Summer has arrived and so have the outdoor agility classes. We have been wanting to sign Nola up since we first saw her jumping from dunes on the beach, jumping over fallen trees and running like the wind anywhere and everywhere. We also wanted to do another training class with her to strengthen our bond since the last obedience class we did was probably a year ago. I did some research and contacted several different training facilities in the Portland area. The only one that still had openings for a Saturday morning class (who can actually go to a 4pm class on a weekday?!) was a place called PoeticGold Farm, in Falmouth. Luckily they were also the closest one to our house, so we signed Nola up.
(I apologize for the blurriness of the iPhone photos and videos. The more I blog, the more I realize I need a better camera!)
The first week was a little tough. It was a new place with new smells and new dogs. Nola had a bit of a hard time concentrating, she just wanted to explore. But, we started learning the basics of agility. Targeting was an important thing to learn and something we never really taught Nola. We did a lot of click-treat whenever she walked on, touched, nosed, or even looked at objects of different shaped and sizes (think trash can lids, sleds, saucers, plastic bin covers) to get her used to some of the equipment.
We also started getting her used to the plank. This board on the ground is the precursor to the dog walk, which is higher off the ground. At first we just walked her on it. Then, we would throw a treat at the end, make her wait and then tell her to go get the treat. We tried to mix it up, using chicken as a treat, but also her squeaky toy. She mastered this in no time!
Then we tried the table. The table is an obstacle that the dogs must get up on and stay for a certain period of time while running the course. Jim got her to lay down for a few seconds, but it didn’t last too long.
We ended the first day with a short tunnel. Nola did not like that at all. We were a bit surprised because during her puppy classes she had no fear with things like this. But, it took the trainer to coax her into it and Jim and I at the end with her toy to get her to go through. After a couple times of receiving rock star praise when she went through she began to feel more comfortable. (After this class we went to Christmas Tree Shoppe, bought a pop up leaf bag, cut out the bottom and made our own tunnel. After some more practice, Nola mastered it!)
The second week we started doing a little more on the equipment. We went through the big tunnel, which again Nola seemed terrified of. After the trainer shortened it a little and Nola got a few running starts, she was great!
Then came the jumps. I knew our pup would do great at this. We started off at 14in and lead her over the bar with a treat on the other side. Nola had perfect form, with an arched back and good sense of where her back legs were so she didn’t knock down the bar. The second class ended with some pre work to get used to the weave poles.
Overall, we really liked it! Nola was exhausted when she got home. This fun, sporty class didn’t feel like obedience training, but it definitely showed us where the gaps in our basic training were. Like most dog owners, we got Nola to a point where she is obedient on a daily basis, but we haven’t really continued to teach and hone her sills. The ‘touch’ command is something we need to keep working on, as well as her recall and a command for when we need to ‘send’ her down an obstacle.