It’s been about a year since we’ve taken agility and last night was our first night back.
We showed up about 20 minutes early. Nothing starts training off on the wrong foot like me being late and stressed out. I have found that my state of mind will greatly determine the success or failure of an outing.
When we arrived, I opened the tailgate and sat with Liezel (crated) so she could see and smell the surroundings. I don’t know if a trainer would say this is right or wrong. I just know I wanted our arrival to be calm. She huffed several times and barked a couple of times, but continued to look to me for reassurance. She got a lot of praise and reward for looking at people and dogs and not reacting. There was a fleeting moment when my anxiety tried to take over and these thoughts went through my mind, “She’s nervous – she’s not ready for this – what were you thinking – you’re going to ruin our recent progress – this could set us back months…” and with it the sick, sinking feeling in my stomach. Anxiety sucks. My rational side took over and I made myself remember our progress. Made myself look at Liezel and have confidence in her. And pulled my shirt up over my nose to breath in the calming essential oils I drop on and massage over my heart (another post, another time).
When the class before ours let out the trainer came over to greet us. Liezel loves Kim (our first trainer) so her little butt started wiggling right away. I let her out of the crate and she immediately jumped down and started sniffing the ground. Four months ago, she would have jumped out with hackles up, huffing, barking, and looking around with hyper-vigilance. Huge progress.
We walked around the property at a leisurely pace letting her sniff and go potty. The other class members showed up, walked the course and settled in. Barking, the little Aussie approached Liezel on the other side of the fence which sent Liezel into a tither. I let her have about 10 seconds of reaction and then gave a soft correction. She immediately went into heel and watch. Once the Aussie and his human were done walking the course, we went in and took our place on the far side of the waiting area.
Liezel was curious and sniffing the crates, until she came to the crate containing a Boxer who barked and scared her. Poor little thing jumped back, ran into the gate which also scared her and she ran from the enclosure. Not off to a great start. She put up a lot of resistance going back into the enclosure, but with calm assertion and reward she stood close enough to me that I could close the gate.
When it was her turn to run the course, no kidding, it was like she had just been there last week. Jump, jump, jump, tunnel, A-frame, jump, tunnel. Perfectly! A new type of chute was put into the mix and Liezel approached with caution. I threw treats in, ran to the other side to open the chute, and she ran through. The next time she ran the course she shot through the chute before I could even say “chute!”
On the sidelines, she started scratching at the fence which led me to believe she had to go potty. We heeled past the other students, out to the yard, only to find she did not have to go potty. I think she was scratching to get back on the course!
We ran some combination of the course about 8 times and I was really impressed and proud of how well Liezel did. Her obedience is really impressive, her memory of the equipment and willingness to try the new chute was impressive, but most of all she had fun, had no reaction to strangers, and made me really proud!
There are moments in any relationship when your heart grows a little more with love for the other. Last night my heart grew a little more for my puppy.