Last night Ike and I had our first group agility class in a while. We have had a few privates over the summer with Erin Schaefer, but limited group classes. After some discussion with Katrin, she and I agreed that "Continuing On" was the better class for Mister Ike to be in.
Less dogs = less people = less stress for Ike. Hooray!
Click-n-Treat to me for getting that without Katrin having to beat me over the head with a bumper. It's not all about me, it's all about what allows my dog work at his optimum.
When the "Competition" class arrived I was VERY glad with this decision as it is full!
Class started with running a series of jumps in a circle, perhaps you'd call it a pinwheel? It was quite spread out so I am not sure. Anyway, Katrin called me out on a couple of things.
1. I ONLY cued Ike, I did not verbally reward him or encourage him while running.
This is a result of a combination of things, previously I have heard people told not to talk so much to their dogs while running, and most recently Erin told me to try and run more quietly as she thinks Ike tunes out in the trial atmosphere and it is just more for him to listen to/be overwhelmed by. What Katrin said last night is essentially, like all things, there is a BALANCE. Ha! She said one hopes ultimately to be able to send your dog with your body language and not actually have to say, "jump" for every jump. This leaves you time to say "yes" or whatever your reward marker is when your dog does something particularly brilliant.
Ike has had a complete about-face about jumping (he actually appears to like it!), so I see the potential for this. In fact I tried to utilize it later in class with the Serpentine.
2. I was LEADING Ike - i.e. my body was essentially in front of the jumps as Ike went to take them.
I think this is a bit of mal-adaption from something Erin said. Where Ike is definitely so motivated by my movement, Erin had recommended that I continue to move after sending Ike into an obstacle. Well, yes, that makes sense, but what I turned around and did was make that into follow the line of the obstacle as tightly as possible until he has committed to the obstacle. Hmmm....to some degree Erin might have actually meant that, however, I would like to not have to do that as I'd like a Q in Chances some day! And again, it is the BALANCE issue. Sometimes, yes, that might be necessary or be helpful, but should you be spoon feeding ALL of the time?
3. Serpentines! I love them!! I remember less than a year ago when Ike did not know how to splice a jump (take an angled jump moving forward in a straight line).
Ike handled this very well purely on my body cues - of course I did forget to verbally reward him and the first time I tossed his ball for him I threw it BACKWARDS!! Oye.
4. His Ball. Ike JOYFULLY pounced after his ball with PEOPLE around. Yippee-yahoo. This has come around because I FINALLY realized that if Ike ran quickly after his toy and pounced, that was enough! He isn't a Border Collie, or any sort of dog with a super high toy drive. I need to be excited for him on his terms.
5. Switch. One of the benefits of staying in the "Continuing On" class is I have already been through some of these lessons and revisiting them makes them much clearer. Also, Ike is actually in a position now for me to start trying to really work on "Switch." Last year there was so much that was new it was overwhelming at times.
So, for homework/practice I am going to set up one of Ike's jumps and practice having him switch leads over it. He is already starting to spin back at me immediately after crossing the jump, so I asked Katrin if I should have him target a plate to continue the forward motion. She said no, because then he would be focusing on targeting not what he's doing. With a toy, he'll focus on doing what gets him the toy.
AND, there is a cute All-American named Callie/Kali in class that Ike likes to throw his bum at. She was DESPERATE to play with him. She is a really nice, fast dog.
So, not only did Ike play with his ball with strange people around, but he tried to engage in play with another dog with people (including a man!) around. A successful evening.
4 days ago