We got to agility class really early so Liezel and I walked through the trails for about 20 minutes. Liezel is a natural tracker so her nose was to the ground the entire walk. This makes me happy because she has finally reached a point where she can relax in some situations instead of frantically looking for danger and ready to react instantaneously. This is not to say she didn’t look up and around when she heard car doors or voices, because she did. It’s just that her recovery, and resumed sniffing, is immediate.
The Australian Shepherd was there. From previous posts, you’ll know that Liezel does not care for this dog. I should have explained earlier that a couple of things come into play here. The Aussie is a puppy (9 months) so he has a lot of bouncy energy and his owner is elderly with some amount of physical limitations (knee / hip issues would be my guess). My fear is that she cannot control the Aussie so if he and Liezel were to get into a fight it would be up to me to stop both of them. This causes me to feel anxious which travels through the leash telling Liezel to be anxious. Plus, the Aussie likes to run straight to Liezel when he’s on the course, and this sets her off. Combine his bounciness, my perceived inability of the Aussie’s owner, therefore my anxiety, his fence charging at Liezel, and Liezel’s reactivity, and we have a potential recipe for disaster.
On the other hand, we must be exposed to uncomfortable situations in order to grow. So when we entered the gated waiting area, I put Liezel in a heel and we walked right past the Aussie. As expected, the owner let the Aussie approach and sniff Liezel (ugh!). When Liezel started to turn to look, I gave a mild correction, said “heel,” and when she looked back to me was rewarded with “Yes!” and food. Good girl, Liezel! We then had to walk past the trainers Boxer who has a tendency to bark and scare Liezel. Liezel held her little head up and we walked right past without issue.
The courses changed slightly throughout the class, but for the most part it went like this: jump, jump, tunnel, [cross over], chute, tire, tunnel, A-frame. As usual, Liezel was more interested in sniffing around the first run, but by the third run one of the other people asked the trainer “how long have they been taking classes?” because, honestly, Liezel was rocking it! The trainer made mention “How do you think she would do at competition?” Uh, what? We’re [read: I’m] not ready for competition! My out loud answer was “If we got there early enough for her to calm down, she’d probably be fine.” All the while thinking, “Oh gosh, the crowd, the judge on course with us, the other dogs, what if…what if…what if…” Geez, you’d think she’d said “I entered you in a competition and it’s starting right now!” Worry much?
Anyway, looking at the bright side, the trainer thinks Liezel is good enough at this stage to compete. It’s a big compliment, not only her agility ability but her behavioral improvement! I’m really proud of her, typing it makes me smile.