Fun with Tunnels: Weekly Agility Update

IMG_2516Um, Rain? That’s not how the tunnel obstacle works…

This week agility class started a little later than usual because traffic was fairly crazy getting to our space. This is precisely why I allow so much extra time when Rain and I come to class! It had rained earlier in the day. I personally saw at least two crashes during the short span we spend on a freeway—one of which had a truck completely turned around!

Our teacher Molly, who I think must live the furthest away, had even more issues and ended up being a few minutes late for class. Despite leaving early that day! It was no problem, we started warming up by walking our dogs around the space and having them follow us closely, making ever-closer passes at other classmates. Rain has yet to react to these. The worst she has done is gotten distracted by the cheese treats our classmate Linda brings for her Westie Kate. If that’s the worst reaction Rain has though, that is A-OK with me.

Once Molly arrived, she set up a series of jumps in a way to create a long weaving pattern, and we demonstrated how we were doing with our dogs shadowing us and doing inside/outside circles. Rain was up first and did beautifully! It was one of the two things I spent the most time working on her during that week.

Then we practiced sending our dogs around an obstacle. We use big safety cones in class, but outside of class I usually use the basketball hoop poles at the park. Rain is pretty good at this exercise. Molly reminded me that my challenge was to take it to the next level by running away and driving her out of the turn. Whoops! I had been focusing more on creating more distance between us and the obstacle. Since this class, I’ve been trying to run away now and again, depending on how solidly Rain seems to be doing on that particular day. (Her attention can be insanely difficult to hold at the park on some of our morning walks.)

After that, we learned an exercise that would start getting our dogs used to jumps. We set the jump bar to the lowest level and sat close to the edge of the small structure. In this game, the dog gets rewarded for figuring out to jump to the other side to get a treat. Molly actually had us try this exercise several weeks ago when Rain was being exceptionally barky, but we hadn’t done it since so it was good practice.

One mantra I hear frequently repeated in class is, “Rain wants to work!” It seems that when she gets barky in class these days, it’s because another dog is doing the activity in question or because she’s tired of waiting around. When we keep her occupied in some fashion, keeping that smart brain thinking and working, she is in heaven.

It’s funny to think about how serious Rain usually looked before last summer. She has gotten to do so much, go so many places, learn so many things in the last year! More often than not these days, she has a big Aussie smile on her face.

IMG_2514Linda rewards Kate when she has successfully emerged from the tunnel.

We just had a few minutes left at that point, so Molly set up the tunnel and we each practiced a few runs. Rain didn’t jump on top of the tunnel during any of our turns this time, but it is still proving challenging to get her to do a clean run through.

The usual reward we’ve given when the dog emerges from the other side is a small treat. If you think about it though, it can be tough to see. Molly ended up trying to use a ball as a reward, and I think that will be a far better tool to get Rain through the tunnel moving forward.

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