Pinwheel Mania and the Future of the Park: Weekly Agility Report

Agility this week was all about pinwheel work. Molly set up a pinwheel of six jumps around an imaginary box and we worked with those for our entire hour together!

Once again our class just consisted of two teams, but different teams than last time. Rudy was the other dog in class this week and Poppy was gone—last week Poppy was in class while Rudy’s owner was co-chairing an obedience show at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds which required her presence from Friday through Sunday.

In the first pinwheel exercise, we were challenged to send our dog around all the jumps without crossing a certain invisible line at the end of each side. The jumps that had been placed past that line required us to reinforce the “out” command, driving the dog away from us to get a jump. Once each dog was successful we reversed course. This can expose a “weak side,” meaning the side (relative to the handler) where the dog isn’t performing as strong as on the other side.

Rudy went first, and Molly discovered that Rudy’s obedience side is his weak side. This meant he nailed the exercise going one way, but erred on the other. Rain did pretty well but it took us a couple of attempts to get the “out” just right. I’m not sure if I was cueing it too late or Rain needed a reminder since I was further back than usual (behind the line), but once we got it she did great on both sides.

While Rudy was working, Molly told his owner about a recent workshop she had attended with a noteworthy trainer. In the workshop, this trainer emphasized the importance of one’s tone of voice when working with a dog. Molly said that during this workshop, she became aware of her vocal tendencies. In class she was noticing how Rudy’s owner already had a great way of delivering commands. Assertive, not questioning, and not demanding. When I’m running alongside Rain I think I tend to just yell like the dickens, so I might start taking note of my own tendencies in order to improve them as well.

In the second exercise, we did a X-style pattern with the four main jumps. The goal was to send the dog and do a front cross (that is, you’re crossing their line of motion in front of them) before sending them to the next jump.

It doesn’t seem like doing two exercises with two dogs should take an hour of class time, does it? And yet in our new class, which is more advanced, we frequently slow down and really fine-tune what both dog and handler are doing. Which takes more time.

That said, I’m really glad that Rain and I made the leap to this new class time! It feels like we’re in the right class for our skill level, and it’s really nice to enjoy class when it’s light outside.


When we got to the park before class this week, the sign below was in the parking lot. It seems there are new efforts afoot to develop this lovely field. Now, from the sign it looks like they’re only proposing to add an Instagram filter, a dog, and a woman to the park. In our experience, that’s what the “before” should look like, because that’s what it’s like every time we visit. 🙂

But last year I found an iteration of plans for the park that included building some baseball diamonds and other facilities that might make the place much less dog-friendly. It looks like they’re holding a survey online through May 15th…even if you’re a future park visitor, perhaps you could speak up for keeping the site open for burning off canine energy through lots of space for off-leash fetching? Rain and I would sure appreciate it.

Rain would also appreciate your help in saving one of her favorite mud puddles from being filled in…

More Rain Just Means a Deeper Puddle: Weekly Agility Report

It had rained all week, but by the time we headed to agility this week, the clouds started breaking up. Thus, once again we had a pretty decent outing! And Rain welcomed the sun.

We left for class a bit early, and managed to avoid all four of the active school zones (aka congested slow areas) along our route, meaning we arrived at the park with a fair amount of time for Rain to blow off some steam.

She soon discovered the beauty of an extra-rainy week: an extra-deep puddle to play in!

Rain splooshed around the enormous puddle, which in certain locations now reached past the the bottom of her chest. She stuck her face in to bite at the ripples she made, then stared at me with water streaming down her mouth. She was quite proud of her work.

Once class began, we discovered that Rudy the papillon was missing and it was just going to be Rain and Poppy working on their skills.

We worked on two different short courses during class. The first started with two parallel tunnels—the dog would take both tunnels as we (hopefully) continued standing at one end. Then, a couple of jumps before a quiet finish at the pause table with a countdown.

I wasn’t familiar with the agility countdown, so Molly explained. It’s fairly obvious, except that the dog is not allowed to move along until the end of the “O” in the word “go.” In this particular instance then, the countdown sounded like “and five, and four, and three, and two, and one, and go.” At which point Rain would be free to move to her next obstacle, if we hadn’t ended this course with the countdown at the end.

Rain’s issue? Well, when she hasn’t done the tunnels for a while, her natural inclination is to do this!

So it took a couple of times to get her through both tunnels with minimal assistance at the far end from me. She did it though! Then the rest of that course was a piece of cake.

She did a pretty good job on the second course too, which was set up along the perimeter of the arena. It started with a jump or two, then the A-frame, the weave pole channel, dog walk, and one final jump. I’ve been pretty impressed by how Rain has gone from almost no sequences to several obstacles in a row without issue. We’re still working on getting her feet command, but instead of requiring a regular food reward, being released to do the next obstacle seems to be reward enough for her when we’re going through these courses.

However, Rain didn’t get this course perfectly either—just like the tunnels, she needed some reminding about what the weave pole channel was all about. Molly took a little extra time and did some refresher training with us and by the end Rain was zooming through the channel like a natural.

The weather was improving as the day wore on, and the sun was out in full force after class was over. We spent a good half-hour playing in the pens out back before heading home.

Straggling: Weekly Agility Report

This week our afternoon of agility seemed to involve quite a bit of being just behind. It felt like congested traffic got me home a little late, then we left home a little late, then we hit all four of the school zones (each with a 20 mph speed limit and/or congested auto traffic) en route. When we were approaching our last turn I pondered whether I should go straight to class and arrive a little extra early or head to the park and play for just a few minutes (no more than just a few!).

