Friday, 2 May 2014

It was all going so well ..

It was all going so well at obedience training yesterday.  After pushing my recall powers almost to their limit a couple of times at the start of our group walk when an excitable Polly and pal Molly opted to race across the field to play together, they both eventually remembered their manners and returned, proving to me Polly will recall from a good distance ... maybe not instantly, but recall under distracting circumstances nonetheless. Once she'd let off a little steam, Polly's subsequent recalls were prompt (and I was pleased to see she didn't jump on any of the puppies this week while she was playing with them!)  We then whipped round the agility course fairly neatly, enjoying an entire section of high jumps, long jumps, hoop and A-frame, off lead.  Heel work was good too, with Polly happy to show her stuff both lead tucked into my belt (ie hands free) and even off-lead, for a complete circuit of the poles.  We also completed a pretty smart formal 'sit stay, down and recall', during which all class dogs perform together in a rather challenging row.  

So, by about ten minutes before the end of class, I admit to feeling pretty content that we were a significant way forward from the chaotic point at which we started school last August ...

Last night: picking up a few agility tips from Battersea Cat 'n Dog's home's agility star fabulous 'Frank' on Paul O'Grady's 'For the love of dogs' 

In fact I'd go as far as saying we were close to finishing the lesson on a rather smug high, but as the old saying goes, 'pride cometh before a fall'!  The final challenge of the lesson was a 'down stay/out of sight'.  The eventual aim of this task being that the dogs are able to remain in their 'down' position, while owners slip out of sight for a whole ten minutes ...

Keeping Polly 'down' has always been quite a challenge - she has only recently started to perform this task successfully for several minutes without a training lead and with me standing about 35 feet away, but not yet 'out of sight'.  Yesterday I was convinced she was doing pretty well during the first part of this exercise.  Polly maintained her 'down' as I walked away backwards and I was delighted she stayed in position and noticeably focused, while I stood in front of my car.  When I returned to her side to practice leaving again, extending the 'down' time, I reminded her to 'stay', then repeated the walk back to my car.  Polly stayed in position for a few more seconds, just long enough to lull me into a false sense of security and think she was going to behave as asked, but then I spotted her glance sideways towards obediently 'downing' Molly next door!  I shouted out 'POLLY STAYYY!!!' but it was too late, my naughty girl launched herself onto poor Molly's back for a game of wrestle!  There was nothing for it but to grab my miscreant, give her a quick telling off, mumble a red-faced apology to Molly, then march my mischievous Miss back to her position, prison warder stylie, before she took the opportunity to create any further havoc on the field.

(Problem solving: maybe next week we'll take a step back and try using a long training lead for our 'down stay' exercise if we happen to be positioned next to Polly's best buddies!)  

I don't doubt that Polly's behaviour and my training skills have developed positively during the past nine months while we've been going to dog school, but there's always room for improvement; we're definitely still a work in progress.  I guess setbacks all go to prove you shouldn't allow yourself to become too complacent, no matter how pleased you are with your dog's progress ... especially if you own a cheeky, playful, determined young dog, like Miss Polly!!!

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