Monday, October 20, 2008

Strummer's got class

Well I survived Strummy's first group class, just. It started out a bit crazy because I didn't realize they would be running dogs in a ring right next to our class. I knew they would start about 45 minutes into class with run throughs with the general public but I didn't know the club members would be running right at the start of class. While I walked the course for class I had tied Strum up with a full view of the other ring and first he started barking his head off because he didn't like being tied up then he completely lost it when a dog started running in the other ring. Poor guy. I moved him away from the other ring but he kept barking and a couple of people in the class expressed their displeasure (geez, do you know how many classes and seminars I've sat through with barking dogs? You'd think they could cut me a little slack and he shut up pretty quickly when I ignored him. Sheesh, it's a baby dog class.). After that I walked the course with him on leash next to me and he was fine. I'd bring a crate for him but I think he'd pitch a fit in it. He's o.k. in a crate at a trial but not with the types of distractions at class, we need to work up to that.

Anyway, the class is all handling with just jumps, tunnels and a set of 6 weaves. We handle a sequence first one way then another to see what works best. For me though the main point of the class is to get Strummer to be able to work around other dogs. His first run was crazy, he held his stay but had huge wide turns and then caught sight of a dog running in the other ring and ran over. I called him back though and the first 2 times he was so good, came right back but the 3rd time he made it onto the other course and I was very lucky that the other dog didn't care. Strum didn't cause any trouble and came when I called then never ran off again for the rest of the class. So a rocky start but some good success in the end as far as his focus while running. He held all his start lines and aside from that very first crazy run he handled like a dream. He got his weaves more than he missed them and had only one bar down the whole night I think and that one was right at the start during that first crazy run.

It took a little troubleshooting to work out how to handle his crazy lunging at the dog that was working. He would be o.k. for a bit then lose it. I settled on keeping him in the equipment trailer which divided the run-through ring from our class ring. That way he could hear all the commotion and hopefully get used to the chaos without having to watch. I gave him treats while dogs were running but nothing when they weren't unless I sensed him getting ready to lose it then I asked for something like attention or a down first. He never truly relaxed but he didn't bark or lunge while in the trailer and I let him look now and then when I felt he was calm enough to handle it. Another dog and handler were sitting next to us and he was fine with it. He got much better as the evening wore on and his last runs were really nice.

Overall it was a lot of work to keep him from losing it but I was encouraged that he improved as the night wore on. Gives me hope that with time he'll be able to handle himself. By the end of class I even caught him starting to lunge then controlling himself without me asking and that was really encouraging. Got to start somewhere. Gonna be a long road to haul. Geez, why can't I ever have a normal dog?


  1. Sounds like you're on the right track as you saw some learning going on. And baby dogs have to start somewhere so pooh on those handlers that give you that look. One day they'll have a high drive dog and we'll see how they handle it.

    Jaime has always been a sidelines lunatic so I used stuff like cream cheese or squeeze cheese to keep his attention on me. It works well since you can give it in a steady stream :-)

  2. Squeezy cheese is a good idea, I hadn't thought of that. It also reminds me of the frozen jars of baby food I used to train Cody's recall. Think I'll try that next week.

  3. Boost lunges when other dogs are running, but only if she's tied up on leash or in a crate. Fortunately she doesn't bark. But she's not lunging AT the dogs, she's just excited and that's how she shows it.

    If I leave her off leash, she just watches with fascination. Unless it's Tika running, in which case I'm likely to suddenly have two dogs blasting into the same tunnel from opposite ends. But they figure out how to do it here at home, too, and so far no one has broken a neck.

    At trials, I always cover her crate with a sheet and she just settles right down. It's the action that's exciting, not so much the dogs themselves or the noise.

    I worked a lot when I first got her at trying to convince her not to lunge at the end of the leash in class, but I decided it's wayy too much work to try to achieve that and it's proven to be harmless for her, so now I just let it go in class most of the time, although we did work it enough that if I stare at her and she notices--or if I say her name-- she lies down quietly until I stop watching again.

  4. I can't just let Strum lunge like that, it's really really over the top. Up on his hind legs straining against the lead, horrible high pitched barking/screaming, completely out of his head. It's not good for him (or me) mentally or physically and is hugely disruptive to all around him. I'd rather pull him from agility altogether than put up with that or put him through that kind of stress. Plus he won't be able to focus on a course if he's that wound up before he even gets to the line. I may as well light my entry fees on fire.

    I'm confident though that he can learn to be calm. Not gonna be easy and it's taking a lot of work (I've done lots of stuff with him that I haven't had time to write about) but will be worth it in the end. I hope.

    I'm certain he won't stay in a down while another dog is running if he's not leashed, no way. I've been working on this at the practice field, putting Strum in a down stay and sending Cody over one jump or through the tunnel and he can usually manage that but if I run Cody over the dogwalk, forget it. He was able to do agility the other day at the practice field while another dog was running obstacles nearby but it was iffy. Just need to keep plugging away at it. Maybe by the time he's 10...