Today was our third trip to All Dogs Gym and we had a good time. Unfortunately, Jonah was nervous. There's a dog in the class who really has a mind of his own. He's not good at agility because he completely ignores his person, and he takes off for adventures. Today he completely left the ring at one point, but usually he goes to visit the other dogs. Jonah does not like him. He often comes bounding over towards Jonah and Jonah feels cornered and defenseless. Each time I try to get in between them and give Jonah a job, but he's just really concerned. This dog doesn't do anything mean--he just wants to play, but Jonah doesn't want any part of it. Whenever that dog is running, Jonah watches him every second and is fully on guard. His experience with the GSD a few weeks ago certainly didn't help things.
So this dog went two before us, and when it got to be our turn Jonah was still shaken. He jumped the first jump fine, but then he just ran right past the weave poles. He's usually good with them, so I was surprised, but you could see he was just nervous. I brought him back and let him slowly make his way through the poles. Not our brightest moment, but we did it. We did a few jumps and he was fine but then I tried to rear cross a tunnel and he just didn't have the motivation to drive in ahead of me. Then we had another line of jumps which he started fine, but he didn't want to push out away from me for a jump in the corner.
Basically, when he was nervous he lost his drive. He was slower than usual, wouldn't go ahead of me and wouldn't go laterally away from me. He became a velcro dog. With the jumps, that was alright once I figured it out and I just supported him more. With the rear cross, Laura suggested I just get ahead of him and front cross. We did the jumps to the tunnel again with another front cross and it worked great.
While we're here, I just want to say that I really like Laura. She recognized right away that Jonah was nervous and didn't make me feel at all like I was screwing up. Instead, she just encouraged me to be positive and help him a little, rewarding him a lot more than usual. Then, when I tried to rear cross the tunnel and she suggested I front it instead, I thought she was very aware of us as a team. She recognized that he didn't want to go ahead of me and she said that I like to be moving so the front would probably be more comfortable for me. I hadn't even considered putting a front there when I'd walked the sequence, but she was completely right. I hate standing still during a sequence. Overall, I thought it was really cool that she's started to get a sense of us. It's only our third time seeing her, and she has so many dogs I don't know how she can keep them straight. After our sequence, she took the time to suggest that I try to work in some more motivating games (leash tugging/barking on cue, etc) that would boost his confidence and we could do at a trial. I am really pleased with her as a teacher. My first time with her I thought she was much less invested in her students, but after today I have to take that back.
Our second sequence involved an obstacle discrimination of a straight tunnel under an A-frame. We did a jump to the tunnel to a pinwheel to the A frame to a jump. It was almost an identical setup to what we had at Riverside, but this time Jonah was spot perfect. I was really pleased. Of course, he was fast going away from the dogs and slower coming back (he walked into his contact positioning), but he did everything well the first time and got both the discriminations without any bobbles.
After this round, Laura again went out of her way to show some interest in us. She said that she knew he didn't like other dogs in his face, but what if the other people gave him cookies over there to make him more comfortable in that area of the ring. That was great for Jonah! He was getting all sorts of chicken, roast beef, cheese and other delicious treats and looked mightily happy. Our last sequence wasn't near the people, but I bet if it had been he would have been more comfortable.
Our last sequence was a tire to another pinwheel to the teeter. I was concerned that Jonah would squeeze under the tunnel again, but he leaped right through happily. Then he headed towards the A-frame instead of turning to the next jump. I lost eye contact with him while I was trying to do a front cross, so it was my fault. oops. I called him off the A-frame in time, but it was messy. Laura suggested that, when he's nervous in practice, I should probably not call him off any obstacles and just let him finish them so he can have as much confidence as he can. He clearly just didn't understand. He works hard for me. Anyway, we tried the tire to the pinwheel again and it went beautifully with my improved eye contact and positioning. Then we went on to the teeter, which he did absolutely perfectly! I was so proud of him. Our work at home is totally paying off. He was confident and happy, and he got a whole lot of cookies. Good boy, Jonah!
I'm bummed that I have class in the morning for the next two weeks, so it will be three weeks until we can go back for another class with Laura. Oh well, the time will fly, I'm sure. I'm considering going to one of the evening agility classes at All Dogs for the next few weeks to get him more comfortable there before his first trial, which is there on the 15th and 16th. After our class today I had some doubts about whether a trial is really the best thing for him. I want his confidence to be high and for him to have fun. As I've thought about it, though, I think we'll probably just give it a shot. It's probably the kind of thing where he'll be nervous the first time he trials no matter where or when it is. I might as well do it in a place he knows and (normally) likes. Even today when he was nervous I'm sure he would have qualified in his runs, he just would have been slower and would have needed more support from me than usual. Anyway, we'll keep thinking about it, but as of now we're on for our first trial.