Friday, July 1, 2011

Group Lesson

Yesterday Jonah and I had our first group lesson at DogStar.

On our way to class, though, we decided to stop over and visit grandma.  She lives at an assisted living community just a few miles away from us.  It's basically like a big apartment building, and Jonah's not so sure what he thinks of it.  First up:  sliding doors.  Next:  strange rug-cleaning machines, wheelchairs and walkers and lots of elderly people with them.  Jonah's response was to be glued to my leg and behave perfectly.  He was clearly nervous, but had no bad reactions at all.  Once he got to grandma's room, he was relieved and happy to see her.  He's so gentle with her and she loves him to pieces.  It's fun to watch.

Anyway, after that we went to our lesson.  When we first arrived, it didn't take long for Jonah to notice that there were other dogs in the room and he instantly got excited and barked.  He wasn't barking at any dog in particular--just the whole environment.  We went over in a protected corner near the dogs and he was good with paying attention to me.  There are two other dogs in the class:  one standard and one miniature.  Both dogs and their humans are really nice.  It's a great group.

While walking the first course, Jonah barked at the other handlers when they got near him.  He definitely wasn't happy about them.  I guess I need to be more aware.  I know to watch his reactions near other dogs, but I should be more heads-up about other people as well.

Our first course went very well, except for one screw up on my part.  Jonah was in hyperspeed.  His weaves were as fast as ever, and he was very attentive for my handling.  He did not get his 2o2o on the dogwalk immediately but went into it when I insisted.  There was a tunnel that I had to push for at a bit of distance that he was awesome with.  Then came a threadle.  We got the threadle itself without trouble, but then I was unclear with my cue of the second jump.  I had imagined him wrapping the jump to the left but my handling really indicated jumping right.  He followed my handling rather than reading my mind and consequently we got the wrong tunnel entrance.  My bad.  The rest of the course was gorgeous and he was blazingly fast.

Course two was much more exciting.  There was an opening line that I handled as a serpentine which we got done, but I wasn't far enough ahead on the middle jump and we collided on landing.  Oops.  When I handled it later with rear crosses it ran beautifully.  Next I didn't support the dogwalk enough and he missed it.  Next we were supposed to wrap off the dogwalk but he just got right back on it.  It was a total mess, but a very exciting one.  He was like a real big dog, making real big dog mistakes where his handler couldn't keep up and he was SO EXCITED to be playing agility.  So, although obviously I want him to run clean all the time, this was a totally new way of screwing up and I was enthused by his drive.  I couldn't stop giggling as my crazy dog and I made our poor attempt at the course.

Next up was a course that ended with a ninety degree threadle.  As in, the jumps were at a ninety degree angle and he jumped the first jump towards the other but then had to take the back side.  The whole course ran beautifully up to that point, and then disaster happened.  First I sent him out to the first jump and waited for him to come back for the second.  It worked but he was so exuberant that he made a very wide turn.  Next I tried to get a front cross in.  I failed.  I tried again.  And I failed again.  Grace was laughing at us and said, "The faster you run, the faster he runs.  You should always run like that."  Then we went back to the send and wait handling, and we got it done again, but it was still messy.  I want to set up this line at home this week and practice until we can run it smoothly.

In sum, we made a lot of mistakes and had plenty of messy looking areas, but Jonah was as excited to be playing agility as I've ever seen him, and his speed was better than ever.  It made me think that, if we can control the crazies and I can learn how to handle this fast dog, we will be able to compete with the border collies.  Look out, USDAA!

Jonah settled well with the other dogs and people.  After he barked at the people in the first course walk, he never barked at anyone else, either human or canine.  He stood right next to the other dogs and was quiet and focused on me.  I was proud.  I think this group class will be very good for both of us.  I hope it will make the trialing environment a little more relaxed.  It's also really good to watch other people run the same course.  The poodles were slower than Jonah and could be handled differently.  It was neat to see what caused problems for different dogs and learn the different approaches to handling.  Even though we probably spent less time running than in our half hour private lessons, I know I learned just as much if not more.  Jonah was also able to stay focused for the full hour without any trouble.  I think he could have kept going another hour.  It was so much fun I'm already counting down the days until next Thursday :).

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