So, understandably, I was less than thrilled when our trainer suggested that we sign up for her 8 a.m. Saturday morning reactive dog class. Class is 30-40 minutes away depending on construction and traffic, and we like to get there about 10 minutes early to practice some calming exercises in the car, so signing up for the 8 a.m. class meant having to be out the door a few minutes after 7 (thank God it's only a 5 week class!).
Somehow, we made it out of the door by 7:10 (with a thermos of coffee and lots of treats in tow) and pulled into the parking lot at the same time our trainer pulled up. Since all of the dogs in class are reactive, we have to stay in our cars and let the trainer bring us into the building one at a time. We have the whole gym to use and our trainer divided the room into a section with moveable lattice fences--most of the fences were left uncovered so the dogs could see each other a little bit, but the dog on the other side of us had to have sheets placed over the wall between its section and ours. So, one at a time, we entered the gym and got to work on doggie push ups (sit-down-sit, sit-stand-sit) to get the dogs focused and relaxed.
Although Barley had been yawning the whole car ride to school, once we got in the gym (and in the presence of her favorite trainer) she was wide awake and ready to work. Her energy was contagious (or the caffeine was starting to kick in) and pretty soon we were in our groove and it was like there wasn't another dog in the room.
Then we moved on to mat work. We'd never done this before, but I think the goal is to give your dog a place to go where they know they are supposed to be calm. Today, we just got them used to stepping (or sitting, down, whatever) on the mat. If they sniffed it, stepped on it, sat on it, they got treats. Our agility instructor has mentioned wanting to work on this with us to help calm Barley down between obstacles, but we haven't gotten to it in that class yet. It might be great if we ever go to an agility trial, but I don't think it's going to be much help for dealing with our neighborhood dogs since when we're being approached by an off leash dog in the neighborhood, it's not really practical to roll out a mat while we're being charged at on a walk. Barley loves blankets, rugs, beds, towels, so getting her to step on the mat was no challenge at all. I'll keep you posted on what we actually end up doing with this.
The last thing we worked on today was targets: holding your hand out to the side and asking the dog to touch, eventually moving the hand higher and lower. We've done this before, but I've been slack about it. Barley has gotten bored in the past and would run away from me when we did target practice. And since I've yet to find a practical use for other than a few tricks she could learn (ex. shaking her head no) with the help of targets, I quit practicing this one--but if our trainer says it's important for dealing with reactivity, we'll do it. So far, we're just using hands as targets, which is good, because Barley's scared of the plastic targets or styrofoam balls on sticks and will cower if I break those out (another reason we quit target practice). Our trainer said the reason Barley was not interested in the past is because she was too concerned with the treat hand and not concerned with the target hand, so she showed me how to use the treat hand and run the treat all the way down my arm and then onto the target hand. By the end of class, Barley was standing on her hind legs to touch my hand when it was up in the air. I'm still not sure what we'll use this for out in the world, but she's having fun with it, so that's ok.
We came home even more exhausted than we started the day out. Barley immediately went back to bed and didn't even wake up to chase Soth when I got the vacuum out.
|A tired dog is a good dog.|
|Soth's been lazy, too. I'm not sure how he can weigh less each time we go to the vet, but look like such a little chunk in pictures.|
|Our backyard is proof of how rainy it's been this week.|
|Coach Soth is ready to supervise mat practice.|
Next week, our trainer said she's brining the FAKE DOGS(!!) to class for our lesson. I have no idea what this means, but my imagination is going wild. Will they be small robotic, remote control dogs like my grandma got me one Christmas? Will they be like my dad's fake coyote he got to