Monday, February 25, 2013

Adventures in Agility

Owning my dog is emotionally exhausting sometimes.  Tonight, I'm not even sure why I'm so exhausted.  Last week, class was excellent and compared to most other weeks tonight's class deserved a standing ovation, but it took everything I had not to burst into tears in tonight's class.

Things started off well enough.  When we walked in, we had to walk in close proximity to an overly excited boxer and Barley didn't bat an eyelash.  Then we had to walk by the keeshond that Barley decided she no longer liked a couple weeks ago, who was out in the lobby drinking peroxide to help her throw up three sticks of cheese she ate--plastic wrappers and all--before class.  Barley sat nicely while I talked to the keeshond's owner.  I was optimistic that our 2+ mile walk before class had set us up for success in class.

I'm trying to remind myself that Barley really wasn't that naughty.  While we waited for our different stations to be set up, Barley did a nice down-stay while I chatted with our black lab friend's mom and another woman who has a handsome dog that's almost all white with a few black patches and looks kind of American Bulldog-ish.  Once we started getting instructions, though, Bar decided she was no longer interested in lounging around and waiting and decided to bark at the black and white pup.  The first time, we walked away and refocused and went back to listening to our instructions (I'm convinced Barley chooses these opportunities to be naughty so that I have absolutely no clue which direction I'm supposed to be going and she is the one that looks good on the course).

My frustration set in when Barley decided to bark at her new nemesis in class (I guess if the keeshond couldn't be in class she figured she needed to pick on someone) a second time.  I started to have Barley do her doggie push-ups, which usually work even more effectively than walking away to refocus, and one of our other classmates had to chime in with her opinion on how I should be handling Barley (her opinion was that we should be walking away), which caused our trainer to second her opinion and Barley and I had to switch gears and walk away in mid push-up.

When we walked away, our classmate--who claims to be an animal behaviorist (but doesn't train at our training center) and novelist (and is generally someone I really like and find interesting)--followed us and continued to tell me what I should be doing with Barley: "Keep her mind working." "Have her look at you." "If she doesn't look at you when you tell her to, pivot around in front of her so she has no choice."  "When she wants to bark at another dog, walk away with her."  "I'm going to walk by with my dog now, keep her focused on you. . . . . That was very nice."

I am always open to suggestions for getting Barley to behave when we encounter new problems, and I appreciate her advice, but I know my dog.  While this woman clearly knows dogs, she's only known my dog for a few months--and has seen her for 1 hour a week during that time period.  I have been working with my dog every single day for almost two years on her reactivity.  I know what gets her focused on me and what doesn't. I clearly had just done what she suggested minutes before--and it didn't work.  And, she has seen me pivot in front of Barley when she doesn't listen to the "watch" command and has seen me spend 95% of instruction time every week for the last 14 weeks telling Barley to watch.  It was just frustrating, and even when Barley's wearing her crazy pants to class, usually agility is my one hour a week that I count on to be fun.

Between Soth's health problems and more excessively needy/entitled/disrespectful students than usual this semester, I've been overly stressed and tonight just added to it.  I tried running away to my parents' house this past weekend to escape for a couple days, but I came home to an inbox full of emails from students, my favorite of which included the sentence "I hope you've had a good weekend, young lady," and the little bit of pampering I got from my mama this weekend went out the window.

Barley loves to snuggle with her best friend, my parent's sweet girl Maz.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someday soon the snow, rain, cold, and wind will temporarily disappear long enough that Barley and I can go on an adventure to one of our favorite parks--we might need a princess day or at least a good romp at the arboretum.  Even though we're less than a mile below our walking goal for the month with three more days to go (we've totally kicked butt in this short month!), we're getting bored with our neighborhood routine and desperately need to be in the woods for a little while.

*Soth Update*
Sothy had a rough weekend--possibly my fault for loading him up in the car and making him run away with me or possibly just a normal FLUTD outbreak.  He was really fussy (especially on the drive down--Thank God I have plenty of Carbon Leaf songs on the iPod because that's all that will really calm him down)and the blood was back.  Since we got back yesterday evening, though, things seemed to have cleared right up again.  I'm hoping it was just one of the bouts of FLUTD and we're back to more days without pain or blood and his little bladder will have more time heal from the inflammation.  Tomorrow, I have to call the vet to schedule his vaccinations, so we'll probably get an official medical update sometime next week or the week after.
Sothy loves to lounge on the heating pad on rough days.


  1. I'm sorry class was so frustrating! :( Next week will be better.

    1. Thanks, Sissy! I've just been a crabby patty lately. I think I need more sunshine in my life.