Thursday, March 24, 2011

Agility Induced Disorders

We had class with Linda last night and Gilda was the same sniffing, scattered, ADD dog that she was at practice earlier in the week. The good news is... Linda says this is NORMAL!!
Apparently, many dogs go through similar phases while learning Agility. At 2 she is a teenager now and is probably thinking she knows exactly what to do without 'Mom' telling her. In fact, at one point, she took off running and created her own course of sorts including a Tunnel!
All joking and humanizing aside, it was such a relief to hear Linda say that she wasn't concerned at all! It took a huge load off of my lack-of-handling-skills concerns.
I took along freshly cooked chicken bits sprinkled with garlic powder sprinkled on them and worked on treating Gilda for paying any attention at all to me. (Note to Novices: This makes it difficult to listen and watch your instructor but it pays off in the long run!). Gilda actually pulled herself together somewhat and seemed at times to be my old AU Agility girl, happy jumping and running. It seems like patience, diligence, and chicken breast will cure her in the end.

And now for my own Agility Induced Psychoses... I've already discussed the fact that while running even a short sequence, I lose all ability to hear. I like to blame the loud heater/blower thingy but it's all me. I don't hear Linda until around her 4th iteration (look at your dog... look at your dog!... Look At Your Dog!... LOOK AT YOUR DOG!). Luckily, she only increases her volume and never sounds irritated (she keeps a happy face)!

As you can gather from the example above, I also have an Eye Contact issue when doing Agility. I have some very valid reasons for being clumsy and awkward and I let that fact run the show at times. My concern for where I am headed next often overrides the need to maintain eye contact with Gilda. Gilda has proven time and time again that lost eye contact = an off-course dog. This leads me directly to my next Disorder:

 My Complete and utter inability to multi task while working at Agility. Please note that by nature, I am a great multi tasker. I multi task for 12 hours at work and when I'm inclined and motivated, I multi task quite readily at home. (Just ask my daughter how many things I could pay attention to at once when she was younger!)
In Agility Class however, I morph instantly into a uni-tasker and it's not a helpful Disorder to have. After a year of classes, it's still not easy for me to run while maintaining eye contact while giving timely verbal cues and timely motion, hand, arm, shoulder cues, keep track of where I'm headed, and have a treat or toy ready, and decide how to handle an off-course... Whew! I'm exhausted just considering it all!

My final Disorder is one that I will have to cure STAT! Last night during a short sequence, Gilda suddenly veered off course sniffing all the way. I realized that I had verbalized my frustration over a mistake I made by saying "Aw" or "Oops" or something to that effect. Seemingly benign to humans but apparently very powerful to a canine teammate! Linda reports that I also drop my shoulders when I'm disappointed. This will have to go to the top of my priority list as it instantly stresses Gilda!
In an attempt to look at the bright side of the situation, I have to wonder if this is an indication that our bond is growing? Gilda is a funny dog and still prefers to curl up without touching any other warm body. She still often demonstrates what I call "cattle dog aloofness' and at the pet store today, she curled up at the cashier's feet (there was a cozy rug there) when she stressed over the sounds of crashing shopping carts. Maybe I'm just grasping for anything resembling bonding!

We are off for our Doggie Brigade Photo Shoot armed with fluffy fur and our freshly printed Delta Society Acceptance Letter! Hopefully we can get through the day without a relapse of any of the above!!!

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