Friday, October 23, 2009
My little stick of dynamite
It's been almost five months since I got Talladega, and I'm really amazed with her. When she first showed up it was hard to even live with her. She was terribly rude and ill-behaved, and thought the best way to get a human to play was to bite a face or appendage. She wasn't house trained and couldn't be trusted out of my sight at any time whatsoever unless she was in a crate. Now she's house-trained (provided I make sure she gets out at the right times), only slightly rude and occasionally ill-behaved, and can be trusted out of my sight for minutes at a time! She still tries to nip the occasional face, but we're working on that.
But all that will come and I don't mind it so much because I think she's going to be a kick-ass little agility dog. Our major problem has been focus. She's so into everything and everyone (she loves the world and the world loves her!) that it's been hard for her to stay working with me when there are possibly exciting things around. Over the past six weeks I've had her in two classes designed to work on exactly that, and she's made remarkable improvement. She's not 100 percent yet, but she's good enough that I think can "mainstream" her into a normal agility class.
Meanwhile, on my own, I've been working on obstacle performance, and she's a dream. She learns so quickly and seems to really have a great time. She also overcomes her fears quickly; she's gotten a little startled by the teeter, and flew off the dogwalk once, but she's always willing to give it another go right away. This is a huge contrast to Pinky, who gets really shaken at the smallest scare. She was startled on the dogwalk once and I couldn't get her to approach it again. I had to start all over again on a low contact trainer and work all the way back up.
I've still got a lot of work to do on her jumping skills, and the weaves are a work in progress, but I've got time; based on the vet's age estimate, Tally won't even be old enough to compete in USDAA until next April. And I'm trying not to even focus on that, because I really want to enjoy the process. Now that I'm really getting her attention, training her is amazingly fun.
A great side effect of Tally's success is that she's made me completely relax about training Pinky, because now I know I'll have a dog to run when Lucy retires. Pinky can stay in training for years. This has had a wonderful effect on her training. With me relaxed, Pinky relaxes and we make good progress. Duh! I actually knew this would be the case, but it was getting myself to REALLY relax, as opposed to just pretending to relax, that was the key. Dogs notice!
It's a game. It needs to be fun!