There are ten dogs in the class, two are from my agility class. When we arrived we all set up our crates and set out our dog mats. Our instructor Kienan Brown, who formerly worked with the author Leslie McDevitt, asked each of us to tell why we were taking the class. A few said their dogs were reactive to other dogs. Nearly everyone including me was hoping for greater focus from their dogs. I think everyone in the class is doing agility with their dog.
Kienan asked each of us to begin massaging our dogs until they were relaxed. We weren't to stop until they relaxed. The dogs should allow us to touch every part of their body and remain relaxed. Each evening when we arrive for class we are to begin massaging our dogs until class begins. We're not to have our dogs interact unless it is part of an exercise. After the massage we put our dogs in their crates.
Inside Barbara's agility yard there was set up a circular corral made from orange plastic construction fencing supported by posts. One by one each of the handlers took his or her dog into the corral. The dog was on leash, but the leash was left to drag on the ground. The handler at first was to ignore her dog. All the dog handlers as well as the teacher were to call out observations. We were looking to see if the dog seemed stressed. After a while the handler was asked to click and treat his or her dog each time it oriented to the handler. The handler moved around the ring slowly, quickly, clicking and treating the dog for focus. After awhile the trainer was asked to take the leash off to see how that changed focus or anxiety level. Finally some distraction was added. Kienan stood by the edge of the corral or sometimes entered the ring.
Matilda and I were the eighth team to participate. We went into the ring and during the time when I stood and ignored her Matilda explored some but also checked in with me, tail wagging the whole time. The observers agreed she seemed a relaxed, happy dog. When I began clicking and treating each time she looked at me and followed me, she did pretty well. When Kienan said to take off her leash she at first seemed a little less secure, but she quickly regained confidence. One of the handlers had come with his wife and daughter and when his little girl approached the edge of the corral Matilda looked over at her. She was a good distraction for her. Next time when we approached that side of the corral I gave her lots of treats for watching me. Kienan made sure each team ended the exercise on a positive note. It's going to be a good class.
Our homework for next week is to work on massage and to work on focus using a long line in lieu of a corral, clicking and treating, doing several very short perhaps one minute sessions each day.