Out of Practice: Weekly Agility Report

Rain looking happy to be at agility on a nice spring day.

As spring hits in the Portland area, sunny days bring a pandemic joy to its citizens. Hidden away from the rain all winter like mole people, Portlanders will often flock outside, squinting, as the nonstop grey skies start to subside for the year. Each day of sun is a gift, and treated as such until July when the weather gets more reliably warm and dry.

Agility took place on one of these gifted days again this week! And it was a grand day to head out to the countryside.

Rain hopped right in the car again after two weeks of serious hesitancy, which only made me revisit my theory about the weather impacting her feelings about riding in the car. It saved us time though, and we were able to spend our surplus moments playing ball at the park in an attempt to wear off Rain’s extra energy before heading to the arena.

The people who own the property were trying to take advantage of the weather as well, in the form of doing some spraying on their property. When Rain and I arrived a woman approached us and told us they were keeping the spraying to specific areas of the property, largely away from the arena building. It wasn’t a great thing, but it’s their property, right? Rain and I are around pesticides so infrequently it was unlikely to do significant harm. I thanked her for telling me and proceeded to take Rain to play a little more ball in the back before class started.

Once class did start, spraying began in the gravel patch in front of the arena. One of us remembered their car was wide open and didn’t want to get pesticides inside her car, so there was a bit of a disruption. We had another bit of a disruption too. While we waited at certain points, I thought about how coming to class in the afternoon felt different. It feels more relaxed, which has been both good and bad. When class is over it’s not pitch black out, and we can saunter home without encountering congested traffic. But there can be downfalls to a more relaxed feeling as well.

Indeed, it wasn’t long before we discovered Rain was having some issues remembering her “feet” cue (above). It seems that feeling more relaxed in class may have lead to my being lax about practicing some of our cues over the last few weeks! It is hard to focus and be serious when it’s so nice outside.

After working on “feet” a bit, Molly introduced us to an “out” cue. This means the dog goes out from the handler to perform an obstacle. We started by walking a straight line and putting a safety cone in the dog’s line, adding a gesture and vocal cue to help them tie their natural reaction with what we were saying. After a few passes with the cone right in front of the dog’s line, we started moving it further out.

Poppy worked her way up to pushing out to the wing of a jump during her turn.

When it was Rudy the papillon’s turn, he got to practice using a new method of reward. He has been so focused on his handler’s hands that Molly has set up a system where the treats stay in a chair and he can run to the chair after he has done the task. This way he’s focused on his handler as a whole rather than where those treats are and how close his handler’s hands are to them.

(Why yes, this method MAY soon be assigned to Rain as well!)

Once Rain had her turn learning “out,” class was over for the afternoon. And Rain looked so happy the entire hour! Her face beamed the whole time, despite my forgetting her frozen Kong and intentionally leaving her dinner at home. She got to spend a beautiful day with her adopted human, playing ball, and getting fed string cheese. What could be better?

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