Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome to Four Paws

Last night Jonah went to his first beginner agility class at Four Paws Academy.  From start to finish, he was a total star.  The location is bright and spacious with high ceilings and no dark corners.  There were no scary noises on the other side of the walls.  We could hear the teacher speaking.  There was a lovely little sitting area for Dave to watch from, but Jonah was comfortable enough out in the rest of the room that he never tried to go running back to his dad.

There were 5 other dogs in the class, all bigger than Jonah but none particularly large.  There were 2 labs, a golden, and two mixes who were about that same size.  Most were older but the golden was still looking pretty puppy-ish.  He had taken this class before and is repeating it, by the looks of it because of his puppy-ish lack of attention. 

The main teacher was very nice, straight forward, and her explanations were always easily understandable.  We also had an assistant who is also a main teacher at Four Paws and clearly knows her stuff.  Both were open to questions and very helpful whenever we needed anything.  They've both been competing in agility for many years and their experience was refreshing.  Right from the beginning they said they'd worked with dogs who had been afraid of every piece of equipment, but that they would keep the experience positive and work at whatever pace is appropriate for the dog.

As it turned out, Jonah was not afraid of *any* agility equipment, and the only hint of nervousness resulted from being asked to walk right next to a large, loud floor fan.  We started the day with targeting and then we did some loose-leash walking and stretching to warm up.  Jonah was a pro at all of these.  He ate his treats (if you missed our previous posts, at the last place we did agility, Jonah was terrified and wouldn't eat), was looking at me probably 85% of the time we were walking, let me stretch him in new ways and mostly sat quietly while the instructor was talking.  His stay was a little less solid than at home, so we'll keep working on that.  We also played with tippy boards and practiced the two-on-two-off targeting on the dog walk.  He was excellent with both.  On the dog walk he did start to swing his hind off the board, but the instructors both helped us, by making sure he was really straight before giving the touch command and by adding a 'wing' to the dog walk.  They told us not to worry but just to keep working on it. 

All the introductions in the beginning did eat up a bunch of the class time, so it was time to go before we knew it.  I am kind of in shock that we made it through an entire class having a fun, positive time where both of us were comfortable with the people, dogs and environment we were in.  Yes, everything we did was familiar to us and it's not like we learned anything earth-shattering, but it was just so...pleasant. 

Unfortunately we will miss next week's class because we are going to a Red Sox game (I grew up in Boston but we've never gotten tickets before!), but they are going to send us our homework and we'll be looking forward to week 3.  For this week, we're supposed to practice targeting, contact positioning, stretching and control work like sit and down-stays, heeling and lead-outs without obstacles.  Jonah can do all these things but we'll keep working on getting better and more confident, especially on the contact obstacle positioning.  I'm so proud of Jonah and I can't wait to see how he progresses!

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