Wednesday, June 1, 2011

leaps and bounds.

People. I had a moment on Monday. A very embarrassing moment. For those of you who have kids, this moment was the equivalent of when you've bragged about your well-behaved children to a new friend, but when the new friend meets them for the first time, they kick and scream and throw temper-tantrums. I mean, I'm just sayin'...

Monday was glorious because I had the day off, which was very much needed (though sometimes I swear that I can never have enough days off, which should tell you that I desperately need a week-long, all-expenses-paid vacation in the Caribbean. Anyone want to help me with this? I'll set up a PayPal account...!) I wanted to do something fun with Claire that we hadn't done before. Enter: Leaps and Bounds - an agility training facility. I booked a private session so that we could dip our feet (paws) into the waters of this sport. Agility is, simply put, an obstacle course for dogs. At the competitive level, dogs are judged on their time and accuracy, and are directed through the obstacle course by their handler. It's intense. But my goals for the day were to try something new, to have fun, and to build Claire's confidence while doing so. 

When we first walked in, Claire was sniffing around and checking everything out. The trainer came in and introduced herself to me, and then explained that dogs are not allowed to get acquainted with the equipment because they have to stay completely focused on the handler. I quickly tried to get Claire's attention and reign her in, but she was far too interested in the smells of the facility. I put her in a sit-stay, but after two seconds, her curiosity got the best of her and she started pulling on the leash to go explore. I was trying to listen to the trainer while trying to get Claire to listen to me. It was not working. Claire was not having it. It was a very uncomfortable 100*F that day, Claire and I were already tired from the intense heat, and we both were in a playtime mindset - not in training mode. The trainer stopped talking, paused for a minute, and then asked, "Has she had any obedience training of any kind?" -aka- "Your dog doesn't listen very well, you really need to get her under control." I said that yes, she has, however I did not mention that she actually graduated from every single PetSmart class, as well as Delta training. I was embarrassed for the both of us. Not a good showing.

But once I shifted my mindset to one of training, Claire's mindset shifted too. When things got rolling, Claire and I shaped up and showed off our skills as a team. She went through tunnels, jumped through hoops and over hurdles, and even ran up and down ramps (which she was afraid of, at first). Though we had a rough start to our session, it ended up being a great experience. I even learned what some of my bad habits are while giving Claire cues, and I got some great tips on how to fix these things so that I can be clearer and more consistent for her. I was reminded of something that one of the Delta trainers said during our classes: "As a team, you are going to have good moments and bad moments, good days and bad days. The important thing is how you respond."

I still could have done without the embarrassment, though...

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