I should really be getting to bed, because I'm waking up super early tomorrow to take Marge on a long walk before the droves of children make their way out to (in Marge's eyes) terrorize the neighborhood, but I couldn't help but post.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Today, Louie and I took Marge to run-throughs at the site of Sunday's trial. Though I was fully prepared to get there, feed Marge cookies, walk her around, and leave, she was very relaxed (50mg of L-Theanine in her system, note to self).
She was excited getting out of the car when we first got there and showed no hesitance to go over to the set up area. A little grey-faced, black Whippet was standing there with his handler, and Marge was originally very leery of him, but he was actually her only real dog-dog interaction of the day. His owner informed me that he is very polite when it comes to other dogs, so I didn't think it would be a bad thing to let them say hello to each other. He, too, was a very shy dog (his owner called him "neurotic"), but his owner said that he lights up on the agility field. It was good encouragement for me, and Marge seemed to enjoy his company very much. He offered his back for her to sniff almost immediately, putting her at ease.
I walked the course almost immediately after I got there, which was nice since I didn't have to have Marge wait around. I admit, because Marge was out there with me while I was walking (I figured it'd be a very good time for her to get out there to sniff and see the equipment) I did a terrible job of strategizing.
She was great watching people go by and other dogs run, getting a tiny bit too interested when she saw a Boston running zoomies, but the clicker came out, Look-At-That commenced, and all was well. Seeing some dogs offleash as we walked around the park did make her lick her lips and change her body language, but I knew they were well-trained and would not approach us and she soon realized the same.
Most importantly, the fact that there was noise - and a good deal of it - did not bother her. There were park vehicles moving about in the background, the lawn was being mowed on the other side of the park, people were setting up tents, and a dog was letting out a highly irritating, high-pitched whine. I expect there to be less noise the day of the trial, except maybe for more dogs barking. But, I don't think there will be much big activity going on as there was today during the last bit of setup.
Here is the video of our second run (there were two):
I think she looks great. There was a little lip-licking going on at the beginning, but she had also just eaten bits of wet dog food (yep, I stood there for 10 minutes this morning taking chunks out of a can of Merrick to use as treats - worked like a charm), so it could be from that. They must have gotten caught in her throat or something, so she coughed a couple times on course as well.
Nevermind the actual agility. My handling was poor - in my head, I could practically hear Marisa screaming "RUN TO THE FENCE" as Marge and I continually blew that stupid tunnel under the A-Frame - and my hands were flailing all over the place. Though, I must admit, for a NADAC Elite course, I think Marge did a mighty good job of navigating it.
I think she looks LOADS better from a behavioral/emotional standpoint than she did at class two weeks ago, further enhancing my belief that there was either something out of the ordinary at the field or the grass was wet and bothering her. It's very encouraging that she has been to this place only one time before, and was able to run with the great fervor and enthusiasm that she usually gives at class. She looks like she is having fun.
It's also encouraging that she ran 23 straight obstacles without a single treat (while she likes toys, she is not hugely toy motivated). Of course, with speed comes no 2o2o contacts, but she hit the yellow, even if she didn't stop at the bottom.
Of course, Sunday is going to be a whole different ball game. There will be lots more waiting, lots more dogs, and no squeaky toy to bring out with me on to the course. If it is too much for her, we will leave and not set foot in the ring. It's as simple as that. After today, I am optimistic that this will not be the case, but it is certainly a possibility.
After Sunday, no matter what the outcome is, we will not be doing anything quite like this for a while. Though Marge has progressed considerably in all areas of her training, I know it is in her best interest to fight the "trial bug" and take things very slowly. The next trial I am even considering will not come until the spring - there are a couple of "sets" of trials at two other locations in New Jersey, and I think the fact that more than one weekend of trialing will happen at these places will work in Marge's favor for her to get used to the sites. I would like to do more run-throughs and find opportunities to train at various new locations, but that's for discussing another time.
Marge, as I write this, is on the couch in the next room fast asleep ,in the midst of what seems to be a very vivid dream. I hope that her sleepy woofs and squeaks are from dreaming about having fun on the agility course.
MargeBlog started in early 2009 as a training journal for my newly adopted, skittish Lab mix, Marge. Marge's world was small back then; her fears really limited the things I could do with her. Aside from trips to the park and attending beginner training classes, Marge was mostly a stay at home gal - not because either of us wanted her to be, just because the demons from her unsuitable upbringing continued to haunt her.
Slowly, the fear diminished, her world grew. Now, Marge is a fun-loving, squirrel-chasing, winning Agility and Rally dog who accompanies me to a wide variety of places. Here, you will frequently find detailed training updates, snippets from Marge's every day life at home, and photo-filled posts detailing our many outdoor adventures.
This is more than just a dog blog - it is an actual look in to what one shelter dog's life ultimately became when she found her first and forever home and began to blossom.
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A rescue from Georgia bounced around from shelter to shelter and state to state with her siblings, Marge did not have the luxury of living in a home - my home - until just past her first birthday. A life behind bars had taken its toll on Marge, whose obvious fear of people, noise, and city life in general left a lot for her to learn about how to get by in New York.
Marge is a different dog now than she was back then. It took years of new, positive life experiences, but her fears, which used to consume everything we did, are now only one theme in a great big book of adventures.
These days, Marge enjoys going to training classes, taking trips to agility trials, having play dates with friends, and eating anything that's even remotely edible - not bad for a dog who spent her puppy days in cages.
My time with Marge has been a learning experience for which I am ever grateful. As my first dog, she has taught me and continues to teach me so much more than I ever imagined about dogs, training, and behavioral/fear issues. She's a fun dog with a sense of humor who loves life and learning.
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