Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Track Success - Playtime, Tunnel Work, and Distractions

Wow. It's been so nice out these past few days that we were actually able to get some agility work done... After yesterday's success I couldn't wait to get out today. We tried this morning, but the track was in use, so we went to a near by park and just walked/jogged around on his 6ft leash. The park itself is bigger than the track but... people like to use it as an off leash dog park (why, I don't know, it's settled between four roads, one of which is busy) so I didn't want him on anything that I couldn't be right there to intervene if a dog came flying out of nowhere. It allowed him to stretch his legs and work on loose leash walking, because we haven't done much of that.

But tonight... I kept my fingers crossed and when I drove by the track was empty. So I went home and loaded him up. I already had my arms full and him in one arm when I realized the track was no longer empty - two 13 year old girls were riding their bikes around the track talking. That was fine. I figured we'd do some 6ft leash work while they were there and if they left I'd switch lines and go to agility. They didn't leave... but were very curious to see what we were up to. I love kids that are well behaved. They were nice. Parked their bikes, asked questions, asked before they pet... the whole nine yards. Toby was very happy for a chance to say hello to someone older than his normal 5 year old and younger crowd (kids just seem drawn to him when we go out... and as patient as he is, he's not always as thrilled to see them as they are him). They saw my bundled up tunnel (only 3ft long, nothing special) and asked if we were training for a competition. I told them no, we were just there to have fun. They asked me if he was good at it... no there too. LOL. Don't get me wrong, Toby LOVES his tunnel... but this was going to be the first time we ever tried the tunnel anywhere other than my backyard.

Then they headed off like they were going to leave. So I set up. I was setting the camera up (I videoed the session, but you only see half of the tunnel and our play sessions because I didn't do a test run with it... I was too nervous), when I saw the girls had parked their bikes and were sitting in the bleachers to watch. I'm not the person you put in front of a crowd... and Toby's not the most focused boy on the lot. But I was determined to try and just have fun. It was going to be a nice, small distraction so I figured I might as well make use of it. He did wonderful!

I ran him through the tunnel 4 times (5 trials, I set him too far back on one and he missed the tunnel)... using tug as his reinforcer. He was thrilled. It was all one big game to him and that's exactly what I want! It was over in less than 3 minutes and after that I let him wander and smell, just rewarding for check ins. The girls stayed the entire time... they waited until I'd packed up and was heading to the car before they came to ask more questions. I thanked them and still can't wipe the silly grin off my face. He not only played with me at the track, he did a 'new' obstacle for that situation, and did it with people watching. What a boy! I've teased enough people that if I could give him a 'show name' it'd be Valerie's What a Man, because that's my boy. When he's feeling good and comfortable, he'll do anything.

I may upload the video, either here or to youtube... Though I'm hoping to get a better one soon (I need to figure out a good camera arrangement for out there).

On an even brighter note! I might have found a CU class less than a half hour from me. This is the closest positive class I've been able to find. I'm not sure however, if the trainer does private classes or what not as she's apart of the Kalamazoo Kennel Club and their web site is hard to navigate and with several different trainers for various classes. I'll be nosing around Thursday to get more information. I'd love to work with a trainer who uses these principles and is a positive/clicker trainer. -crosses fingers- I can only hope. I'd like to be able to set up more safe situations to work with him in.

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