Saturday, February 12, 2011

Long Road Ahead

Apparently it's going to be long while before Gilda is comfortable in other Agility arenas again...

I took her to Cleveland All-Breed Training Club (CABTC) for her first-ever run through today and it was a such a trial (no pun intended).

When we arrived, she was excited to get out of her car crate until a split-second later when she heard dogs barking. She was in timid-dog mode instantly.

After ignoring my 'go pee' command, I tired of standing in the frigid, blowing air and headed for the door. Gilda attempted to pull me there as if I was speaking Swahili instead of saying 'heel'. And so it began...

We signed in while Gilda alternately pulled my arm out of the socket and hid under the table. I can only imagine what the club members thought. [I found out later what they thought: I sent an email thanking them for their kindness and patience. They responded with a very nice email recommending that I consider trying some agility lessons! Poor Gilda. If they could only see her perform on her home turf]

We found the crating area and set up. Gilda, having memorized the location of every exterior door, began driving toward whichever one she was closest to.  After finding the dog potty area and convincing her that she'd be more comfortable with empty innards, I thought I'd try crating her for just a few minutes.

When she heard me return to the crating room, she began scratching at the crate door as though she had never been crated in her life. I made her 'down' and then got her out to try and do some Shadow Handling in the crating area. Again she bolted for the door all the while refusing treats.  We finally completed the small circle and she willingly retreated to her open crate!

I thought that maybe this would be our victory for the day: while she will always respond to a 'kennel' command, I never got the feeling that she truly liked being in her crate. In fact, that is one thing that concerned me about trials... how would she act during the sometimes long periods of crating? So maybe this was a good thing...

After giving her some solitude in her still open crate, I found some new treats in my bag and figured maybe they would be enough to tempt her to do something! I led her out of the crate and used the new (apparently quite delicious) treats to coax her to heel with me to the hall outside of the ring.

My timing couldn't have been worse because as soon as we got there... BANG! the dreaded Teeter hit the floor! Terror flickered across her eyes as I turned around and heeled her back to the crating area trying my best to act like I hadn't heard anything at all and meant in fact to go right back.

Within minutes of returning to the crate, Gilda's name was being called. I ushered her to the ring with her tail threatning to go up against her belly at any moment. The timer started and with Gilda still on leash, I cued her to the Dog Walk (one of her favorite obstacles). She slowly inched up the board with people coaxing her on quietly. She completed the obstacle in slow motion and actually accepted her treat at the end!

Next, we approached a jump and she refused. I took her leash off and moved to the other side of the jump and cued her and she still refused. The next thing I heard was, "Time's Up".

We were leaving the ring when the stewards (I guess that's what you call them) decided that we couldn't leave without a good jump. As one of the stewards lowered the bar, Gilda trotted away from me to either meet everyone (which isn't like Gilda) or more likely to attempt her escape. I got her back, sent her over the 8" jump, and everyone cheered! I made a big fuss and gave her a small handful of treats. She truly seemed happy for the moment!

I quickly ushered her to the crating area acting happy and proud, swiftly packed up our things and led her to the precious front door! I really thought that it was probably best to follow the Agility Creed and 'End on a Good Note'.

So basically, we drove 40 minutes each way, spent all of 15 minutes and $6.00 to perform 2 obstacles. It may have been an expensive endeavor but I can't help thinking it was worth it. It's just going to take our girl some practice to get used to new venues... Hang in there Gilda, you can do this!


Catalina said...

I was just wondering - do you take private classes with Gilda? I'm thinking about taking private classes with my dog and was interested in other people's experience.

P.S. I enjoy reading your blog - the ups and the downs too :)

Mary said...

If you are already taking lessons, what she needs is more exposure to exciting environments. Show up at some local shows even if you are not entered. The first few times, you may only be able to work outside in the parking lot! Then just see if you can go in the door with nice behavior, etc.

Alternatives, now that spring is on the way is to take her up to your city's athletic fields while teams are playing/practicing. The same types of distractions will be present - lots of activity, noise, new things - and then really lower your criteria for her behaviors. Just pretend you are training from scratch and bring very high value rewards. She'll soon learn that she can work even when the environment is new.

The nice thing about athletic fields is that there is usually alot of space, so you can work as close or as far away as you need to so that you can be successful.

Mary said...

I forgot to mention - have you read Susan Garrett's book, "Shaping Success"? Try to find a copy. She goes into great detail about how she had to manage Buzzy's behavior from when he was a puppy. I think she says that she attended puppy class at least three times with him. For the first class she "attended", he couldn't even go in the building!!

It's reassuring that even the best of the best have had their struggles. And that it's often these struggles that helped them get so good at what they do!