Tonight Toby and I went to agility class. Yes, I train dogs, and yes, I take training classes. I have never trained a dog for agility, nor competed in it, so I wanted to get it right the first time and not spoil my dog for competition learning how to train it on him. I only teach things I feel qualified to teach, and have no problem going to a specialist for a specialized kind of training!
Anyway, agility class can be quite frustrating for me. At home, Toby is a VORACIOUS player.
But when we are out at agility class he does.not.play.
In training agility, it’s important you get your dog to love to play, so you can use it as a reward. If your dog wants to play, he’s eager and hyper while being focused and highly motivated. With food you’re just not going to get the same excitement level. And since agility is a timed sport, you want your dog raring to go!
See how he’s RACING through the tunnel at home because he wants the ball? That is the response I want all the time! Not just in the house. (No, of course my house is not always that messy! A localized tornado had recently gone through it, and just when I started to clean up after it a massive earthquake hit. And..uh..then a tsunami. But now it looks nothing like that, don’t worry.) (Yes, I realize my vocal cues are extremely inconsistent. I was experimenting. I don’t usually use a stay/wait with a tunnel, because I have space outside, so I was working things out. Promise I’m a better dog trainer than this looks like. Pinky swear.) (Yes he slowed down at the end. That was after about 30 minutes of tunnel/fetch. Ignore that part.)
His refusal to play has held us back. He simply will not do it. At home he’ll bring me a ball in a never ending cycle, but take that same ball outside, and (when we started) he won’t even chase it.
So the last few days I have been trying something different to get him interested in one specific toy…and lo and behold..it worked!
We got to agility class. I acted like a nut. I waved the dedicated toy in front of his face and ran around making silly sounds…and he chased me and tried to grab the toy! At one point he got a good hold of it and tugged HARD!
I cannot put into words what a huge breakthrough this was. He could play, which means he was relaxed. And happy. And energetic. So not only did he play, the whole hour he had great focus. He rarely paid attention to other dogs, and when he did immediately turned and ran back when I called. He vaulted over the jumps and executed beautiful turns upon landing, with me at a good distance away. He trotted through the 2×2 (training equipment for weave poles), even with it rotated, even from far away, when we’d only introduced it once before. He was offering behaviors and not getting discouraged, running out ahead of me to try different ways of using equipment to see what got the “click.” He had consistent success executing a rear-cross for the first time ever after weeks of trying.
It was amazing.
And to add to the coolness, one of my students was there! She has taken two sessions with me, and may take a third (*crosses fingers*), but I recommended she come to this place for agility. I love this woman. We get along really well, and we are going to get together outside of classes to hang out, let our dogs hang out, and work with them a bit. I won’t be in her class after tonight (I’m moving to a more advanced one now that my schedule works out) but being there with her one night was really fun. She has lots of positive, bouncy energy and just makes any activity more enjoyable! So on the one hand, it was fun to have her around just to have her around. But on the other hand, this was the first time she ever saw me work with my dog, so for him to have one of his best nights of agility class ever was even more sweet!
I am off, now, to bask in our success… :-D