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February 22, 2014: Dog Training: Agility and Herding (six and six classes)

Toda we finished our agility and herding class sequences. Ryder had a very full day today, as is evidenced by the fact that she’s not careening around the cabin, pestering Jenna to play, or attempting to get Pete to play tug of war. Rather, she’s on our bed, gnawing on her antler.

Ryder’s day began with an hour of agility. This time, we did all the obstacles, including the ramp and the teeter totter. The teeter totter activity requires that the dog rebalance itself when going up and over. And the ramp activity requires that the dog stay balanced when walking up, over, and across the three separate sections.

Each obstacle is tricky – but then add having to go from one obstacle to the next – this is then when the real fun begins.

Ryder had to go over the teeter totter, onto the table, and she had no problem at all with this. And she had no problem going through the weave poles, then up and over two jumps. And she did just fine going over the ramp, stopping to touch the mat with her two front feet before going on to the next obstacle, the table.

Ryder also did fine going through the tunnel and then through the weave poles. However, it was towards the end that her attention wavered, as was evidenced by the fact that she was not able to go from the tunnel to the jumps. Instead, she came out of the tunnel and raced over to Pete and another fellow, who were standing up against the far wall. Both Pete and this guy knew to ignore her, which was what they did. So she then came back to me.

Ryder actually had several shining moments (as did the other dogs); the first was that for the majority of the time she was focused on me – and up until the end she sat and stayed when asked. She also ignored the other dogs, who also clearly wanted to play.

I can see where agility could be addictive in a way that might be detrimental to the dog – it’s only human to want to get it right – probably every so often at dog’s expense. The addiction for both video games and dog agility probably reside in the same portion of the brain. However, unlike videos, dogs are live creatures that can only handle so much. I know this, and so because I love my dog, I find it easy to keep the side of me that wants to get it right, in check. And for this reason, I find it easy to commend Ryder and tell her that she’s doing a good job.

After picking up our diplomas (this one had a star because we made all the sessions), we continued on to herding class. Pete and I decided a while back that I’d be Ryder’s agility handler and that he’d be her herding handler. This wasn’t a conscious decision. Rather, one week, while at herding, I said to him when he said that it was my turn “you go.” This was because I was starting to feel like my not getting it was confusing Ryder.

So I began taking photos and offering commentary from the sidelines. Pete and Ryder (of course) have never failed to disappoint. Pete (today) got to use what Suzann calls “the soft stick” a white and back lightweight stick – to direct the dog. She demonstrated for us – it’s easy to manipulate and light in the hands.

Ryder did very well with obedience-related herding tasks, such as sit, stay, leave it, and down. And she seemed to me to be more relaxed and confident than previously. She also did better in positioning herself – that is, figuring out where she should be in relation to the sheep.

Ryder and Pete got three turns instead of the usual two because there was only one other dog and owner present. So, she had a very full day.

I don’t know what we’re going to do next. Most likely we’ll alternate herding and agility, with agility being next. We’ll see. There’s plenty of time to decide.

Next: 54. 2/23/14: Dog Training: In it for the Long Haul