Friday, December 5, 2008

Keep Your Distance

I really haven't been able to participate in any class with Teddy since I sprained my ankle. However, after sitting out for a week and a half over Thanksgiving, I couldn't sit still any longer, and poor Teddy was itching to get out and really run.

Teddy needs to be worked on a regular basis. I don't just mean chasing a ball in the backyard either. That just doesn't cut it. He needs mental stimulation, the challenge of running around while thinking about how high to jump and where he needs to go from here and hitting his weave pole entry. Challenging Teddy mentally is just as important as the physical exercise. This is what keeps Teddy happy and better behaved at home. Thinking dogs can get you into trouble when you don't give them something to think about.

So, we braved the cold and went to agility class this week. I decided that whether we did sequences or a course, I would just walk it and work on my distance handling. As I've stated before, Teddy is easily distracted. I've worked for years on increasing his motivation to work with me and to stay focused. This will always be an issue with us, but he has come a long way and made great improvements. It is because of this problem, that I don't like to get too much distance between us on the agility field. I've always worried that if he got too far away from me that he would forget about me and do his own thing, ie zoomies. So I baby him; I try to stay right with him to make sure he sees my signals, hits his contacts, and makes his entries. That's not an easy feat with a somewhat fast dog.

Obviously, I could not do that this week. I could only walk to wherever I needed to be, so there was no hope of staying with Teddy. Luckily, our instructor designed the short course so that it was ideal to work on distance handling. I did a big lead out and allowed Teddy to work ahead of me. I was shocked, Teddy actually did pretty well. He turned when I did, took a jump at a difficult angle, and did a 90 degree turn to hit his weave pole entry. The only thing he missed was after the tunnel, he was supposed to go 20 feet out to the table. I'm sure I dropped my arm or something because he took a jump instead. This exercise taught me a lot. My dog is more reliable than I think he is. I need to trust him that he knows his job that I have trained, and that he can do it without me being right on top of him. I know I crowd him too much most of the time. Teddy appreciates some distance between us, otherwise I tend to push him around obstacles. So unless Teddy starts to lose his focus and forgets that I am on the course, I've got to back off and let him fly.
*The pictures here were taken at the LRDTC agility trial in November 2008.

1 comment:

Avalon said...

I had the same issues with Sadie when she was still physically able to run Agility. She was fast and a little wild, so I always worried she would make her own course if I didn't stay nearby.

It ended up being just the opposite. Because she is a smart dog, i think she enjoyed using her own mind to run the course......and the resulting praise she got when, surprisingly, she was right!