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Weekly Training Update (Jan 29)

Lilly and I haven’t done any agility training for months now. In fact, I should go save our at-home equipment from the winter winds that have bowled everything over. I’m sure both of us miss it, and I’ll try to find time for a bit of weaving and jumping, wraps and pivots, bounce jumps and tires. Lilly surely needs the exercise and mental stimulation, but I’ve discovered another reason for a good, all-out agility run now and then. It prevents tripping around the house.

Seriously.

Maybe I’m moving unexpectedly in my stress and worry. Maybe Lilly is uber clingy from all my absences of late. Maybe we’re just terribly out of sync, but I cannot stop tripping over her.

Normally, the two of us move around the house and elsewhere with an unspoken ease. I move. She moves. I turn. She turns. I stop. She stops.

And, maybe most importantly, she stays out of the doggone way.

I think it’s a skill and a spatial awareness that comes with agility training, and it seems, we’ve lost our handler-dog sense of each other since we haven’t been on a course in ages.

***

The one body awareness thing I’ve been doing, though, is working on “steering” Lilly from behind. We never did properly learn to do rear crosses, being agility school dropouts and all, but I always marvel at handlers who can control their dogs’ movement from far away and behind. There is an older handler here in CO who is kick-ass at this. She clearly cannot keep up with her young, fast border collie, but she has such good distance control over him that it doesn’t matter.

I’ve started purposefully steering Lilly when we come back from our walks. She’ll typically stay at my side along the driveway, but then drops back when she realizes we’re going inside. As regular readers know, coming inside is a big issue for Lilly in the summertime, so we have to practice pieces of the behavior year round.

To keep Lilly moving forward, I’ve started tipping my shoulders and averting my gaze to relieve the “pressure” on her. She responds by moving ahead toward the house.

If she begins to veer, I tip my shoulders away again to get her on track.

It’s pretty funny. I don’t “train” it in a formal sense with clicks/treats/rewards, but I do praise her. I mostly practice what little I know about pressure on, pressure off, of body language to see if we can once again move in sync.

I’m sure people who don’t know the intricacies of dog training wouldn’t be impressed. To them, it probably would just look like Lilly going inside, but all of us know there is so much more to it.

I’ll try to shoot some video soon so that you can see her respond in real time.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

KB - January 30, 2010

I’d love to see a video. Gigi has worked with me on teaching K where I want her to be, on my left vs my right, just by tipping my shoulders. It’s darn cool how well it works without formal training.

My agility equipment is barely visible. I always find it funny to watch it gradually reappear over the spring. I hope that both K and I can play on it this spring!

Maery - January 29, 2010

Well I don’t even know what a rear or front cross is but I’m looking forward to your video so I can see what you’re talking about with the driving signals. I’ve been having this tripping issue with Java too. She tends to get in front of me, and stop and turn her head to see where I’m going next, which of course is right into her rear end, which then frightens her. It’s quite the dance we do.

Sam - January 29, 2010

I miss your agility vids. More than once I’ve had to go back to your YouTube to watch your years-old clips of doing a small course with Lilly.

Get out your equipment and run that doggie – it’ll be good for both of you!

RE rear crosses, I really worked my bum off on those. As a result, I can rear cross just about any obstacle, but my front crosses leave much to be desired.

Hope you and your family are doing OK.

AC - January 29, 2010

Hi Roxanne. I’ve read your blog for quite some time (I think I found you on the fearfuldogs website.) So this is a long overdue thank you for the great information you’ve provided while recording your journey with Lilly. I’m sorry to hear about your recent stresses, but even when you’re not able to blog, I still use your site as a reference to help me with my dog. So thank you for the work you do and for sharing it with us!

I love how you’re moving Lilly with your body language. It amazes me how in sync and in tune with our dogs we can be. (And of course, out of sync sometimes=)

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