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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We had practice today!

Gracie and I got to go to agility practice again today. Usually we have a private lesson for an hour on Thursday mornings, but since we have a three day trial this weekend, we moved to classes on Wednesday for those weeks we have 3-dayers.

I got to go first this weekend - take that Gracie!!! We worked on some sequences, no full courses. Our goal was to have more focus from Mum (she's been a bit spacey in running me lately), and her working me tighter, and of course, fast running, bolting the start line, and fast weaves.

And we accomplished all of them. Being in a class is really fun sometimes, all those dogs running before me get me all wound up. Nearly every sequence run, I bolted off the start line. Mum's been doing a couple of things for that. First, she leads out when I'm wound up and I'll bolt easily...secondly, if she has to run with me because there is a turn coming soon after the start, she stays with me in a running position, and then she says GO!!!! And it's working on the bolting start lines, fur sure!

She also kept running really fast and ahead of me while I'm in the weaves, getting ahead of me, and saying, Go, Go, Go... That worked really well again today, like it did last week. I think I may have done about 6 sets of weaves in that hour and they were all speedy.

I ran a bit wide a couple of times, so Mum worked on her timing to tighten me up. I'm not really liking her doing front cross now, so she's working hard to not even have me think that she's in my way when she has to do them....that's working too on keeping my speed up. And she's only doing them when she absolutely has to and is way ahead of me from a start line stay (for example).

Gracie had the second hour, with a whole new set of students...all early in training. Gracie can do some advanced stuff, but she still has that puppy in her, so it was good to have her in this class for another test of her focus. Only two times during the entire hour did she go and visit another dog or run off, and that was because her run was completed, and she was running out her last few jumps, with Mum way behind her saying, go, go go!. She came back to Mum nearly immediately when Mum called her back. Good girl!

She, again this week, had weave troubles. First she just walked past the weaves. Then they tried again and she pulled out at the 10th pole. One more time and she pulled out at 10, again. So Mum took her over to the other ring and tried the weaves with her there, with wire guides on the last two poles - she just jumped over them. Mum was having trouble figuring out why she's doing, and has been doing, this weird weave thing. Was she hurt?

So Mum and Gracie continued with the jump/contact/tunnel sequences they were doing, instead of doing weaves. Gracie had no signs of hurting and she was doing really well, but started to get incredibly unfocused after about 20 minutes into the hour - she was sniffing, blowing by jumps, ignoring Mum. She finally did the sequence, and when Mum took her back to their spot to give her her treats, Gracie started nosing Mum for more treats. Well, that didn't sit too well with Mum, and for the first time in about ever, Mum told Gracie, a firm, no. Gracie looked at Mum like, what was that? I haven't heard you say that forever! After that, she started taking Mum more seriously.

For those of you who don't know, Gracie is a rescue, and grew up in a pack of 70 dogs. She is incredibly sweet, fun, and the nicest pup you could ever meet. How she got that way after growing up the way she did, we'll never know.

But Gracie has another side, she can be incredibly stubborn - and loves to blow Mum off any chance she can get. Mum works with very positive training methods, and redirects unwanted behaviors at all times with Gracie, because Gracie can get very stressed out, very easily, and can really hide what she's feeling - many have had a hard time trying to figure out what Gracie is feeling. This work has really helped them form an incredible bond. But Gracie sometimes takes advantage, and she did that in rare form today. So just that little, firm, no, got Gracie's attention, big time!

A side note, Mum doesn't use the word no, like ever! And there are several reasons for that. One, Mum calls me JoJo (pronounced, YoYo), and she doesn't want to use 'no' and confuse me. Secondly, if she said no to me, I'd roll over and give her my belly, it upsets me so much (I'm, very sensitive), and thirdly, she always redirects our 'bad' behavior, keeping with the positive approach. It really works for us and we like our life that way. For more serious matters, sometimes she'll use the uh, uh. It works, but even that doesn't happen very often.

So after Gracie got a firm no, she was focused, ran great, ran ahead of Mum (even to the correct obstacles!). And she wasn't stressed. So Mum thought, she would see if Gracie would try the weaves again. Mum had Gracie run an easy little course, with a tunnel, jump and weaves. Doggone it if she didn't do them perfectly. And the she did them perfectly, again, and again, and again....

So Mum and Gracie have some thinking to do...the positive/redirect training has been great for Gracie over this time, and they are going to keep it up. And Mum and Gracie are really beginning to finally understand one another...Mum is getting to know when she's getting stressed now, when she's having the time of her life on course, and when she's just blowing her off. This will help tremendously in their further agility training.

Gracie has always been a happy dog with us. But it's taken a long, long time for Gracie to settle into being a real part of our family - knowing us, loving us, trusting us, and letting us know what she's feeling. And Mum and Gracie have worked really hard to get there. Today has been a big step to get even further.


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  2. Wow! sounds like a fantastic day. Hearing about Gracie and the newer agility students is giving my mom hope that maybe it would be okay to try agility (because I love visiting with other doggies even better than chasing birds. My mom trusts me to come back, but my inner puppy has a hard time resisting those visits!) Woofs from Kharma

  3. You and Gracie are doing well at agility practice. :)

    ~ Girl girl

  4. Keep at it Gracie!! You can do it girl!

    Have fun and good luck at your trial this weekend!!




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