Rudi's Agility Diary

    by Qarin Van Brink

This is my ongoing journal about agility with my dog Rudi, a Miniature Australian Shepherd. I hope to keep up with it, but as with many things, it may fall by the wayside. It is primarily for my own benefit, to be able to see trends and know when breakthroughs happened, and things like that. Nevertheless, I hope someone, somewhere, finds it an interesting read.
This is the first entry for a journal/diary I hope to keep on Rudi and his agility training. We went to our first class today- a local instructor, Gayl Dalmau, ran a beginning agility class starting in January; that class will be continuing starting next friday, and Gayl decided to run a workshop this weekend- two hours today and tomorrow, after which the dogs should be ready to drop into the class that's already in progress... I guess we'll see!

We started out the day by going down to the beach to play. I figured a good run with other dogs to tire Rudi out a little bit would be a good idea, so that he might focus in class. Rudi likes other dogs best of anything that he knows, I think. We had a great time, and met another Miniature Australian Shepherd- Angel, owned by Eartha. We exchanged phone numbers and I hope we can get together to let the dogs play... they seemed to just know they're the same kind of dog. Anyway, I think the time at the beach helped

In today's class, the dogs (there were just four of us- two Salukis, a Bernese Mountain Dog, and Rudi; I think one of the Salukis was there only for today, so tomorrow we'll be fewer) and trainers were introduced to jumps (set very low for the beginning dogs- Rudi will continue with low jumps while he's still so young), the table, the dog-walk, weave poles, and the tire jump. Rudi, so far as I can tell, loves them all! I won't lie and say he was The Perfect Dog, but he was Very Good- he had surprisingly good focus, and while his "stay" definitely needs work, he was having trouble not following ME, which is much better than, say, having trouble not getting up and running to the other dogs to play, which is what I'd have expected. He also had trouble staying when he knew that he'd be getting to jump! Bouncy puppy, loves to jump.

I need to work with a target for him, to help him focus on stopping at (and eventually, i guess, just stepping on) the yellow safety spots on the walk/teetertotter/A-frame. Tomorrow we're going to introduce the A-frame, tunnel, and the chute. I know Rudi will like the A-frame (the instructor at one point, while discussing the yellow areas, gestured to the A-frame on the side of the yard... Rudi followed her point, his eyes went wide, and up! he went, scrabbling up, then carefully down, stopping on the yellow before getting off :); I'm more looking forward to the tunnel and chute, though... these are things he's never done anything like before, and I think he's going to like them, but maybe not as much as jumping.

Today's class was a lot of fun. Rudi was a bit more hyperactive than yesterday- I neglected to take him for a run on the beach beforehand. He is now easily as exhausted as he was yesterday after class, though.

In today's class, we started out reviewing what we did yesterday- jumps, the table, weave poles, and the dogwalk. Once again, the first time we went to do two jumps in a row Rudi avoided the second jump- after that, though, he had no problem with it. We had one fewer Salukis in the class, and Rudi's best friend, Zoe, came, and pretty much caught right up with the class, so that was fun. After the review, we started on new things- first the tunnel, which Rudi took to very quickly (trouble with his sit-stay made the first exercises difficult, but his enthusiasm for Stuff took over and he was flying through it any opportunity he got), then the chute, which Rudi was also very quick about- he'd snuck in there earlier and we'd quickly lifted the chute up so that he could see to come through, so by the time it was actually his turn to do it, he was all over it, and by the second pass didn't need anyone to lift it up, thanks. I think my main problem with tunnels is going to be getting to the other end before he does! Next we went to the A-frame, which I already knew from yesterday was going to be a breeze... while the other dogs were really pretty uncertain about climbing up this thing the first time, Rudi just trotted right up, came down, stopped on the yellow to get his treat, and stepped away when I said "ok". The instructor was a little nervous letting me run him on the A-frame off-leash, concerned that he'd just go flying off past the yellow, but even off-leash he was paying enough attention to me to stop where he was supposed to.

I'm really looking forward to starting to put the obstacles together to see how Rudi does... really, i'm waiting for the part he has trouble with. I'm also very interested to see how he does with the teeter-totter; I think that may be the first obstacle we have a real adventure with.

