Doodle had his first class tonight, and overall, he did surprisingly well, all things considered.
The warm up, which consisted of a right twirl (“Right!”), backing up (“Back!”), and a playbow (“Bravo!”), was a struggle. We continued to work on Right whenever we had downtime during the class (which was not much because THEY FREAKING FLY YOU THROUGH EVERYTHING, understandably), and he already had a little experience with Back because it’s what I say when he’s always up in my grill, but Bravo… uh, yeah, let’s not go there.
And then there came Wrap. Wrap is where you have the dog go through a hurdle (but without the actual hurdle to start) and come back around to the front. To save his life, Doodle would not step over the two inch pipe on the ground between two poles! Whyyyy, dog? I’ve got some bamboo poles in the backyard that I’ll work on him with, but that was about as frustrating as it got, luckily!
Then he was introduced to a few obstacles in their most basic form, such as the chute, the weave poles (sans poles), the ladder, a tube hoop, and other things to which I cannot remember the names. He had a little trepidation with the chute and weave poles, mainly because the chute is scary on it’s own (being the one with a tube and then a limp cloth covering), and the weave poles necessitating touching the metal part which was hard to reward for. But most of the other obstacles, he paid good enough attention and trotted along happily wherever he was told.
Even though there were some frustrations, overall I’m utterly amazed at his progress. To put it in perspective, let me give a quick list of the things Doodle had to overcome.
- There were lots of strangers there. Our class is completely filled up, meaning 5 handlers and 2 trainers, all of which Doodle had never met before, and he can be pretty timid about strangers. (In fact, he almost growled at the head trainer after she made a sudden sweeping motion at him in order to corral him back to his station and I was terrified we were going to get kicked out of class. But she was understanding and gave him some treats off her knee to re-acclimate him. He’s still a little wary of her.)
- There were several strange dogs there. Again, full class means 4 dogs, including us. So, he had to share a room and facilities with 7 people he’d never met before and 3 dogs he hadn’t sniffed. Typically other dogs can be a HUGE distraction for him, but he always came when called, even in the presence of the other dogs. I honestly did not think it would work!
- Save for his CGC, he’d never been in the building before. New place means new smells, every dog owner knows that.
- It. Was. LOUD. Understandably, they do that on purpose so the dogs get used to the noise that competitions have. Like mother, like Doodle, though, and he’s not too keen on lots of loud noises. Hell, earlier today he started whining when the
annoying lawn crew people came by with their lawn mowers and leave blowers. But he did such a good job of focusing and staying calm in spite of the volume and energy of the place.
- It was intense. 50 minutes of almost non-stop thinking and moving action for him. He’s still a bit of a box of rocks, so I bet his brain’s probably pretty sore! But, come to think of it, his giant play sessions with Aurora probably help him on that end, because he has to constantly be thinking about what his next move is going to be and how he’s going to counter her. Maybe.
- Stimulation abound! From the boyfriend and I commanding him every two seconds to hearing the other dogs and their commands, and taking in the smells and the visuals, the class has a lot going on for the senses. Even I was starting to get over-stimulated by a lot of it, but Doodle pulled out a focus I didn’t know he had and overcame those sensory obstacles and focused on the task at hand.
- The clicker. For those of you who don’t know, the clicker is a noise making device that, when primed, generates a reward sensation in the dog, and is used to help the dog know when they’re doing the right thing (works like praise, except stronger). Yeah, well, we were a little late to the clicker priming party and spent this last week cramming in our priming… and it did not go well. Like I said earlier, he doesn’t like loud noises, and the clicker is a very loud and very sharp noise. For a while, he was too scared of the clicker to do anything, even the most basic commands or come near us! I was afraid today we’d have to go in without it, or—worse yet—drop out from the class when other people would use it for their dogs. But once again, Doodle proved me wrong and got used to the clicker in class fairly soon and, aside from occasionally looking to us for treats after hearing another clicker go off, he seemed to respond to it very well.
I’m sure there were plenty more things that he had to overcome that we simply didn’t consider, but again, he amazed us today with what he was able to do. We’re very excited for next week!
As for Doodle, he seemed to enjoy the time and special attention, and now he’s a tuckered out little pre-agility pooch, and I couldn’t be more proud of him for how far he’s come.