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January 26, 2014: Dog Training: Agility Class #3

Before going to helicopter training, Pete, Ryder, and I first attended agility class #3. The obstacle work is getting more difficult for us both, but so far, so good. I am enjoying the challenge and I think that Ryder is too. On both our parts, this time around one or two in a long string of lightbulbs went off. (Yes Pete, these are LED bulbs.)
I am not sure yet whether Ryder (in class sessions) does things for the sake of doing them, which is the act of doing is its own reward, or if she does them exclusively for the reward. I’ve been told that dogs doing agility and search and rescue are working for the reward, be it

praise, a toy, or a treat. But I think this is a gray area. Thus, to say that the dogs are working exclusively for the reward might very well be a generalization, as in this isn’t true in all instances.

What makes me think that Ryder is doing what she’s being asked to do for the act’s own sake is that when she’s focused, she has minimal toy or treat drive. But yesterday, there were a few instances in which she elected to work for the treat.

Ryder also had some moments in which (either way) she was giving serious thought as to what to do next. For example, she was required at one point to walk up the ramp, stop, go down it, and put both front paws on a mat at its base. The first time Ryder overstepped the mat, but then when Claudia showed her the target (the yogurt container lid with the treat on it), she stepped back and put both feet on it.

I also had some moments in which I had to give some serious thought as to what to do next. There we were, at the base of the weave poles. Ryder did not know how exactly to enter, and I wasn’t sure how to guide her. Claudia did show us – I was to stand by Ryder’s side, and with the leash loose, guide her in the proper direction. This was extremely difficult, since pulling your dog around is not allowed.

We both did well with the two jumps. I figured out the command sequence and Ryder followed suit. It was “jump” – then when the dog was in the air, you were to again say “jump.”

I had no problem with the chute – this is a tunnel with a draped piece of cloth at the end. I simply said chute and Ryder went in. I think she liked it in there. It may have reminded her of being at home and my putting the blankets on her. Anyhow, she was in the chute for what seemed to me to be a long, long time; in fact, long enough for me to remark to Pete that she was checking out the area real estate.

Pete later remarked that agility is a form of obedience training, to which I had to agree. For instance, dogs who do this have to learn specific commands like “come,” “wait,” and “let’s go.” And yes, Ryder is getting these things down.

So next week will be week #4 of agility. There are some dogs in the class that are destined to compete, and who will do very well at this. I don’t think that Ryder is going to make the competitive big time. Rather, I am thinking that search and rescue may be her forte. She’s most happy (right now) out in the woods, following scents and chasing those things that leave scents. We’ll see. I will be okay with the situation if it turns out that she just wants to be a border collie couch potato, for this would mean that we’d have to get a big screen television and a subscription to Netflicks. There are far less desirable things in life than this, that’s for sure.

Next: 27. 1/27/14: The Writing Life: Raudi’s Story