Chico and I entered our fourth or fifth agility competition at American K9 Country in Amherst, NH last weekend and it went very, very well. Agility work and trials (and, let’s face it, just about everything I do with him) are about building his self confidence, increasing his self control, and adding socialization experiences to make him better adjusted and thus easier to get along with.
To that end, I have never been attached to running clean (not going over the course time, refusals, no knocked down bars, or – hardest for us – not going off course) but instead concentrated on lots of other things. Those included Chico getting comfortable enough with the situation that he could have fun, being nice to other dogs while waiting our turn to run, him learning not to the ring before I could leash him, and him not wandering off to explore the edges of the ring while we were running or “going shopping for equipment*.”
This weekend my policy of keeping it fun and breathing deep, well, it kinda paid off. We entered five classes and ran clean in two of them. That earned Chico a green ribbon for each correct performance, one in Standard, one in Jumpers With Weaves (look here for a basic explanation of the two main categories of agility competition). It was really nice to have all our hard work express itself in this success and it was surprisingly satisfying to pick up those ribbons.
Sadly, my phone’s camera hiccuped and failed to save the video of the qualifying run in Standard and the qualifying run in Jumpers was about third from the last of the day on the second day of competition and everyone who was left at the arena was either competing or volunteering so there was no one to ask to record the run.
Next goal in this area? Try a trial at a new venue and see how that goes. New place means new distractions, will Chico be able to focus on me and follow my directions around the course? There’s a trial near my cousin’s this summer, I think we’ll try going there.
*Shopping for equipment is showing off – the dog runs around doing unrequested obstacles. He’s saying “Look, hey, look! I can do this. And this! And this one too!”