Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In Which Django Learns What Those Poles In The Ground Are For

It is a small wonder that Django has proven to be such an honest agility dog given the on-and-off patchwork of classes and lessons that laid his foundation training in the sport. When Django came into our household, Tristan was approaching a year of convalescence for his knee problems, and Jade was making it clear in no uncertain terms that while he was a stellar flyball dog, he would only do agility under his own rules and conditions, thank you very much. I had the agility bug though, and wanted a competition partner, so hoped to quickly get Django up and running. Fate had other plans for a while though, and his education had a lot of fits and starts. We had become disenchanted with the instructor we'd been going to who seemed to be resorting to throwing water bottles at dogs as a training method. We chose to go to another instructor who we enjoyed, but who at the time only taught a class slightly advanced for Django's skill level. We faked our way through it as best we could . . . but then we bought a new house and moved, I broke my arm, etc. Finally, a couple years ago we were ready to really enter competition with him. With only one little issue.

He remained rather flummoxed by the concept of weaves. If he concentrated real hard, and I stood right next to him and showed him the straight path to the entry and didn't rush him, he could slowly wiggle his body back and forth through a set of six poles. If he were on my left side, that is. If he was on my right side, he would come to a grinding halt at the first pole and stare at it perplexed as if he had absolutely no idea what to do with this strange white stick in the ground.

We took some weave classes, worked weaves in the backyard, and within the past year got to a point where I could usually pretty much count on him knowing what to do with the weaves. He still would pop out on occasion, and really was better if he was on my left. He wouldn't drive ahead or out to the side to find weaves by himself so I really needed to be there for him. I would risk off-side weaves if I really had to but usually tried to find ways to set him up as best I could. And he did not weave fast, by any means, in a trial.

So, sometime this fall apparently somebody abducted this dog and managed to train him what I had been unable to in the last 5 years or so.

We entered a CPE trial this past Sunday, and saw that the first run of the day was a traditional Jackpot that involved a set of weaves in the gamble. I figured chances were slim to none of him hitting weaves at that distance and angle. So no one was more stunned than I was when he became the first dog of the day to qualify, hitting the weaves perfectly, and actually kind of fast. As I gathered up his leash, I asked him "Whose dog are you? Because mine doesn't weave like that. When did you learn how to do that?" He was pleased with himself as always, but was not telling.

After that performance, I decided that, dammit, clearly the dog knows what to do and I have just been babysitting and hand holding way too much. So I planned to run the rest of the day's courses in the most efficient way possible and not worry about managing his weaves. I did off-side weaves at least three times. I sent him ahead to find the entry on his own. I didn't slow down and let him think about how to do them. Every time he nailed them. Charged ahead, found the entries, single-stepped the poles, kept driving through them, didn't look to me for guidance . . . and he finished the day perfect in all five runs with three first places and two seconds.

It pleases me to no end that at this age and after this long, Django is still continuing to improve his skills and is actually getting faster and showing more drive. So, to whoever had been training my dog behind my back, many thanks!!

Having some video upload issues at the moment that should hopefully be resolved later this week, so hope to have a few of the runs up eventually. His Standard and Snooker runs especially made me very proud!

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