Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Only one more class to go

Today was class seven. I went to class with my Rally notebook, which has all the rally signs and explanations, prepared to study them after walking the course. Which would have been an excellent plan if I could have remembered the seventeen (!!!) signs on the course. Sadly, the only ones I remembered were the ones I already knew.

Parker was obviously having a really good time. Which means he was a total clown. When we did the down stay, he was flipped over onto his back, which makes it really hard to walk off from the down, but I kept telling myself that the whole reason we’re doing this is to get him to open up and relax in a crowd.

My friend Ellen came to watch and Parker went right up to her for some love and even, at one point, rested his head in her lap. While waiting for our turn to start the course, Parker went up to the instructor who was acting as judge to get some petting. I told her that that behavior was more important to me than having him sit calmly before starting, so she gave him some gentle scritches.

Somewhere downstairs there’s a trunk full of Halloween costumes I made for the kids, including a clown. Gotta remember to go look for the ruffly collar and hat to put on him next week.

One of the instructors asked if I were going to enroll Parker in the Rally competition in September. I said that I was not only not ready for that, but I was concerned that the tight quarters and crowds would upset Parker and I didn’t want him to learn that competition is scary. She said I should just bring him, walk in and out a few times, have him sit by me while I watch a few trials and then leave.

Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

All it takes is a little encouragement

I forgot that I was ready to quit last week as I headed to class this morning.

I remembered as soon as we walked inside, but it was too late.

Parker went into a crate without a fuss as I went out to walk the course. There were several new signs and we were told that there’d be more new ones on the second one. Ugh. And that next week, we’d be doing the “back” exercise. To teach this, we were told, we needed to have the dog next to a wall or fence. With the dog in a stand, a treat in our left hand, we say, “back,” start moving back ourselves and give the treat as soon as there is any leg motion by the dog. We all worked on this for a few minutes. A few very frustrating minutes for me, so I was astonished, when we walked off passed someone who said, “He got it right away!” I literally looked behind me to see who the guy was talking to before realizing he was talking to me.

As we waited for our turn (why do they always make us go last?), Parker was fine. There was an “Honor” sign, so, since we were last, that meant we were first to do it. With the dog in a sit this time, and me on the end of the leash, he was supposed to maintain the sit for as long as it took the first course runner to go through the course. He really did that rather well until someone got too close to him. Then he would get up and come next to me. Not so bad.

Then it was our turn to do the course. While we were sitting (okay, you know that Parker was sitting, and I was standing, right?), the instructor asked me if I were having fun. Although this was a perfect invitation for a pity party, I maintained my cool and explained that I was having fun at home, but not so much in class, because Parker is really pretty good at home. Alone. With no one to see it but me. But that in class, he was a clown, although I blamed myself for being too competitive and transferring my anxiety down the leash. She said that chilling was a lesson all handlers had to learn and that at least I had managed the first step -- blaming myself instead of the dog.

We went through the course with Parker paying just about no attention on me. There were other dogs all around the edges of the course practicing and he was on high alert for anything that might go wrong, but the instructor was full of praise for us. Obviously my standards are way too high.

And the second time through (we skipped several signs, in order to concentrate on the ones we “knew”), the instructor told me that we had done a stellar job and were making good progress.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Giving up on Rally (?)

Having missed last week’s class, with Parker almost two weeks in a kennel without any training, going to class today was a total waste of time. And morally depressing. We did manage a little training yesterday at home, during which Parker was spot on and perfect, but you wouldn’t know it based on his behavior today. He spent most of the time the first time through the (advanced) course with his nose in the pocket where the treats used to be (I had them in my hand this time), and, when I took off the vest for the second time around, he kept his nose in my pants pocket instead, sometimes giving it a bite. Very nasty looking. His sits were all very crooked, when he sat at all and you’d have thought he never had heard to word “heel.”