We celebrated our homecoming with a nice 3+ mile walk at the lake and despite a few icy patches on the sidewalk, we both had a skip in our step. Barley was especially happy to see a little snow on the ground even if it wasn't the 4-6 inches Facebook's trending stories told us to expect.
There were a lot of interesting "ice sculptures" along the shore where waves had crashed on rocks and small plants, so it was a beautiful homecoming.
The park had also cut down a few trees in our absence, so Barley made sure to check them out, too. She's a dog that notices everything, so we had to stop and inspect ever singled downed tree.
Then we got to do a lot of noticing later in the day as well. For the last two years, we've had agility at the same time on the same day in the same location. We've been in the same place for all of our training for the last 4.5 years. This week, that all changed. Our old training center was in a building with a leaky roof and all kinds of other problems the landlord wasn't fixing, so when the lease ended, the training center moved. This week was our first class in the new location and on a new day of the week and Barley definitely noticed.
Barley's very familiar with the street the new building's on because it's not far from some of her favorite places, PetSmart, Pet Supplies "Plus," and Chick-fil-a--all places where she gets treats from the cashiers--so she didn't notice anything out of the ordinary until we pulled into a parking lot we'd never visited before. She was immediately on high alert, but seemed to relax a bit when we saw our trainer and one of our classmates after we got out of the car.
|What do you mean I don't get to hang out in this hall between turns anymore?|
Warming up before classes started went well. She was focused on me instead of the other dogs, she didn't want to sniff around the room, and she was confident with the teeter despite being away from it for three weeks. We found our new spot to hang out between turns where she could still watch the other dogs without worrying about them running up to her. I started feeling pretty good about how the night would go.
Then we had our first turn. 11 obstacles designed to help us change direction without losing speed. I was sure we had it in the bag.
I sent Barley to the first jump, which she did, and then she ran as fast as she could to the far end of the room. We went back to our old method of do a jump, come in for a treat, repeat to get her focus on me. We made it through the first 5 obstacles that way and then she ran wild again.
|We'll be playing lots of focus games between turns now.|
We also had an even more unexpected distraction. Since there's a lot of foot traffic going by to go into the restaurant, people can look into the windows and see our class going on. There were two groups that came in to watch--with children in tow. There's a small, waist-height gate between the front door and the training floor, but that doesn't stop kids of reaching out or over at a dog and it wouldn't stop a determined Barley from getting over it. Barley is very nervous around children, so my anxiety was going up, which I knew was going to make her even more anxious, and I was trying to come up for a game plan for success while our other classmates went. I'd decided to skip the first jump so she'd have more space from the kids and our of our classmates offered to stand in front of the gate with our trainer so she could intercept Barley if she veered off in that direction (we seriously have the best classmates). Luckily, these kids had the attention span of a gnat and right before our turn came up, they left and I relaxed.
This might be our most challenging 6-week session yet, but Barley and I have worked through major distractions before, so I'm confident that soon she'll be running courses without reinforcement between each obstacle again. Until then, though, I'll be patient, generous with the snacks, and very thankful for understanding classmates.
Happy FitDog Friday everyone!