Press the Lever, Get a Cookie: Weekly Agility Update

Prepare yourselves, they said. It might be the storm of the century, they said.

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The Pacific northwest was set to get the first in a wave of storms on the same night as agility this week. As with so many weather events in Portland, this one ended up overpromising and underdelivering. But I didn’t know that at the time, so I had a bit of trepidation heading to class.

To be fair, the wind certainly picked up during class, and the rain was decent. One of the big barn doors was closed, preventing our class area from becoming a vortex. Still, there was just one time during class when the weather caught my attention and drew my focus outside.

It lasted about 10 seconds.

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Heading to class, Rain and I made excellent time and got to spend about 30 minutes at the park. We enjoyed a break in the rain that lasted just as long as we were outside, running and playing ball and burning puppy energy!

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Once we were in class, we began by reviewing “tick tick tick” with safety cones. Molly talked a bit more about what this exercise provides in terms of practical tools you can use on the course.

I’ve been looking for some traffic cones to use for home practice. Unfortunately, the ones I’ve had access to are either too short or too tall. I’m currently investigating making an order from ULINE or if nothing else, taking a trip down to Sanderson Safety Supply in Inner SE Portland. That place is the stuff of fluorescent-colored, reflective dreams.

We then spent some time working on another short combination of obstacles like last week. This time, the last obstacle was the table, and we were getting our dogs to drive forward over jumps to get to the table for their reward. First we sent them to the table from behind one jump, then we sent them from behind a second job.

Here’s Linda and Kate demonstrating:

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Then it was finally time to introduce the teeter!

First, Molly had us all do an exercise that Rain and I did during our “private lesson,” with the dogs just lying down on the contact zone of the teeter.

Then we started the fun stuff. The teeter was set up to have a little give. This was so a dog could walk up and touch it, sending the teeter to the ground and making a noise, and then they were rewarded. Kate and Linda demonstrate again:

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As you can see we started with the teeter just a few inches off the ground. Teeters are introduced slowly because it’s easy for a dog to get freaked out by the metallic noise it makes when it hits the ground. If the dog gets spooked, you might spend months trying to acclimate them.

(This is also why we were encouraged to spend some time wheeling our dogs around in metal shopping carts over the August break.)

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Unsurprisingly, Rain had no problem slapping that teeter. Molly kept letting our end of the teeter go higher and higher, and at the end it was starting parallel to the ground. Molly was happy all of us made such progress in just one session of teeter. After class she said that we probably don’t need to worry about Rain getting spooked, we could probably let Rain do what she wants to get used to using it.

At a certain point I also realized Rain was behaving like a classic lab rat in an operant conditioning experiment. The teeter looked like a giant lever, with Rain pushing it again and again in order to get her Charlee Bear reward.

Molly had put out some other toys for Rain to engage with (and keep her quiet) while we waited our turn for each activity. She has been a master of the wobble board since the beginning, as she demonstrates here.

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One thing that struck me was that Rain looked so happy all evening, except when she had to get in the car. (That’s right, she’s showing reluctance to get in the car again.) I guess as long as she keeps pressing the lever and the cookies keep dispensing, I’ll be seeing more of this face in the future.

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