Monday, September 28, 2009

I Really Love This Dog

I really love agility. I really love my dog. I really do! What an agility weekend this was for Jazz and me. We love to trial at the Quad City Dog Center. It is climate controlled, completely enclosed, no horses or dust, and great people. I also love watching runs from the loft. The perspective is great for seeing how a course should "flow."

In spite of all that, it was a very strange weekend. Saturday was our usual wild first run on a standard course. Jazz was out of control and ran around barking. He came back to me and we did run the entire course eventually. I chalked it up to the first run zoomies and too much excitement in my voice. The second run was jumpers and it was a nice course, but a little challenging for me. I had to do two front crosses. (I had to do them because I needed to switch sides and because I am still unable to properly execute a rear cross! Practice, practice, practice.) Anyway - we did the jumpers course, front crosses and all, as if we knew what we were doing. I was completely thrilled. It felt smooth and happy. We finished the course with six plus seconds to spare and no faults. Jazz was very proud of himself and I could not stop grinning. I could hear my friends and teachers yelling in the loft when we finished. It was wonderful! The best part is that I have that run on film. From now on, when I get discouraged, I will watch that film and know that we can do it!

I was still grinning when we got to the trial on Sunday. Jazz was in fine form and seemed to be pretty full of himself. I was determined to stay calm, use my quiet voice and have a great day. We started with standard. The first obstacle was a tire followed by a dog walk. (After that things get a little blurry.) I told him to stay and began to walk past the tire. This is not a long walk and there is no reason why that dog can't stay for 10 seconds! He didn't stay. He went under the tire - apparently because I didn't have my hand up. My hand wasn't up because I didn't think we were starting yet. He went straight up the dog walk and then we reached an impasse. I think he was considering coming back down and I wasn't sure what to do. I finally decided to take him to the other side of the dog walk and continue the course. The judge then said I could take him back and start over. I should have cut my losses and kept going, but I am an optimistic woman. We went back to the start and Mr. Zoomie ran around barking a while before I convinced him to jump through that stinking tire! If you know my dog, you can predict the next part. He refused to walk the dog walk. You know - the one he just trotted over a few seconds ago? Barked some more, finally did the dog walk and I thought we were fine. He did a few more obstacles and then ran around for a while. He was having a wonderful time. I was not. We finally got to the middle of the course and faced the dreaded weave poles followed by the truly evil table. He barked about the weave poles and I just said WEAVE in a very firm, quiet voice. He considered running off, but decided I really meant it and did the silly poles. Then came the table and he was really throwing a fit. He barked, he trotted around sassing me, and he refused to get on that table. I finally convinced him to get on the table. At that point we were eye to eye and he was barking right in my face and refusing to sit. (This all sounds pretty bad huh? But wait - we're getting to the part where I finally felt like a dog trainer.) I calmly reached over, gently took hold of his ruff, looked him directly in the eye and said, "You sit." He jumped and yelped as if I had beaten him, but I am finally on to that little trick. That is not pain, that is a tantrum. I do not like tantrums. He sat. The judge blew his whistle and our fun was over for that run. I looked at that obnoxious dog and told him to come with me. He galloped around looking happy until he realized I was walking away from him. He then dropped into a fairly nice heel and came with me. I put his leash on him and put him in his crate. No treats, no party, no fun. Many people were telling me I should "forgive" him or not hold a grudge. I swear to everyone reading this - I really was not angry. I just don't think I am asking too much when I ask him to get on the table and sit for five seconds.

I have always laughed when people tell me that the dogs "know you can't touch them in the ring." Surprise! I can touch him in the ring any time I want. I understand the rules and I know that if I touch him I will be asked to leave, but sometimes a girl has to take a stand! I apologized to the judge for making a scene in his ring and he was wonderful. He laughed and said that he thought I did the right thing. He even suggested that he waited to blow his whistle until he was sure the dog was sitting on the table. What a great guy!

In case anyone is picturing my poor, abused Samoyed crying in his crate - hah! He was confused, but he is always up for new things. I came back after a few minutes and we went for a walk. He was still looking for the jackpot at the end of a run. He was disappointed there, but he is a very cheerful, forgiving dog. We ran a lovely jumpers course after the "showdown" in standard. I tried to do three front crosses and mistimed the last one. I got in his way and he dropped a bar trying to take the jump from a bad position. He was his usual happy, goofy self. I have no idea what will happen the next time we try standard, but I guarantee he will not get away with making his own course.

The problem I always have with him is that he makes me laugh. (I kept chuckling all the way home on Sunday.) He is such a brat and so silly that it is hard to stay annoyed long enough to make a point. I am very proud of myself for the way I handled his bad behavior. I just knew what I needed to do and I did it. I have often wondered what to do, or second guessed myself, but this was the right way to handle my dog at that particular moment. I wasn't angry, but I can't let him continue to do whatever he wants. I have made excuses for him because he is excited, or because he's a Samoyed, or because he really doesn't understand. I have been positive because I want a happy dog. I want a dog who does this because he is having fun. All of those ideas and approaches are fine, but there comes a time when he just needs to understand who's buying the kibble around here.

We learned a lot this weekend. We had a lot of fun. I really love that crazy dog! I really love agility.

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