It had been a challenging week, returning home to Rain after being gone. She was bursting with energy all week—at least in part because I hadn’t taken any days off after returning to just stay home and be with her. Thus, there were just short windows of time each morning and evening to work out all her pent-up energy. By the afternoon of class, she still had crazy to spare.
It probably shouldn’t have surprised me, then, that she was a real loudmouth leading up to class. Just after turning on the street to approach the agility facility she started barking excitedly, whereas during a more typical week she won’t start barking until we’ve turned into the property driveway.
Rain and Rudy were the only dogs in class this week, but from the ruckus Rain was making at the start of class you’d think there was a crowd. Rain even barked while running the first course during class—something that her mom Skye used to do during agility but Rain generally hasn’t. Until now.
Evidence was suggesting that Rain was happy to be back in class.
We started out by walking a six-part course to think through how we’d handle it with our dog. There was one tricky spot, a jump right next to a tunnel. We’d have to give our dog the jump and then get them back to us to feed them into the tunnel which was sitting next to it. Sounds fairly easy but when a dog is running at full speed and sees a different obstacle in front of them they may be more inclined to just power ahead to that one.
Rain didn’t fall for the trick and we navigated the tunnel more or less just fine, pleasing Molly immensely. During the next part of the same course (7-12) there was a similar gotcha in the setup. Coming off a teeter, the dogs approached a tunnel with an A-frame over it and many dogs might go straight for the A-frame. Not Rain!
Molly has been gently trying to steer me away from the cookie belt (bait bag) I usually wear during class, for a variety of reasons. Most recently she suggested that Rain’s reward for pausing at the end of a contact obstacle would be her release. During the first part of the course I caught myself giving her a treat so I decided to just ditch the cookie belt altogether.
Molly suggested I keep a few treats in my pocket but we went the rest of class without the cookie belt—and Rain didn’t instantly go on strike.
Why does Molly want you to get rid of the cookie belt (bait bag)?
- Bait bags/treat rewards aren’t allowed at agility trials.
- When Rain and I run a course, training treats will often fly out, depositing themselves around the arena floor and other dogs will get distracted by the free treats when it’s their turn to run.
- Treats are supposed to assist in training, not be a crutch. I started using them a lot when Rain was going through Reactive Rover but now that Rain knows her stuff at agility I shouldn’t need to use them as much.
- It’s freeing to run a course with a dog without worrying about cookie logistics!
In addition to challenging ourselves, Molly threw an unexpected challenge at me during class. During one run she had me approach a particular jump backwards and send Rain over it. Moonwalking, sorta! The first time it felt so awkward that I bailed on the backwards part to signal the jump, but the second time it worked just beautifully. Molly praised how smoothly it went, and then pointed out that as we got better doing agility would be more of a fluid dance.
After class Rain was still being a real loudmouth but after we played more ball in the pens out back a wave of calm washed over her. It was like a heavenly vacation for my ears, and I decided to step out of the pen and observe the next class a little, reveling in the silence. (Rain was still supervising me from the pen.)
Rain’s temporary silence gave me hope that she’d settle down for the rest of the evening when we got home. She took a nap in the car on the way home and resumed being energetic and noisy once we returned.
But then, around 8pm, I noticed something unusual. A sleeping Rain! She had settled down for the evening much earlier than usual. I was able to have another nice little vacation at the end of the day, with evidence suggesting I had finally worked out Rain’s pent-up energy from my time away from her.