Well, there are two reasons for out new hobby. The first is starting something fun together. Una is a bit serious, still. I would like to give her the opportunity to build more joy into her emotional repertoire. From our perspective, agility is all about fun new tricks, running and getting frequently rewarded. Not bad!
The second reason is the need to continue Una’s desensitization/counter-conditioning practices around strange places, people, dogs, events, … Agility sessions are as good as any in this sense.
We are participating an introductory course at Sporttikoirahalli, arranged by Heiluva Häntä (Miira Rauhamäki). There are three other dogs in our group. One of them is Morris, the handsome border collie we met a week ago 🙂
I like Miira’s approach to (agility) training. The most important thing is preventing unwanted behavior. The principle is very, very simple. As she briefed us, there are three elements in any practice: waiting, trasporting and performing. If you get these, and nothing else, you soon have a dog that is totally focused on the performance.
ONE. Your dog waits for her turn in a crate or in a car outside. She needs to be trained to wait calmly first, of course. I ordered a crate and we’ll start practicing at home as soon as it arrives. Una needs a BIG crate…
TWO. She is transported to the performance site in a manner that eliminates any unwanted behavior such as sniffing the ground or looking a t other dogs. You can use treats or toys to get your dog to focus on you during transportation.
THREE. The practice is well-planned so that you bring your dog at the site, release her to do the job and get rewarded by an assisting person. And they use low walls between dogs to give the dogs a chance to concentrate without too much disturbance from each other.
That’s it. Simple 😉
My hunch for choosing this sport proved right already. After a short while into a practice where I run and had Una follow me by treating her frequently (on the run), Una’s tail started wagging and her posture was happy-excited! This has not been characteristic of her so far!
Our first performance-practice was sending Una between the uprights of a basic agility hurdle (that is, without a cross bar, so Una didn’t need to jump yet) towards Miira, who waited with some treats (on a plastic lid on the ground). I was to wait until Una was eating the treats and then go and collect her & transporting her away.
I have been very happy to notice that Una has started to generalize a relatively calm state of mind to all “training-like” situations. If there are people and dogs standing around, she doesn’t react as easily as in everyday situations at home. Clearly, she has learned that in these situations the dogs and people let her be (at home there are the one-in-a-twenty people/dogs that cause her to get worried).
On Sunday, the most difficult thing was the air-conditioning in the hall. When it started, on and off, Una couldn’t concentrate on the job at hand but needed to listen and try to find the source of the sound. We switched from the agility task to walking calmly (frequent treating), close to the machine, when this happened.