Back to School

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After August’s three-week summer break, Rain went back to school this week! Rain and I were eager to get back to show Molly what we labored over during our month away.

Of course we got to enjoy the nearby park before class. Rain was glad to see our return to what might be her happy place. She got to run off-leash and free, burning off some of her happy energy, and I got to enjoy the afternoon sun.

Rain eventually pooped in the middle of this giant field. I needed to walk back to our car to get a poop bag, so I put our bright purple leash down so I would be able to find the right spot again. Wouldn’t you know it? It took me a full ten minutes (no exaggeration) to find that darn leash again! It occurred to me while searching that it wouldn’t be possible to attend agility without a leash, so I’m glad I finally found it again. (And of course so I could do my duty and clean up!)

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Once we arrived at class, I took a few “back to school” photos of Rain. She had a bath last weekend and we made sure to give her a back to school outfit—her bright red western bandana. Rain was noticeably happy to be back at agility—or as she calls it, “the place where I do some stuff and then Heather gives me food for an hour!”

Why the time off? The facility has time off in August for annual maintenance. When we came back last week we noticed that the arena walls had been repainted and our doggy platform had been completely rebuilt. There was also a new set of steps leading from the back of the arena to the dog runs. These steps will be helpful once the fall rains start—mitigating a muddy, eroded mess from people and dogs walking up and down the short slope.

First, Molly had us share “brags” from our time off—breakthroughs we had or anything else positive we wanted to share. Our classmates knew about Rain’s success with the shopping cart, but I shared a couple more things anyway. I had realized that our one-year anniversary of starting Reactive Rover was near, and while we have been working very hard that whole time, I had realized that Rain had moved the needle in terms of her behavior. She still has issues (squirrels!) but she seems easier to manage these days.

We warmed up by taking our dogs around the room to run a series of jumps. The jumps were set low (particularly for our little friend Kate the Westie). We didn’t force the dogs through, we walked them near the jump to see if they would take the jump, and then reward them if/when they did. Rain and I have been doing this one for weeks, so Rain didn’t miss a beat. She’ll do anything for cookies.

Molly set up three stations for the first part of class, and we rotated through them. One station had a wobble board. One station had the PVC ladder. The third station, where Molly was at, featured a small ramp which was to be the next step up from our board exercise. Rain started at the ladder, where I got to refresh her memory of how to properly use it. Since that first session when she learned how to use the ladder, she had been jumping out prematurely.

At the wobble board station, I ended up inventing a short course for Rain to perform while we were waiting, because Rain has had absolutely no problems with the wobble board. One of the bits of our course was a tunnel—a curved tunnel—and Rain went through several times without any problem! Not only was it refreshing to have tunnel success, but it was a curved tunnel at that—which we had never used before.

Eventually we made it to Molly, who was quite pleased with Rain’s progress on the board exercise. In fact, Rain took to the ramp exercise without much encouragement! Once we were done with that, Molly helped us with some new ideas to keep progressing on Circus Elephant.

Learning another new game closed out our session. In this game, we take our dog through a jump, throw a piece of kibble, then run the other way when the dog is still munching. Eventually we’ll get to a point where we can run diagonally and acclimate the dog to taking the jump at an angle.

Rain suggests she may already be a pro at this.

Once class was over, we spent some time playing ball behind the barn. Sunset is earlier now, and it was already dusk by the time we went out to play. Soon the fall rains will start, which will also impact our activities around class. On this night though, we still took a few moments to frolic and enjoy the cool September night while we still were able.

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