After much feet-dragging by yours truly, I made arrangements to tentatively start attending the earlier afternoon class with Rain. This week was the maiden voyage, and promised to be an interesting experiment.
Going to class earlier in the afternoon meant a different environment in terms of travel. The freeways were clearer than at rush hour, but I think still too risky to rely on exclusively. Traveling on surface streets meant going through FOUR school zones (areas where top speed is 20 mph) between our house and the class space. It took a while—we made zero stops en route (not even at Wilco!) and we only arrived about ten minutes before class was to start.
An earlier start means it’s still light out when we’re finished, and although we were traveling home at rush hour we were going in the opposite direction so it was smooth sailing after class.
In the few minutes we had before class, Rain and I headed to the back to play ball. It only took a couple of throws before the ball bounced off her nose, out of the large pen, and into an ivy-filled bank between us and the arena building. Since Rain was still full of energy, instead of waiting for me to unlatch the pen door she squeezed out on her own. The only trouble? A woman and her papillon were there (surely one of our new classmates) and Rain went charging toward them!
She didn’t care one bit about them though—she promptly dove into the patch of ivy and rooted around with her nose until she found her precious truffle. She dashed back to me and we got back inside the pen for a few more throws before class began.
Rain being a bossy Aussie.
It was soon time to head into the arena. As soon as Rain passed by the open arena door, a dog barked at her from inside. And that’s all it took to set Rain off. Once I got her back from this barking eruption, we went inside and she was still pretty barky, but did better over the next hour.
The papillon was indeed one of our new classmates, but it seems our new class is composed of dogs with unusual needs. The papillon tends to run toward new dogs when he’s off leash, so the first time it was his turn to practice, Molly put Rain and I behind an exercise pen barrier.
The other dog in our class is Poppy, a deaf white dog who is at least part German shepherd, and I think might be a double merle. Her dog-brother Cedar, also deaf, hangs out inside a crate during our class because he is in the class before ours. (I think it was Cedar who barked at Rain but I’m not certain.) Their human got both Poppy and Cedar from Deaf Dogs of Oregon (who often have double merle Aussies).
During our hour-long class Rain got to settle down after being thrown into a new routine with new dogs and people. She did settle down once class started but was quick to bark again depending on what Poppy was doing. (Did she know Poppy can’t hear her? Probably not!) Since I typically use her dinner kibble as a reward during class, she ate her dinner three hours early.
Once things started settling down Rain got to practice working on the tire. In the latter part of class Rain even got to learn a new obstacle—the A-frame! Of course she did great at both. Once she’s working in class she is great at focusing on that instead of being barky. Being exposed to new dogs is essential for her as well—if she ever reaches a point where she’s going to a trial, she’ll be around lots of new dogs and people and she’ll need to still do her job without reacting about everything in the environment.
When class was over the weather had gotten wet—a heavy shower with a wintery mix of rain and snow was falling outside. We headed toward the front of the building to leave—but as soon as Rain was at the threshold of the building she put on the brakes. She would not be moved. (It’s pretty amazing how staunch a 35 pound dog can be when she sets her mind to something!)
It took me about two seconds to realize the issue: I still owed Rain some ball-playing in the pens out back.
As soon as I headed the other way Rain unlocked herself and we headed toward the large pens. It was still wet out, but we kept playing until minutes after the shower had passed through. Rain was happy again, and we headed back home without incident.
It was certainly an interesting afternoon and introduction to our new class. We’ll be back in the other class next week, but if things go well the afternoon class will be our new home after that. Hopefully the logistics of getting there will become easier once we settle into the new routine!