The only bad part of the weekend came right at the end of class today- one of the dogs in the class, the Bernese Mountain Dog (named Sinbad), is a little... not very friendly with other dogs. He was growling when other dogs would stare at him. By the end of class today, he was getting really edgy, and mouthing off even when no other dogs were anywhere near, and then right as we were wrapping up, as he was coming through the chute, he came out and there were Rudi and me, and Sinbad went nuts. Fortunately, he got my pants leg, and not Rudi (I think he just missed- I don't think he was going for me), and not, say, MY leg. Tore a strip of cotton off from my thigh to my ankle. Sinbad won't be joining the rest of the class for friday night agility training. :(

I have been lax with my journaling- I am writing this the evening of 3/31/00, after the next week's class. Nevertheless, I will pretend to be writing immediately after the class.

I must wear this dog out before coming to class! Fridays at work are often kind of weird- some fridays leave a lot of chance for playing, but others, like today, involved a lot of meetings and sitting... which means lots of time for the pupdog to rest up before going to a Really Exciting Place. So at tonight's class, Rudi was pretty nuts- barking and bouncing and really wanting to investigate all these new dogs- so much so that i didn't take him off his leash for any of the exercises.

Today's class was pretty simplified- unlike the weekend class, we just worked on a few obstacles: jumps, the table, and the A frame, and weave poles. Today we put a few of them together: two jumps, then the table, or the A-frame, the table, then a jump. One fabulous thing is I found an object to be Rudi target, and taught him to touch it wherever it was... this took about 5 minutes this afternoon. The object is, I think, sufficiently geeky- a 25-9pin adaptor, about 1.5"x2". Rudi took to this task immediately, and was working it like a champ over the A-frame, stopping on the yellow and looking for his target when i'd call "touch!" when he was at the top (he goes so fast over the A-frame that timing the call can be hard!).

The dogs in this class are a small black standard poodle (annie), Zoe, one of the Salukis from last weekend (Taz), two border collies (who are more advanced than the rest of us- they are great role models!), and two... hrm... I don't know what breed they are- they are about 24" tall, tan, sort of skinny-husky (not gaunt, but not rottweilers), with noticeable fur ridgelines.

There is no doubt more to say about last week's lesson, but I've forgotten it... a good lesson in much more prompt writing.

Tonight went much better than last week- while Rudi was still something of a pest of a puppy, he was able to focus a lot more. I am sure this was due to my better planning during the day- we spent a quite a while playing fetch (with treats- every five times he returns the ball right to me, he gets a treat for his efforts, plus he gets to run and get the ball again! It really must be great to be a dog), and he got a good run around the office with one of my coworkers. I also didn't let him eat much during the day, and had a new high-brain-activity trick to work on when he needed some more focus during class (specifically, I'm teaching him "left hand" (shake with his left hand) and "right hand"- the correlation is still low, but pretty clearly going up; he's really trying to think about what it is I want each time).

Today was nearly all jumping- four jumps in a row, with the goal being to get the dogs to run ahead of us and go over the jumps on command. After getting the dogs used to jumping all four jumps in a row, we set out a plastic container cover and we each put our dog's treat on the cover and then let the dog have the treat. After that, we'd put the treat on the cover (while the dog could see), bring the dog around to the other side of the jump, and then send the dog over the jump to the treat (with someone stationed by the treat so keep the dog from it if he didn't actually jump). One of the border collies did it this way, the other was sent out for the jumps by throwing a tennis ball. Once Rudi was OK at jumping two jumps to the treats, I borrowed the tennis ball try that way. Zoom! Boy can Rudi run and jump. We quickly got up to all four jumps, though the first time I tried, I screwed up the throw and sent it wide of the fourth jump... can't really blame rudi for catching it there (he'd caught up to the throw.... 40' out). Our retrieve practice this afternoon paid off handsomely as Rudi came right back to me with the ball.

With maybe 20 minutes left to the class, we brought out the weave poles- a good idea, since nearly all the dogs still think these things are just ridiculous, and since they mostly don't get to practice them at home and the only way to get them to think they're worthwhile is to practice, we need to have them out every session. Rudi is definitely among the dogs who think they're ridiculous.

After things had pretty much wound down, we let the herding dogs run- Rudi had gotten border collie's ball and the two of them just ran the fastest laps up and down the yard. Other dogs joined in, but the two of them were definitely the runners... it's now three hours later and Rudi has pretty much been crashed out the whole time.

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