Thursday night Bug and I had our 4th CU class. I think I have a case of high expectations not matching up with reality. I have some issues with the way class was handled on Thursday.
After working on passive attention we started the class by playing the Off-Switch game with our toy. This went on for too long. Bug continued to tug and play with me but by the time is was over I was out of breath and Bug had no further interest in his tug. Not good. Also very bad handler – I should have just stopped and worked on LAT that or something else.
After speaking to the instructor about this via e-mail I think we continue to miscommunicate. She stated that the Off-Switch game should continue for 10-15 seconds before release of the toy and asking for a default. I was saying there was too much time allowed to play this game in general and I wish I had stopped and played something else so as not to wear out my dog.
There hasn’t been any discussion about how to encourage your dog to play/tug or the appropriate location to hold a tug. I was taught to drag it on the floor like a scurrying creature. This really does work well as it gets the prey drive going. I remember being told NOT to shove the tug in your dog’s mouth, which novice tuggers tend to do. This would be useful info to share in the class since not all the dogs are toy driven. There has also has not been any discussion about quitting while your dog is still engaged and removing the tug or toy you are trying to get your dog hyped up about.
After speaking with the instructor about this via e-mail she said she typically does not discuss how to play tug with your dog. She tells people to play with their dogs in whatever way feels comfortable. If someone asks for specifics she will discuss it.
We then played the Off-Switch Game with obstacles. I was VERY uncomfortable with this. There was a pinwheel of three jumps set up, a tire, a table, and a chute with the chute fabric removed. I was particularly upset about the chute tunnel. The expectation was you would do these obstacles on leash. My main issue with that is accidental corrections and dragging a leash through a hard tunnel will make noise that will follow (chase) the dog. Now, for a soft dog or a dog that has had zero exposure to these obstacles this would NOT be a good experience.
I told the instructor I would not do the obstacles on leash – I was not comfortable with that.
First we went out and did an obstacle – then asked for a default behavior. Then we did two obstacles and asked for a default behavior. I chose to do tunnel + jumps. I unleashed Bug and sent him into the tunnel. We hadn’t really made eye contact – he was pretty obstacle focused. Sue asked me to start again and wait until he checked in with me. When Bug and I were trialing I realized we really needed to do that. You should do it with all dogs, but Bug needs it more so than Carmie or Ike. We started again after getting some nice eye contact.
The instructor said this entire class is supposed to be on-leash, in part because of the fact that many of the dogs have not had exposure to agility equipment and because they might be reactive. I guess after I left the MSPCA my trainers have all been very progressive. I don’t think putting dogs over any sort of equipment on leash is a good idea and it is not something I have been asked to do in an agility class. This is my personal opinion and I won’t take part in this part of the class next week on leash.
Of course Bug chose round 2 to chase a fly he had been watching while we were waiting for our turn. We totally lost our connection. He raced to our mat to chase said fly and the handler next to us, with the Great Dane, said “Oh, shit” in the most panicked voice possible. You would have thought Bug was making a bee-line for her dog. Now granted she didn’t necessarily know he wasn’t. However, that kind of reaction from a handler absolutely gives a dog reason to believe they might be right about being worried/reactive, etc. There was no discussion about this. I feel like the instructor could have discussed this in a manner that wasn’t hurtful to the handler and could have been really helpful to the class as a whole. They might have talked about it after class, but I still think it could have been a useful conversation for the class as a whole.
The instructor agrees it would be a useful conversation to have via e-mail or after class.
She had me send Bug to his mat and ask for a default behavior. We did not retry the obstacle or discuss what I should do if that were to happen again. In the Tracy Sklenar seminar I attended earlier this year working on focus issues she had us go and take our dog’s collar and walk them back away from the distraction to where we started and start again. Rinse and repeat if needed. I think that is a better plan of attack.
The instructor said she would have had me start over and lower my criteria.
We did a lot of variations of the Off-Switch game before moving on to Mat Racing. We went to the center of the room and released our dogs (on-leash so we were running with them) to their mats, once there we asked for a default behavior. After doing that successfully we moved our mats to the center of the room so that we were facing other dogs and released our dogs to their mats asking for a default behavior once they got there.
We ended class working on Leave It and were asked to think of a behavior we can ask our dog to do in an emergency situation. “For example, you are in agility class and another dog gets the zoomies. He is heading right for your dog with no intention of stopping. What will you do? Get him behind you so that you can protect him? Send him to his crate with you quickly closing the door and standing in front? Plastering him up against the side of the wall so that you can shield him?” I think I will ask Bug to let me plaster him against the wall. I am not 100% sure yet though.
I was fairly depressed after class. I was really upset by Bug running off to chase the fly and the GD owner’s response. Bug has developed an obsession with flies. He actually caught one the other day at his acupuncture appointment. I am concerned that he might do it while working sheep. Hopefully sheep will be more exciting than stinking flies!
5 days ago