Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Like" Is a Strong Word

When people meet Reagan, the often ask "how is she coming along, do you like her?" Well, "like" is a strong word when you are referring to a fiery-redheaded-sassy-bratty-obnoxious-monster puppy. Its nothing alarming. I have disliked them all from time to time, but this week is definitely one of those times for Reagan. Overall, she is just being a brat which is fine because I didn't want an easy, push over of a dog, but she is showing more fear lately. Fortunately, we have always ended on a good note, but she has had some strange episodes this week. I returned to one of the old training haunts. It is a fenced in field with agility equipment that members of my agility club are allowed to use. My personal set up is in my old horse arena at my parents' house in Cartersville. It is spacious, the footing is perfect, and my equipment is in good shape. Plus I don't have to share unless I invite someone over. For the last several years, most of Travis' agility training and practice happens here because he does not need anymore proofing. He does not need to see other fields, new people, different equipment, etc. He is a super star running every course as if he were at home. But during early training, it is important to seek out all the different places you can. Everywhere you go is an opportunity for training. The more places you go and the more people, dogs, and animals the dog sees, the more the dog will begin to generalize all situations. A dog that generalizes well is one that you do not find yourself saying "well.... he does it at home."

So back to Reagan and the new (but old) agility field. She started out fine, but then she looked up and noticed the tree tops blowing. She couldn't do anything at that point, so I brought out Katie. I had Katie do some little jumps. Katie was completely obnoxious. You just can't give her a treat for doing something simple anymore. She can do an entire agility course, but give her a treat for jumping one 12 inch jump and she suddenly knocking them all over because she is so frantic for her next treat. I love her food motivation, but I do wish I could tone it done just a smidge for her retirement. Otherwise, Katie did a find job of demonstrating that she was having a good time and wasn't scared. Reagan started to join in and forget about the trees.

The next day, we came back. The wind was not blowing, so the trees remained unnoticed, but there was a strange sounding bird in the woods behind the agility field. It freaked Reagan out and she could not concentrate anymore. I put her away and worked with the Katie and Travis. She was then eager to come back out and play fetch.

Today, she spooked at an overturned bucket that she moved across the driveway when she pulled her leash tight against it. This was at least a situation I could manage. I tossed treats on top of the bucket and slid it across the driveway while Reagan and I followed it. I clicked when she would take a treat from it or move towards it. I picked it up and showed her the inside of it and she got over it. If anyone has any ingenious ideas about how to work with tree tops or strange sounding birds.... let me know :-).