It was the class we had been looking forward to for weeks: time to play reindeer games before the holidays!
Our last agility class before winter break each year is dedicated to reindeer games rather than the usual agility fare. This year Rain and I got the full reindeer games experience, since last December our class was cancelled due to some amazing weather and the December before that I was asked to join a different class (with a slightly different format) because neither of our then-classmates would be able to make it.
We paired up into teams at the beginning of class and came up with a team name. Rain and I were paired with the new person and her blue merle Australian cattle dog, so we decided we were Blue Christmas. Linda and Jackie were paired up and decided they were AriAngels.
THE BACK-UP CHALLENGE
The contest was to see whose dog could back up the furthest away from their person, and a line was drawn on the arena floor where the person’s feet could not pass for this exercise.
In the weeks leading up to this class, I had a feeling Molly would use this one again! We had done this one two years ago when we sat in with the other class. This time I tried Molly’s suggestion of backing the dog up well before the line, so they’d sort of get a running start.
This challenge tends to be won by bigger dogs—when we last did this challenge, one of the Bernese mountain dogs in that class won. In our class, Poppy won, who is also the biggest dog in our class.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE RELAY
Our dog’s leash had to be in the same hand as the “Christmas tree” (a small cone with a tennis ball balanced on top, above), and we had to serpentine our way down to the end weaving through some jump wings. At the end we were supposed to put our “Christmas tree” down, have our dog stay on a piece of carpet, pick up a total of three poop bags filled with sand and toss them into a tire on the ground. Then we’d get our dog off the mat and serpentine back with our “Christmas tree” in the same hand as our leash.
Since this was the first group event of the session, I made a serious error by forgetting that “relay” means the teammate is waiting and ready to go when their teammate completes their portion! Not only was I not ready and waiting, but Rain was secured to the wall and I was probably doing the equivalent of staring off into space.
Fortunately we still won the race despite my cluelessness. Once we were ready Rain and I trucked through the course. We were allowed to use treats, so I used one to keep Rain steady as we walked steadily through the serpentine section, and all the other bits fell together without incident, including the poop bag toss. One, two, three, right into the tire.
THE TAIL WAG CHALLENGE
When Molly announced this one, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “NO FAIR!” half-jokingly. Aussies don’t have tails, after all! But we still had a stub to watch wiggle, and Aussies are known as wigglebutts. We had 30 seconds to get our dog to wag his/her tail as much as possible, and our teammate would count the number of wags.
(This is still pretty tough, as Rain moves around a lot and so a good vantage point on her stub can be fleeting.)
I decided to have Rain start by kissing my face as much as she wanted, which I know makes her happy and wiggly. Once that excitement started wearing off, I don’t remember what I did but we still had enough counted wags to win the match-up against Aria.
TUNNELS AND JUMPS
This game was held in a part of the arena that held a group of tunnels and jumps in the vicinity of each other. We were given a start point and had to guide our dog to do as many tunnels and jumps as we could in 20 seconds. The only rules were, a specific tunnel was one-way only and we couldn’t do two tunnels or two jumps in a row. If we did one of those, we’d be disqualified.
Rain got really barky during this game (which usually hurts her focus/time), but between us we still won the round. 🙂
REINDEER AGILITY RELAY
A short pair of courses would be run as a relay in the same area that we had done the tunnels and jumps game. We all walked the course and determined among our team who would do the blue cones (first) and who would do the yellow (second).
One detail: the handler running would sport a pair of reindeer antlers while running, and would need to hand them off to their teammate in order to pass the metaphorical baton.
Before we started I reminded the group—clearly for my own benefit—that a relay means that the teammate should be right there ready to go when the first one is done. AHEM. Rain and I did the blue cones though, so we were the very first team up.
The course was short, only about six obstacles that were all jumps and tunnels. Even so, there was an opportunity for a little fancy handlin’ (I’m not entirely sure if it was a rear cross or front cross) and that’s how I did it. When we were done, Molly and some others remarked about how smooth we looked. 😎
PAUSE TABLE CHALLENGE
This was our final game, and the level of fun seemed largely dependent on how well the dog was at staying on the pause table. That is to say, those of us on Blue Christmas thought it was a fun, easy game, while the team members of AriAngels weren’t as into it. (See a video compilation here—Rain and I are at the very end!)
We began by sending our dog to the pause table where they could sit, lie, or stand, as long as they stayed put. The handler walked to a series of three stations, each further away from the table with their dog, and completed a task. At the first station, only about ten feet from the dog, the handler sang the first line of “Jingle Bells.” At the second station (another teh feet away) the handler mimed putting three ornaments up on their invisible Christmas tree. Then the handler was to run quickly to the third station, another ten feet away.
None of the dogs could last when their handler was running away so far from them, but each of the stations provided excellent “proofing” activities. Can a dog continue his stay when his handler is vocalizing? Can he stay when the handler’s arms are up in the air in a strange way? I’m proud to say that Rain held out the longest, but finally broke when I ran away from her.
After the reindeer games were over we all got a prize to take home: a roll of poop bags with a festive holiday ribbon! We were also invited to take one of the jingle bell collars Molly had ordered to give out to her students, but they were sized more for cats than large dogs and Rain was already wearing her jingle bell collar for class. We took the collar home and put it on Roy, who did not seem to be amused.
We’re now on holiday break until January 5th, assuming the weather cooperates better than it did last year. I have hopes of working on some things with Rain at home over the break, but we’ll see how things pan out.