Climbing the Ladder: Weekly Agility Update


It started sprinkling on my way home from work, and soon enough Rain and I were taking cover underneath the hazelnut tree in my backyard. We had not yet left to make the journey to agility class, but I knew that finding our way would be slow and there would be crashes. In fact, I realized, it was the fourth time in a row when we had class and the rain was starting up again.

It was time for more drastic measures—we took a different route to get to class, almost wholly avoiding our few miles along the interstate.

It worked like a charm! We got to keep moving at a more even pace, I was less anxious, and we got to the area around the same time we would have anyway…I think.

Once class started, we reviewed our circus elephant exercise. All three of our canine cohort made progress this week! Molly decided to bring out her dog Moxie, a graceful border collie with long hair, and show us what the exercise will eventually look like. Moxie demonstrated her smooth moves, and then Molly put her in an exercise pen away from where we were working.

That’s when things went a bit flat for the evening.

A few minutes later Rain erupted, barking at Moxie! I had to pull out some exercises/tricks from Reactive Rover to get her back under threshold. Even then, I could tell that Rain was still keeping a close watch on Moxie, who was quietly laying inside her exercise pen. I tried to get Rain behind a tunnel in hopes of it creating a visual barrier, but it turns out Rain is just tall enough to look over the tunnel.

What was so threatening about Moxie? I have no idea. Was it because Rain was unable to smell her scent? Was it because she hadn’t been in class with us before? Was it because Moxie was behind a sort of fence? The barking eruption was a big surprise to me, because Rain has been much more barky at squirrels the last several months than she has been with most dogs.

At a certain point, we did an exercise where Molly wanted to take Rain off-leash, and I pointed out that Rain was still acting worried about Moxie. Molly put a blanket over the exercise pen to create a visual barrier that allowed us to perform the task at hand. Later on though, when Moxie might peep around the side of the blanket, Rain still showed a bit of worry about her.

We continued class though. Molly introduced a play game that is going to be pretty challenging for Rain, given her predilection for fetching and working over actual playing. In this game, the dog needs to be able to play with some sort of toy in their handler’s hand. Once they fully engage with the toy, the handler makes it “go dead” and lures them over to play with the toy in the other hand, and back and forth. I’ve been working with Rain on playing tug-of-war, and I wouldn’t say she’s quite there yet. I might get one or two gentle tugs from her, and then she disengages and waits for me to throw the toy in order to fetch it. So that exercise is going to be a real challenge for us.

Toward the end of class, we learned about a couple of exercises including equipment that are good for dogs to increase their rear-end awareness and some other things. The ladder (below) is sort of like the doggy version of football players running through tires. The goal is for the dog to run through the length of the ladder without resorting to hopping between the rungs.

Rain instantly aced it.


Molly also took a set of weave poles and laid them on the side, creating another version of a ladder that could accommodate dogs ranging in size from little to big.

Finally, we got the opportunity to officially try out the dog walk obstacle for the first time! Since Rain already uses the balance beam at our park like Nadia Comaneci, this was another moment for Rain to demonstrate her gifts. She was soon leaving me behind in the dust, walking back and forth, and turning around to look for her kibble. She never fell off, and she never jumped off before her paws hit the contact zone. What an overachiever!


It was time for class to end, despite Rain’s desire to play on this fun new obstacle. Before I was able to head over to gather our things and exit the arena, someone from the next class had come and sat down very near our belongings. This person was working with a Bernese mountain dog and Rain was apparently having none of this strange-dog business. She started barking again, sandwiched between Moxie (still over in the corner in her exercise pen) and this new beast.

At a certain point I gave up on calming her down while we remained there, so I grabbed as much of our stuff as I could and escorted her outside. Once there, running inside one of the pens behind the building, she mellowed out and became herself again.


One comment

  1. owningadogwithanxiety · July 12, 2016

    I completely understand the feelings that go along with a reactive dog! Good for you for continuing classes with Rain. We learned rear end awareness using a touch pad. What is the point of the new game? Focus? It’s interesting. Keep up the good work!


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