Thursday, March 26, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
So proud of my tri-color boy
(An update – at long last!)
Shortly after we adopted Marvin back in June of 2007, I felt that agility would be a good match for he and I so we've been taking weekly classes since October 2007. I enrolled Diesel in three or four 8-week sessions too, to be fair and to enjoy the same sense of teamwork with him as well. But Marvin, in my mind, was my "agility dog".
When Diesel performed the obstacles I was never 100% sure if his speedy scuttling up and over was him showing crazy enthusiasm or if he was scurrying quickly because he "just wanted to get them over with" because he was a little scared. Between that, and the fact that Diesel tends to be a bit insecure and overwhelmed in crowded situations, I just never imagined him being comfortable at an agility trial. So Marvin remained my "agility dog". Marvin is fearless and Marvin is definitely agile.
As my regular readers know, I've also been assisting agility classes for nearly a year. Before doing this I hadn't really taken the idea of competing in a trial all that seriously. After all, I have beagles. Although we've worked through any distractions at our regular hall, my "agility dog" can get very distracted in new environments. Read that as sniffing. He sniffs in new places. And once the sniffing starts his brain turns off to everything else.
But, as an assistant, the trialing bug began to bite. I registered with CPE. I studied their March premium, reading every word, for three weeks. Finally I decided I would take Marvin to a run-through at our main hall and if I could call him off of any potential sniffing on a regular basis, I would send in the entry form.
Well, it didn't work. My speckled boy was way over his threshold in this exciting new place and once we were out on the floor he surfed the perimeter of the room, nose to the ground, even squeezing his flexible body between barriers and getting to the other side of the ring. I couldn't call him back. I could only guide him back with his collar, where he would do maybe two or three obstacles with me but then take off sniffing again.
That's alright. The trials can wait. I'll focus on bringing Marvin to more run-throughs in other locations until we're on the same page.
Except the bug had bitten and the trial was in less than a week.
That Monday I brought Diesel to class with me after six months off. He remembered everything and he had FUN! Sure, he was a bit slower on the weaves as we hadn't practiced in a while, and, yes, the teeter is still a bit scary – but this is Level 1 CPE. No weaves and no teeter.
I overnighted my entry form. Diesel was now my "agility dog". Sure, there was the chance that he would sniff in a new environment but I was much more confident he'd stay with me. The night before the trial Diesel and I went to a CPE run-through and I practiced as though we were at the trial. I kept him focused nearly constantly with hand targeting and tricks and "watch me" and rewarded him with treats. Our first time on the floor he sniffed a little to the point that I felt that if we "Q"'d he'd make me work for it. But our second time out he was a star!
Trial day arrived. Alarm went off at 4AM and Diesel and I were on the road by 5:45 to drive the hour and 20 minutes to the trial. I wasn't the least bit nervous – in fact I was grinning from ear to ear with excitement – until 10 minutes before we arrived. It quickly passed as I entered the building and was greeted by some of the friendliest people I've ever met in my time around dog people (this is why CPE is such a perfect venue to start trialing). I tucked my crate and chair alongside the ring barrier for a perfect view and went to the car to retrieve Diesel.
We walked through the door and he was shaking. Scared beagle! I immediately sent him through a series of tricks and cues treating him with super high-value snacks for being so brave. He relaxed right away and had a great time playing. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I could tell that he trusted that he would be okay. I was so proud of that alone.
Since it was our first trial I and I didn't want it to be too overwhelming for either Diesel or I, I only entered two classes – Standard and Colors. The higher levels of Standard were first so I tucked Diesel into his crate and I settled in my chair to watch the action.
The rest of the story I will tell through photos, with a heartfelt photo credit to follow …
The trial was a huge success – second place in both classes we entered and two qualifying scores! Way to go, Diesel, my hero!