Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pop Quiz

So, let's say that you are the owner of a young, high-energy sporting breed dog, and you decide to try out an intro agility class for fun. Let's also say that you kind of view class as a glorified dog park with playground equipment, and regularly let your dog run amuk around the arena and on the equipment.

Let's say that also in your class is a high-energy, adolescent Border Collie pup with a whole lot of herding drive, whose parents are working hard to improve off leash control. The pup has a tendency a couple times a week to do a brief "victory lap" of the class after an exercise - a practice that the owners are very much trying to prevent and stop. The pup is getting better, though is still not 100% perfect. The owners acknowledge the issue, made everyone in the class aware of this tendency, confirmed that it wouldn't be a problem with anyone before taking this pup off leash, etc.

Let's say that with 15 minutes remaining in a class session where the pup has exercised much more impulse control and had much improved focus and recalls, the BC suddenly decides to make a break for it and do a lap of the class. The BC notices your dog, and they start play-bowing at each other. Do you:

A) Stand calmly holding your dog and wait for the owners who are hustling over to scoop up their dog?
B) Reach down and hold the pup's collar and hand him back to the apologetic owners? or
C) Say, "well, she's been wanting to play all night" and proceed to drop your dog's leash, so that the two dogs can engage in a wildly fun, protracted game of chase all around the training center, while the BC's owners wonder how the hell they are ever going to catch their young dog whose brain has now gone into full-blown, ecstatic herding mode and is oblivious to anything else in the world?

Three guesses how last night's class ended.

Yes, my fault for not having this training issue solved yet. But it was improving every week as he learned that the fun happens when you do the exercises with mom, and that going and looking for your own fun isn't very successful. Of course, now that he had about the best reinforcement he could have for running off, I fear we may be back a few more rungs on that training ladder. A bit frustrating and I was not a happy camper after that. I suppose I did stupid things as a first-time trainer also, but that was one of the damnedest decisions I've ever seen a classmate make, no matter how novice.

After a well-timed, lucky pounce enabled me to retrieve my Noodle, we went to the back of the room and did Crate Games for the remainder of class, in order to do some impulse control work. Tonight we are headed to the park with a long line and lots of freeze dried liver and his favorite tug toy (well, second favorite - his loofah dog toy was unrecognizable after last night's class and so had to go to the dog toy graveyard like so many before it).

He does try so hard to be right. We'll get there.

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