Thinking of Rain’s energy level and the piece of paper I signed at one point that promised we would not arrive earlier than 15 minutes before class, I headed to the park. It was a lovely afternoon and Rain thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of running in the sun and playing fetch. When we started heading for the car though, I decided I’d get a video of Rain playing in the enormous puddle at the edge of the parking area.

Her second favorite puddle. #australianshepherd #splishsplash

A post shared by heather andrews (@bookishheather) on

Of course that took longer than expected so we rushed to class and arrived right at 3:30pm. It was at that point I felt the desire to use the restroom, but I ignored it and headed into the arena for class. I thought I was asked to wait before coming in due to a loose dog, so I used the time to fill one of the dog bowls with water. I also noticed an unfamiliar dog inside and thought they’d be heading out.

Turns out it was a lot of misunderstanding—the unfamiliar dog was in our class, at least for the day, and there hadn’t been any reason for us to wait outside. Once we came in then, we had to sit off the platform on the dirt part of the arena, which made it even more difficult for me to keep plugged in to what was going on.

It was one of those afternoons I guess!

We did do an exercise that took up most of the class time involving a jump. Humans were calling the dog to them while starting to travel parallel to the jump. The jump separated the dog and handler, and we started very close to the jump and increased distance as we had success. Close together, the exercise gave each dog experience in doing short jumps, which would also work new and different muscles. When we were further apart, it was reinforcing hand targets and I think there was some taking-a-jump-laterally that was happening.

As Molly set up a course for us to perform at the end of class, I took the opportunity to use the bathroom. Rain barked at me while we were in there, as she does for reasons I have yet to understand. The dogs had started running the course when we returned—and in keeping with the theme of the day I was a few minutes behind everyone else, not yet knowing the details about how we were running this course.

Rain did okay, but not as great as she did running last week’s course. Perhaps the weakest link was bringing our team down again on this particular day!

Rain and I enjoyed a few minutes of fetch in the pens out back after class before I remembered we couldn’t dawdle too long getting home. I had another commitment that evening, which meant my mom would get to enjoy  the fruit of my labors. Rain is delightfully quiet on these evenings, having been worked physically and mentally during our agility class.

Easter Treats: Weekly Agility Report

In her inherited Easter bandana. #australianshepherd #EasterAussie

A post shared by heather andrews (@bookishheather) on

Rain was excited to get back to agility class after last week got cancelled due to the wind storm. Underexercised mentally and physically this week, she hopped right in the car so we could get to class. While we were en route she whined more than usual. She was aching to get out and unleash her Aussie energy!

We stopped at the park before class but only had a few minutes to enjoy the grassy field. During our drive I realized I had forgotten to bring poop bags, and emphatically warned Rain she was not allowed to poop at the park. Naturally, the first thing she did once she was out in the field was have a big one. 💩 Thus, I burned even more time rifling around in the storage areas of my car looking for an emergency bag. Fortunately I found something that would work! (I have since put a roll of bags into my vehicle for the future.)

Molly brought everyone Easter treats! There were doggy cookies in one basket and chocolate human treats in the other. The only bunny in the basket of dog treats was pretty enormous—but Easter and bunnies go together like peanut butter and jelly so I fed it to her anyway. The cookie was so big she didn’t quite know what to do with it—a first for food-motivated Rain! She quickly figured it out while I rooted around in the basket of human treats for a chocolate bunny.

Poppy and Cedar weren’t at class so it was just Linda and her papillon Rudy with us. We tend to share “brags” at the beginning of class—training victories or other things our dogs did that are impressive. Linda told us that Rudy had just gotten some high marks in an obedience competition over the weekend!

Then we began to work. First we put Rain on the teeter, then sent her to it from different places to see if she had learned her component apart from where I might be standing at a given time. She and Rudy are both on “full teeter,” which means they’re allowed to use the teeter without anything to shorten the drop or keep it from banging when it hits the ground. (All our shopping cart work paid off!)

We spent the bulk of class working with a line of jumps with one further away from our line than the others. We were working on the “out” command, getting the dogs to drive away from us to get a jump. Rain and I had to work on this one for a while, but as is often the case I was the weakest link.

As Rain and I were working, a heavy rain shower came through, pounding on the roof enough to start making Rain nervous. Since we’re not sure if the threat of rain on the roof of my car is what’s making Rain nervous about getting into the car, we decided to take a break and not give her any negative associations with working on jumps or the command “out.” We had another go after the shower passed, and aced it!

Rain has come a long way since jumping off the dog walk last fall.

At the end of class we ran a course that was set up around the perimeter of the arena. This course involved jumps, the A-frame, tunnels, and the dog walk. Rain did great! Better, really, than I expected her to with the “feet” command at the end of the A-frame and dog walk! Then we reversed course and did the same course moving in the opposite direction around the room.

Once again, Rain did great! She really is a natural at this agility thing. We made our way home and Rain was blissfully settled the rest of the evening, having gotten some great mental and physical stimulation for the day.

Hoppy Easter from Rain in the Forecast!

Hoppy Easter from Rain in the Forecast!

Rain inherited a series of holiday-themed bandanas from her Uncle Atticus as well as a few costume pieces I used to use to stage photos with him. (Here’s Atticus as the Easter Aussie.)

When I tried putting Atticus’ bunny ears on Rain, she immediately slapped them off her head about seventeen times. But on the eighteenth try, she gave up for about 20 seconds and I managed to get a photo. She was clearly not very happy about the situation, and she reminded me of another grumpy bunny…

We’ll stick to the bandanas for now. We hope your Easter is full of happy bunnies, chocolate, and all the eggs you can eat!