Thursday, 19 September 2013

Jumping through hoops!

We had to miss dog training for a couple of weeks, to give Polly time to convalesce after her operation.  I must admit, after the last session, I wasn't exactly eager to return this week and found myself watching weather bulletins hopefully, just in case the class might be rained off, but the rain promised to hold off until afternoon and our session was in the morning, so that was that, we had to get our act together and face that narrow country lane drive and obedience training school again!


I was so relieved we didn't have to cope with the big intact male dogs this time and pleased to discover our group would instead be made up with younger dogs and puppies.  Polly was delighted to be back at school and happily bounced across the field to tackle the agility equipment.  She was a little distracted by a handsome spaniel who slipped his lead and dashed over to introduce himself (well, who wouldn't be?) but other than that brief diversion, focused quite well on balancing on the A-frame, running through long tunnels (including the scarey flat tunnel with a little help from Kevin the instructor) weaving through poles, jumping through a tyre jump, walking across the baby seesaw and after a couple of confused attempts, even managed a little low hurdling!  We're a long way from neat and tidy yet and running around the circuit with Polly is one heck of  a shock to my otherwise sedentary system (!) but all in all, I was delighted with how well my girl coped in the agility section - go Polly!!!

Next it was time to practise lead walking; we had to walk past a variety of sitting dogs, concentrating on walking to heel, encouraging our dogs around corners, recalling and sitting them neatly to command.  Sounds easier than it actually is, believe me!  Polly's lead walking at home is not yet perfect, but is much improved, so I know she can do this when she wants to ... and today, with so many other dogs to admire, I guess she didn't really want to!  She responded in short sporadic bursts and didn't do too badly overall, but I think I need to work more on keeping her focus when there are distractions.  We've been doing lots of work with the clicker on our walks at home and as a result Polly no longer chases cars, or bicycles and will usually walk calmly past people, prams and other oncoming dogs, but at the moment, that isn't translating into school lessons.

After a quick break for a drink and a rest, we were back on the field to recall our dogs in a group 'off lead' session.  Polly loves this section and I dread it.  She bounds off excitedly with her lovely new playmates and when the instruction is given to call our dogs back, I call out among a cacophony of classmates and ... my naughty girl completely ignores me!  Apparently I need to be more 'assertive,' but as I've never really been much of a shouter, this really doesn't come easily to me.  Competing for Polly's attention with so many playful dogs on the loose, not to mention their owners too, is really tough, particularly as the most she's ever encountered on the loose in our local park has been one or two dogs.  A big group of lively young dogs is another matter entirely, so my young lady forgets all her manners. I've been working on recall recently using an Acme dog whistle on our evening walks, which Polly responds well to, so hopefully her recall will strengthen over time and she'll realise recall applies to school too!

Finally, 'down stays' ... yes, we're getting there!  Once again, the challenge was to maintain her focus with so many other dogs around, but when she realised they were all 'down staying' too, she did as asked without question.  The only slight hiccup was keeping her in position with that same cheeky spaniel dying to introduce himself to one side of her and the cutest little pint sized puppy on the other ... but with one momentary exception, stay she did!  Good girl Polly!

All in all, I can't yet say dog training day is my favourite of the week, but to rationalise, this is only our fourth session and classes have been interrupted because of bad weather and Polly's operation, so we haven't yet found our stride and are still very inexperienced.  It puts me in mind of when I learned to drive at the grand old age of forty-two ... I was terrified, then anxious, eventually began to look forward to my lessons, became more confident, passed my driving test and now, as I drive my little red Corsa around town, I wonder what I ever worried about!  Hopefully, me 'n Polly will follow a similar confidence course through dog training school!

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