Out Standing in Her Field: Weekly Agility Update

IMG_2438Rain: Out Standing in Her Field

It was the sixth and final week of agility. This was it! Another graduation, another canine rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance,” another rite of passage in the rear view mirror, another reason to get cake.

Not so fast! As it turns out, our agility class isn’t actually over. But more on that in a bit.

Traveling to agility class from our house requires a little freeway time, during rush hour. If it wasn’t for Rain, I wouldn’t be caught near a freeway during rush hour, so I try to get us through the freeway part as early as possible. We never know when things will be backed up, so we are frequently in the vicinity of our class well before class starts. And we’re asked not to show up more than 15 minutes early (because: reasons). Rain doesn’t like just sitting in the car though.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a nearby park where we could potentially kill some extra time before class if needed. When we’re in the vicinity of our class there are open grassy fields as far as the eye can see—but they’re all private farms and we’d probably get in trouble if we were caught playing fetch on the sly. But this place! It’s a completely undeveloped public park that’s only a couple of miles from where class is. And it has been a GREAT find.

If Rain and I get to class early, I just head to this park and let Rain out of the car. We can play fetch or, if I forget to bring a ball like I did this week, Rain can run through the tall grasses at locomotive speed, sniff the critter holes in the ground, find tennis balls left by other dogs, and more. Rain arrives to class having burned off more energy, which is a great thing.

As it happens, Rain’s ball wasn’t the only thing I forgot to bring with us this week. When we got to class, I also realized that I had failed to grab her Kong out of the freezer. AGAIN. This meant I had to employ other methods to keep Rain occupied while we waited for class to start—methods that take more of my attention and energy. Her dinner was more or less gone before we even started class.

Molly caught one of our classmates up on what she had missed. This classmate has another dog who suddenly fell ill last week—turns out it’s cancer, and the dog probably isn’t going to last much longer. 😦

Once she was caught up, the three of us practiced an exercise where a dog would be tempted to move toward a reward in a food bowl before being given the OK. Since this exercise exactly mimics how my mom fed Rain for years, she’s a champ at this one. Molly needed to up the ante and asked if she had a particularly favorite toy. We borrowed a ball (I should have brought the ball!) and used the ball in place of the food. After that, we walked in some large figure 8s centering around some placed pylons—in this exercise we were working on inside and outside circles with our dog. Next, we reviewed the table command (which Rain is a pro at—we practice this every morning at the park). Molly added some challenge, asking me to start walking around the table as Rain stayed put—definitely the next level!

Overall, this week we didn’t do anything radically new, we just reviewed things we had covered and looked for opportunities to increase the challenge. And then class was over! There was no acknowledgement of this being our last class—no skills test, no diploma, no graduation caps. Kind of anticlimactic.

So I asked. As it turns out, our class isn’t just six weeks long! This is the sort of detail that I failed to ask about once I finally found an agility class that kind of, sort of worked for us to attend. Molly gets a group going at a certain time each week, and then it’s sort of like group lessons. You show up at the same time each week, and each dog progresses at their own pace. You pay and attend in six-week blocks, but otherwise there is no magical end date.

So I guess this means we’ll be back next week!

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