection right then but the second after Gatsby did the third jump, I knew exactly why she asked me that question.
As I mentioned, the dog walk was pretty much straight ahead of the third jump, so naturally, Gatsby thought that’s where we were going. But I had to make a somewhat sharp turn around to approach the tunnel, so that it would end up on my left side which would allow me to direct Gatsby with my left hand (since he was coming in from my left). So as I turned, Gatsby was of course, on his way to the dog walk, and the trainers were like, “Say it! Say it!” So then I went, “TOOOOUCCCCHHHHH!!” (Yup. Just like that.) Gatsby turned his head, he saw that I was going towards the tunnel, so he changed directions quickly, looked at me as I said, “Tunnel!” and he went in.
I was so proud of him. I mean, I totally knew and understood the reason why they teach “Touch” in agility but it wasn’t until then that I realize just how important it is to master that so that I can redirect him easily during runs.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I really love this training facility AND our trainers. We’re learning so much.