I’ve had one hell of a time for the last two weekends let me tell you. I don’t think I’ve felt this good in a while. It’s been a lot of work to get to this point but I feel like I’m starting to find my way in this crazy, crazy weird world of agility.
Two weekends ago we had a fun-show. It was in a place that we’d been before, but hadn’t seen for a good six months. Also, we’d only had moderate success in that particular venue, so I felt like it would be a fantastic test run for our first show that was happening a week later. I’ve also been doing a new training trick for the last month, which is a modification of this idea that I posted before. Basically, I was worried that he wouldn’t want to work with me if he realized I wasn’t carrying any treats or toys. So, at least once a day when I put down his breakfast or supper, I would then call him away from it, run to the next room, train furiously for about thirty seconds, and then send him back to his dish. I started out small—just to the other side of the room, one or two tricks and then let him eat—and built up the duration and distance from there. It was great because he learned that working away from his reward is just as awesome as working near it.
Once we were at the fun-show I know it would be a great chance to see if my training had worked. I had him entered in two classes because I wasn’t sure how much drive he would have. After a long hot summer I had gotten used to my dog lasting about five minutes before crapping out on me. I fixed up his “show reward” (basically, raw dog food fried in bacon fat) and brought his food dish with us so there was no question in his mind what was coming. Well, long story short, it went pretty well:
Aside from him scampering off before doing the weaves (which to be fair I kinda pointed towards where his bowl of food was waiting) he stayed with me the whole time. I was late with my queues, but frankly I was so shocked at how much enthusiasm and drive he was giving me that I was caught a bit off guard. Also, who says you need a dog that’ll tug to do agility? Poo poo, I say to them! In fact he was so good that I entered him in an extra class that day. He seemed to get faster as I got slower, especially as I partially threw out my back trying to keep up with him.
I was really, really happy with our day, though a little nervous that we’d used up all our good luck.
Turns out I needn’t have worried.
Our first trial was a good two-three hour drive away in a horse barn (as it was raining). I knew there would be a lot of interesting smells on top of all the other stresses that come with being at a trial, worse for Mufaasa since he been around horses and really, really loves them. Like, thinks they’re gigantic dogs and wrestle buddies. Once again, he proved that I need to give him more credit.
Our first class was a steeplechase. I was a bit leery of doing a lead-out pivot since I was worried he might lose confidence and start sniffing, but turns out “lack of confidence” was the last thing I needed to worry about:
Every time I watch that video all I can hear in the back of my head is the Ride of the Valkyries. Also, he very nearly jumped over the entire a-frame. Though it was nice of him to still land in the yellow!
Still, for our first class I couldn’t have been more happy. He had drive, enthusiasm, I managed to reconnect with him after a minute, and frankly I’ll take the zoomies over the sniffies any day of the week. As we got ready for last class of the day, a jumpers class, I hoped that he wouldn’t lose that energy. Well, in case you missed the theme of this particular blog post, my dog was bound and determined to show that my expectations were no where near high enough:
Unfortunately I pivoted a bit to late (while he was over the fence) which is what caused the rail. Otherwise he was PERFECT. Well, he was perfect. Every mistake out there is my own and really all stuff I can chalk up to lack of experience. In fact my little monster was so good we got second place! Not bad for our second agility class.
You know, I’ve worked hard for most of my life, and I suppose a lot of the time I don’t really see tangible results—I just sort of feel “adequate” at whatever task I set out to do. Not this time. I know we’ve worked hard and I know I’ve done everything I can to prepare him, and it paid off. I am legitimately proud of how we did. Now to get ready for our next and last trial of the season, where he will likely humble the hell out of me ;p