Ike and I had our first agility class since his stomach bug. He is now my skinnyfastschnauzer! (hey, it’s all relative.)
I felt like it was an excellent class for a couple of reasons. But first the bad stuff. I pushed Ike to play with his toys in public. He was totally fine when it was just Katrin and Niche, but once our classmates (Callie, Matt, and Julie) arrived he wasn’t really interested. But Dumb-mum kept pushing. ARGH!! What does it take for me to be respectful of my dog? My whole plan was to try and have him play BEFORE class started, just to get him used to the idea of playing in the barn. Since he was willing to play, I pushed it when he DID NOT WANT TO PLAY ANYMORE. Bad, bad mum. I need to make a SERIOUS effort to be less annoying and more respectful to my dog in the future. Just because I wish something so is not going to make it happen overnight! (You really think I would have learned this lesson already.)
Now on to the good news. Ike handled last night’s course really well; it included a serpentine and a front cross which we do a lot of and therefore like! BUT the real breakthrough is that after our first run Katrin made an observation that has staying power. You know how those “lighbulb” moments? Well, last night I had one!
Ike is what Katrin refers to as a Variable Speed Dog (you never know if you are getting Slow-Ike or somewhat-faster-Ike), and I therefore become a Variable Speed Human. I tear out there on the course full speed and then have to stop if Ike is in Slow-Ike Mode. Katrin hypothesized that the disjointed handler performance slows Ike down even more and that I need to try and give Ike the appearance of more seamless transitions. More consistent handler movement might help to support his continued consistent movement.
Well, hit me over the head with a frying pan! I have no clue if Katrin has told me this before and I just didn’t get what she meant; if this is a new tactic on her part to impart the same message in a different way – whatever – I GOT it (the message). As luck would have it, this happened at the beginning of class which enabled me to then try and incorporate smoother movement on my part into our remaining runs/exercises.
This observation is something that will help me with Ike, and long-term with future dogs. It definitely will take PRACTICE and THOUGHT on my part. However, the pay-off is nearly immediate. For example, we finished up class running the serpentine. During the initial run of the entire course, Ike slowed down between the last two jumps of the serpentine sequence because I almost stopped. After attempting to incorporate smoother movement on my part Ike barely slowed down at all!
I think the reason this finally made sense to me is the way that Katrin ended up explaining it. She essentially said to think about it as tricking Ike into thinking I am not slowing down to wait for him. I can’t explain WHY this makes so much sense to me, but it does and I definitely see it as a task to work on which will improve and help our agility relationship.
I was also talking a lot last night on course – not sure why as it was really a pretty straightforward course and I practically didn’t have to say a peep. Katrin had a good point about dogs that hear constant praise tuning it out. Since I already know Ike tunes out when I yammer at him, and in fact I think SLOWS down, why was I talking so much?! I will blame it on Katrin blowing my mind with the appearance of transitions talk.
For some reason Ike was very table oriented last night, I kept having to intercept him in order for him to get the tunnel. Katrin made a great point, if I hadn’t been yammering so much when I yelled “Out, Tunnel” it would have meant more to Ike (instead of more pointless chatter!). I also neglected to reward Ike after he MADE the correct decision taking the tunnel over the table. Instead I pushed him on to the jump. Stupid!! When your dog makes the right decision reward him so he finds it as rewarding as making the wrong decision (which often times equals more attention/interaction).
So all in all, a great class. I am still cringing internally about the toy but hopefully I have learned my lesson!
2 days ago