Learning the Tunnel: Weekly Agility Update

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Agility this week went much more smoothly than last week, due in part to a tool we call the puppy pacifier. The Kong.

The Kong (seen above) is a rubbery toy that comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and durability levels. Its irregular shape means that it bounces unpredictably when tossed. It also has a cavern inside that a human might wedge treats inside to occupy their dog. Sure, you could put a cookie or two inside, or maybe a few baby carrots…but there’s nothing like a frozen Kong. Sure, put some dry treats in the mix, but fill that sucker up with some peanut butter, pureed dog food, or maybe even yogurt! Then put it in the freezer overnight. When you give it to the dog the next day she will be occupied for hours.

In Reactive Rover we learned that licking and chewing at a Kong is a self-soothing activity, making puppy less nervous in a potentially stressful environment. Giving Rain a long-lasting Kong is also great for stimulating her brain and drastically reducing her noise level. It gives me a break!

This week I forgot to put together Rain’s Kong until we were about to leave for agility class. It wasn’t frozen so it didn’t last as long, but it was still enormously effective.

Once class started, we showed off how we were doing on our table command. When Molly raised the stakes a little we discovered something interesting.

Rain was told to stay a few feet away from the table on one side, and I stood a few feet away from the table on the other side. When I said the command she tensed, then stayed put. There was a specific reason.

When Rain lived with Skye, before each meal they were told to sit and stay until their food bowls were placed. When and only when they were given an OKAY was it acceptable to move.

Rain was waiting for an OKAY to hop up on the pause table! Her brain has apparently been wired to stay seated until she hears the word OKAY, so she was being a very good dog by staying put.

After reviewing our homework we started learning the tunnel obstacle in class. Each dog got to be off-leash in the arena while the rest of us waited outside the walls. Molly first made the tunnel short and straight, and with each successful pass kept lengthening it a little longer.

Rain did just fine at first but then started having some misfires. She’d jump on top of the tunnel (which I didn’t even know was possible!) and run along up there. I’d send her into the tunnel, say “yes!” and before I knew it she was running back out the same end, running at me and expecting her treat.

I’ve created a monster—a cookie monster!

After class was over we made our way to the fenced pens behind the barn and played ball a little bit before heading home. The sunset and pastoral setting made for a lovely May evening.

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We even got to meet the neighbor’s goats! Rain didn’t react to them at all, even when they were right next to her—she just pretended they didn’t exist. (I think she was nervous because they were bigger than her.)

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After our extra time spent playing ball, I took Rain to the car and she got in without any problem. A satisfying end to a pleasant evening!

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