Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Just not right..."

Two years, three months ago I started agility classes. We started with crate games and foundation training (mostly shaping) and Dahlia didn't get it.  At all.  I spent most of the class with her staring at me confused.  The other dogs picked it up right away.  That first class I went home from and thought "Maybe I shouldn't do this.  My dog just isn't right for this."  But I had signed up for a "puppy camp" that happened on a couple weekends and so I went back.

Two years ago we were just starting to transition out of our foundations classes.  We began our 2x2 weave training (just 2 poles at this point) and our instructor got out the wobble board, a round flat board with a ball on the bottom that "wobbles" around with the dog on it.  Dahlia was having none of it.  She was too afraid of the noise it made.  She didn't like the movement.  She would daintily put two paws on it and then leap off like she'd touched a hot stove.  I still kept thinking "My dog just isn't right for this."

A year and a half ago we were working on jump grids and pinwheels.  Dahlia was going around all wing jumps and we had to work hard to get her to do even a straight line over a series of wing jumps.  Pinwheels were next to impossible.  She stopped before each jump, looked at me, and waited to make sure I really really wanted her to go over it.  She was slow.  She was worried.  She couldn't weave 4 poles yet no matter how hard I tried.  I remember pulling my hair out in frustration on some days thinking "My dog just isn't right for this."

A year ago we were into our "tweeners" class and starting to do short sequences.  We had just learned crosses.  Dahlia was still going around jumps.  And she was starting to hesitate going into tunnels.  But every once in awhile, she would pick up speed and really just do it.  Our instructor said she would continue to pick up speed as she gained confidence.  I scoffed.  But when our instructor suggested we sign up for a CPE trial in November, despite my having started agility without any intention of ever going to a trial, I did so, though with a lot of trepidation.  I remember thinking "I don't think my dog is ready for this.  I'm afraid we're going to embarrass ourselves."

Six months ago Dahlia had gotten her first fairly minor agility title (CTL1-H), but had still not gotten on a contact at a trial.  She was struggling with the teeter and she could barely weave on my right side.  We were starting to get into harder sequences and Dahlia, while no fast dog, was starting to get them.  She was rocking her A-Frame as we had put a lot of practice into it for an upcoming trial.  All I could think was "I think Dahlia is starting to get this."

Three months ago Dahlia was still struggling with tunnel hesitation. I spent a lot of time in class rewarding her for taking tunnels.  We discovered at this time if I say "GO!" Dahlia is much more likely to take the tunnel.  It had become a sort of cue for it and so I started to use the word at tunnels more often.  For the first time I found myself thinking "She's starting to look like an agility dog."

One month ago Dahlia had received her second CPE agility title (CTL1-R) and had been to her first AKC trial where she successfully did a teeter, weaved, and got a send in a trial situation.  She was moving quickly and not refusing obstacles.  Her tunnel hesitation was almost gone.  She still struggled with weaves on the right side but she could complete them.  She was starting to do rear crosses and starting to work a little bit further away from me.  We were staying connected and she was becoming more accurate and sure of herself. I finally said to myself "Dahlia is a real agility dog."

Last night Dahlia weaved 12 poles on both sides, did brilliant teeter work, rocked her 2on/2off contacts on all contact obstacles, kicked ass on her A-Frame, and just blew me away.

My mellow, sweet, silly mutt really is an agility dog.  Sometimes I look back on this progression and it's hard to believe I walked into an agility class over 2 years ago with no intention of going to a trial and never imagining we would make it this far.  Yet here we are.  Going to trials, having a blast, and I watch Dahlia's confidence and joy continuing to go up each and every week.  She's so smart and just such an amazing dog.  I feel very lucky to have started off my agility career with a dog like this.  I couldn't be happier with her.


  1. It's because she loves you! And because she's having fun! <3

  2. And I LOVE that she's having fun! I say "doggy class" and she starts to run around the apartment, following me everywhere, with a great big grin on her face. She can't wait to get out the door. I honestly ever expected her to enjoy it this much! I figured I was doing it for myself as she was SO inappropriate for it, but turns out she thinks it's the best thing ever.