Saturday, May 15, 2010

Agility and Enthusiasm

This is a continuation of my last post. I talked about Jazz lacking enthusiasm in the obedience ring. We have the same problem in agility. He used to have enthusiasm in the agility ring, but I think I worked real hard to kill that. I got too fixed on qualifying and let my disappointment show. I didn't take it out on him, but he knows when I am really happy and when I am disappointed. I didn't praise and party enough. I also failed to really let him know when he was right and let him know it was OK to be wrong. He doesn't like to be wrong and he works slowly so he can be sure he is right. So many mistakes for me to overcome.

Anyway - I have been reading Susan Garrett's blog and I reread the article called "But it Isn't a Border Collie." She talks about levels of arousal. Too little excitement and you get a sniffing, doodling around dog. Too much and you get zoomies and lack of attention as well. Jazz has gotten to the point that he is not excited. I worked last weekend on getting some excitement back in the game. I was really worried that I should stop doing agility with him. I hate to MAKE him do it, but I think it is good for him physically and for our relationship.

I used Susan Garrett's suggestions and one of my own. I started each warm up with a little jog. (She says she runs five minutes before each run. She must not be running NADAC. I don't think there is that much time between runs! Anyway - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.) I then gave him a vigorous massage. More like roughing him up than massaging. He thought it was weird the first time, but liked it after that. My final warm up was to spit cheese for him to catch. He really likes that game anyway and it seemed to get him fired up. I also tried blowing in his face at the start line. That was hilarious. He leaped up, bowed, barked, danced around and took off. I may save that for desperate measures - I don't think either of us are quite ready for that kind of enthusiasm.

This routine worked very nicely. I also made absolutely sure to remember that this is fun. I praised him and enjoyed his company. REALLY enjoyed his company and the runs. I got my happy dog back. He was his old silly self. Everyone who knows us commented on the difference. He ran faster, but really he just had more fun. He galloped around with a wagging tail and a grin on his face for ten runs in two days. The last two runs on Sunday were too much. I should have pulled him. I am still learning when to quit. He was fine for those last two, just not all that excited. I don't think he was physically tired, just tired of agility.

I was so happy on the way home and he knew it. He was feeling pretty proud of himself. We qualified three times, which is pretty good for us. We still aren't as fast as we could be if he were more confident. I will continue to work on getting him excited about agility. I think he will speed up if I give him lots of positive reinforcement and make sure he has fun. If he does not speed up, but continues to have fun, I will enjoy his company and let him run.

I have to remind myself every day to have fun. I know he will be too old soon enough and I don't want to regret anything about our friendship.

Laugh at your dog today - they like it!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Kathy! It's funny -- there couldn't be two more differet dogs than Jazz and Orbit. But they're the same in that they key off of us and don't want to be wrong. Jazz slows down when he's unsure; Orbit takes off in zoomies when she's unsure -- but it's the same underlying reason.