Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday Training 3

We finally got back to Agility this week after a long layoff. It was good to be back at the field, and I'd say it was a positive experience.

I always make sure I get there early with Marge so she has some time to get used to her surroundings. I initially thought we were going to have a rough night, but she seemed to get all of her reactivity over with before class. Her victims:

  • a Northern Breed dog (maybe a Malamute?) who she has never seen before. As soon as she saw him setting up in the ring for his run, she got VERY aroused. Didn't bark/lunge, just kind of tried to get at the fence, hackles up, a little bit of forward pulling. It was easy for her to recover from this as we simply played Look at That for the remainder of his run.
  • the owner of one of the dogs in our class. She knows this woman, and this woman has given her treats before, so I'm a little baffled over this one. The only thing I can think is that she was carrying a really huge tug toy in her hands and was walking straight towards us. Oddly enough, Marge was VERY happy to see her again at the end of class, when she gave me a piece of burger to hand to Marge. I hope this was just some kind of fluke, because she has never been reactive towards people by themselves at agility.

The actual class pretty much went off without a hitch. I mostly kept Marge away from the other dogs and worked on very simple things, like the tire, chute and tunnel, but she did do some work in close quarters and did just fine.

We did one sequence each with the instructor. It was supposed to be just a simple 3 jump serpentine, but she extended it for Marge and I:

I think my handling is improving substantially. I no longer hunch over when I run, I'm a little more fluid I think, and now I just have to work on my hand positioning. Either it's all over the place, or, like in the case of this video, I'm consciously telling myself (and being repeatedly told) to keep it up, so it looks artificial.

Does her stride look okay to you guys in the video? She seemed like she was popping up over some of the jumps rather than gliding over them. The flew through the chute and tunnel every time we did it, though. She didn't seem to have a problem with anything else, but did look a little shaky at one point on the Dog Walk. I'm not too worried, but I'll keep an eye on her. She had no hesitance to do anything until the very end, when she refused the tire.

We also did serpentines with front crosses, and I invented a couple of my own, very simple, one-sided sequences to work on. One was taking a jump and pushing her hard into the chute - no problem with that, probably because of the novelty of the chute. Another was some tire/jump/tunnel combinations. I don't like to get too creative at class, because I'd rather have a non-reactive Marge doing simple sequences than an off-the-wall Marge doing harder ones.

After class, Marge socialized a little bit with the dogs in the class after us, who are MUCH more stable than the ones we're in class with. She met a very handsome Viszla boy for the first time and seemed rather smitten with him. We've seen him before at the field, but never said hello. Sweet, gentle dog.

And that was it from tonight. In related news, I am probably going to be renting the training hall so Marge and I can work solo, without the threat of reactivity, uncontrolled dogs, strange people or hopping bunnies in the background. The rates are very affordable, and I think if we get some extra time in, it'll make being at the field easier for her.


I'm still giving Melatonin on and off, mostly before long walks and storms. I'm not sure that it has much of an effect, but we're only a week into it and the vet said to give it three weeks.

In terms of regular walking, we did none today and will likely do very little tomorrow, due to heat/humidity and possible thunderstorms. I had a huge breakthrough with Marge last night using a cup filled with wet food. I put a little bit of wet food onto a spoon and that would be Marge's reward. She was perfectly comfortable walking in the crowded field using this high-value reward. To save the novelty, however, I will probably only use it sparingly and mostly use it for walking on the actual streets.

I guess we're headed in the right direction. I hope so!


Sue August 5, 2009 at 12:15 PM  

Sound like you're making progress. It seems frustratingly slow at times, but think back to where you started.

Martha August 5, 2009 at 2:14 PM  

My goodness that agility work will keep you fit never mind Marge!
We are glad Marge was able to socialise after the class - we are rather fond of a Vizla ourselves - very handsome!
We definetly think you are heading in the right direction!
Although sometimes when we think martha has conquered something she is afraid of the next day we can be right back where we started!
Time and perseverance.

Astrid Keel August 5, 2009 at 4:30 PM  

Yay for Marge!

Her gait looks fine to me, but it's a bit hard to tell from videos (as I discovered when I tried filming Brownie for the bunny hop...)

I'm so glad to hear the melatonin is working! We had a thunder experience the other day. The thunder was very close to us and I jumped in shock, and Brownie went ballistic for a few seconds. I practically threw her in the car to avoid a major freak-out. You and Marge were in the back of my mind and I was terrified for a few seconds... what if she doesn't recover? But we were all ok and she fell asleep in the car soon after the incident. Ugh... That will teach me to take her out during storms! Maybe I need the melatonin... Stupid Momster!

Cinnamon and Mint August 5, 2009 at 4:38 PM  

Hi. I think you are doing great!! I am also focusing on the position of my hands at agility. As a beginner myself, I can't give you helpful advice, but keep your good work!

Also, it's good to hear that Marge is improving in socialization with other dogs. Yes, I think well-trained dogs are great partners to practice socialization with.

BRUTUS August 6, 2009 at 4:12 PM  

Hi Sam & Marge!
Since you were nice enough to visit our blog, thought we'd come over & sniff around a little on yours! Looks like you guys are really on the right track with your agility training. Marge looks like a natural! I too feel like the weaker of the team - Brutus gets it right & the handler (me) screws it up so he has to do it over... So great to have something like agility to strengthen your bond together- my rally/obedience and agility lessons are the highlight of my week, and I pout if they get cancelled!
I struggle with some of what I call "reactivity" as well, so I can sympathize. Granted we have different issues (I call it pathologic friendliness - Brutus wants to meet every canine/human he sees & has a temper tantrum if I won't let him), but I too tire of other less dog-savvy folks rolling thier eyes at me and Brutus. Frenchies have certain needs (both physical & mental) that others might not appreciate - i just try to be the very best mom for him at all times, no matter what looks I might get!
I give you kudos to take on a rescue with fear issues! Don't know that I'll ever have the situation or opportunity to do such a thing, but I give you all the credit in the world for working with Marge to make her into the best dog she can be!
Sorry for the long comment - we look forward to seeing more of you both. Now - go tunnel!!

Brutus the Frenchie

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