Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I don't want easy, I want crazy

Once upon a time, there was a dog named Barley.  She had been doing agility training for a year and half.  When she first started, she always had to work on leash because she got distracted by other dogs too easily.  After months of hard work, Barley could work off leash but she would make her owner crazy because she'd get what some trainers call "the zoomies" and run figure eights around the classroom until she couldn't run anymore; nothing her owner said got through to her.  Finally, she learned to focus and come to hand consistently and she could work off leash without any trouble and didn't react when other dogs barked or got the zoomies.

Barley's classmates were so impressed.  Her teacher called her the perfect example of doggie zen.  One of the other owners in the class said, "I think she's maturing."  Another owner said, "You're my inspiration.  Every time I think my other dog will never be able to be around other dogs, I think of Barley."  Barley smiled and wagged her tail and looked to her owner for treats.

I wish I could say that this story ended with "and then they all lived happily ever after," but after hearing all of that praise, Barley lost her mind.  The other owners wished they could unsay the things they had just said and Barley's owner wanted to curl up in a corner and hide.

This week's class was a strange one for my pup.  We started off well.  She was great on the teeter and did pretty well on the dog walk--we even got a really good stay in at the end of the walk on our last time over.  Then it was time to practice serpentines.  Serpentines are not my favorite--mostly because in our first session ever we learned them a really weird way that never did make sense to me and we have only done them a couple times in the last few months--we have done way more pinwheels, so serpentines are still kind of unfamiliar territory.

The serpentine was set up with a tire jump, a double jump, and a single jump.  Barley was last in line.  We watched all of the other dogs go through the tire, come to hand over the double for a treat, and then get sent over the single jump.  They made it seem easy.  In theory, this should also have been easy for Barley.  We weren't doing any weird crosses and she usually likes the tire jump--we first started jumping with a hula hoop when we took our tricks and games class, so she's used to that kind of a jump.  In reality, nothing with my dog is ever easy.

First, she refused to go through the tire.  She'd crouch and squeeze between the tire and the pole.  Finally, our trainer put some mats up against the poles/edge of the tire, so those spaces were blocked and Barley went through the jump.  Then she did fine going through the tire and coming to hand on the other side of the double, but she refused to go over the single jump.  Eventually, I threw a treat over the jump and she went, but she had no interest in going over that jump.

Then we worked on blind crosses over the double.  Barley didn't want to blind.  She went through the tire, but refused to jump over the double.  She kept coming between the tire and the double.  So our trainer put a little gate between the two.  We thought we'd thwarted Barley's cheating tendencies.  Instead, she found a new way to avoid doing what I asked her to do.
A double jump looks something like this--in our class the stanchions (the sides) are a little different. You can order this one on Amazon.
Instead of going over the double, Barley went through the opening in the stanchion!  The whole class laughed and laughed and laughed.  Eventually, we got through the blind over the double, but she still just wasn't interested in the single.

Despite our difficulties, our classmates kept complimenting how calm she was while waiting her turn.  One of our classmates is working with her very reactive German Shepherd in the reactive dog class we just finished, so she was telling us how Barley inspired her and we talked about some of the difficulties Barley and I have overcome.  I was really proud of my pup.

Then it was time to practice going over the A Frame and pulling into the tunnel (wrapping the dog around your body to send into the tunnel) and then flipping into the tunnel (turning the dog away from you and into the tunnel).  The last time we practiced this, Barley did pretty well (once I figured out my left from my right and knew which direction we were supposed to go in), but this time all hell broke loose.

We were supposed to practice doing the pull and the flip on the left and the right, so we started with the left because that's most natural for me and Bar since it's the side she walks on.  We did ok.  Then we switched to the right.  Barley decided not to go over the A Frame at all.  Instead she ran past me, ran past the serpentine we'd been working on earlier, and zoomed around the room.  She didn't care that I asked her to down or sit or come front.  Then as quickly as it had started, she came back to me and sat down.  We tried again.  The same thing happened--skipped the A Frame, ran past me, and zoomed around the room.  The time, she added a little extra excitement.  Instead of just zooming around, she decided to fly over the gate that the trainer had put between the tire and the double.
Our gates in class look a lot like this--this is 3 feet tall (and can also be found on Amazon--maybe next summer I'll get some).
It was exasperating to say the least.  I am positive that every one of our classmates wished they could take back the things they had said about her good behavior.  Once I got ahold of her again, the trainer had me put her on the bottom of the A Frame on the tunnel side and just pull her into the tunnel.  We did not do the flip on the right side since we didn't want her to think that running around like a chicken with its head cut off was part of her training.

Not quite sure what was going on with Bar this week--maybe she's off because we were at my parents' all week and it threw off our routine (although usually being around my parents' dog makes her less likely to misbehave around the dogs in class).  Maybe she misses her brother cat who stayed at my parents' since I'm going right back to dog sit for them and we try to reduce the amount of time he spends in the car.  Maybe she was just having an off day and was tired.  Maybe she was just hot and thirsty.  My worst fear is that she has lyme disease again--the last time she was really obstinate in class was right before we found out she had lyme and I've found three ticks on me so far this summer and today I found a dead one in the spare bed where Barley sometimes naps, so keep your fingers crossed that this is just another bout of my hypochondria and that pupperoo will not need any more bloodwork in the near future!

Regardless of why she was nuts this week, I still love my pup and in the grand scheme of things, she's made a LOT of progress during the last six months.  So, in the words of our theme song by Hunter Hayes, "I've searched the world and I know now, it ain't right if you ain't lost your mind.  Yeah, I don't want easy, I want crazy.  Are you with me, [Barley]? Let's be crazy."


  1. It's always nice to hear compliments. At least she made them laugh ;-)

    1. And then she made them cry . . .