I Can Hear! Weekly Agility Update

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Rain got to play at the park. With the ball, because I hadn’t forgotten to bring it. I even remembered the Kong! Those improvements since last week are the only reasons I can believe it happened.

Rain was really quiet during class this week! (Or was it all a dream?)

Upon arrival, I set Rain’s mat up in our area and put the Kong down for her. She went right to work, and before long I was able to drop her leash and just walk away. She was focused, intent on getting everything out of that Kong.

Not long after class started, we even made it to the big kids’ table!

See, the arena has a long platform with chairs, where most dog owners opt to set up their dog’s mat and stash their belongings. Due to Rain’s past reactivity, we have consistently sat several feet away from the platform and our classmates.

On this day though, Rain spent about a quarter of class at the big kids’ table—and it was a wild success. Molly spent some time challenging our dogs with mat exercises. First, we left our dog on her mat and walked a few feet away. Next, we walked over to another person and had a short interaction. The real-life application was to be able to have our dog on their mat in a competition and be able to walk a course without worrying about whether they’d stay put or not.

We then revisited the exercise where we walk with our dogs walk through the space, and we stop if they mentally disconnected from us (by sniffing something, paying attention to another dog, etc). Then, the same exercise while purposefully getting closer to another dog. Everyone did great! Although this is very similar to an exercise Rain did a fair amount in Reactive Rover—but she’s getting even closer to dogs now than she ever did, without reaction.

It wasn’t until we were about halfway through practicing our next set, sending our dog around an obstacle and having them return—that I had a realization.

“You guys! She’s being so quiet tonight! I can actually hear what you’re saying! I’m a little verklempt…”

In most circumstances this would probably have jinxed it, and Rain would have started barking with a vengeance. But no! At one point she started quietly whimpering (probably of boredom, as we had been sitting for a bit without any work) but she lasted the rest of class without incident. It made a huge difference in how much I got out of class, and I think we both performed better because of it.

After learning some fun new exercises involving a dog rejoining their human from different angles/sides, class was over.

And it was back to barky dog.

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As usual, we played a little bit in the penned areas behind the arena while the next class gathered. After their class had started and Rain got to be her doggy self for a little while, we jumped back in the car and made the journey home.

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