What I most like about agility, and what I think is really good for me, is the focus on body awareness. I do not know if the instructor paid much attention to this before I introduced her to the concept. The main thing I learned was this: ask your dog to halt, say at the end of the teeter totter. Give the dog a treat. Stay rooted, say “let’s go.” Key word, “say.” If the dog doesn’t move, then gesture let’s go with both arms. This is a sequence that I was told, is best learned at the beginning of agility training. By mid-lesson I had this down.
I was also struck by the fact (again) that positive reinforcement is as effective when used on humans as it is on animals. I messed up a few times, but I was then given directives on how to fix the situation. When fixed, I was praised. I suspect that my posture then changed. I began moving lighter on my feet, put my shoulders back, and resumed nose breathing.
Also important – Shadow repeatedly jumped up on Claudia, the teacher, after she got her treat upon arriving at the end of an obstacle. I said (after this happened a few times), “Don’t you think you should say off?” This being the down command. Claudia said no; instead, just call the dog. She said that if she says “off,” she’ll be rewarding Shadow by giving her attention. I then realized that Claudia was assisting me in training Shadow to come when she jumped on her – thus replacing the incompatible behavior with one that was more compatible. This is the earmark of a very good teacher.
I also stayed and watched the second, more advanced class. And there I saw an instance of a discriminating stimulus – the dogs were to bypass the a A-frame and go through the tunnel. Most chose the first time around to go up the A-frame. In other words, they had to discriminate between one obstacle and the other.
The jury is out as to when Shadow and I will be signing up for our next agility class. Right now we have three more classes before winter break. I am now gung ho to be doing both dog and horse agility in the Playground of Higher Learning.
Next: 321. 11/22/20: Winter, Etc.