28 May 2012

The Greyhound Agility Diaries - Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Our agility training continues apace... The weather has taken a turn for the better (long may it last) and as well as our regular 1-2-1s, we've joined an agility club (more of that later). The lovely Jennifer from Never Say Never Greyhounds has provided us with some great insight and ideas for rewarding Mina - thank you Jennifer - and both of us are enjoying being out on the agility equipment.

Last week was particularly exciting as I took delivery of our rigid agility tunnel (I don't get out much any more - so to me, this is exciting)! It arrived on Wednesday, a university day, which meant that I had to wait until 9pm to try it out.  I managed to remain focused on the lectures but come 9 o'clock I was out of the virtual lecture theatre and into the garden.

Mina had tried a tunnel at college and, at the time, needed a lot of encouragement and positive reinforcement just to put her nose and feet inside it.  Fast forward a few months, a heap of training sessions later (and more lessons learned for me) and you can see the result in the video clip below.

"Look at That! " We've joined an agility club
Tonight marked another first for Mina and me - we went along to our first ever dog club.  Mina has been (and occasionally still can be) a reactive dog. She is a definite DINOS (dogs in need of space) and now I understand more about dog behaviour, I've worked extra hard on helping Mina become more relaxed and comfortable around other dogs.

I live in a very rural part of England, so we don't always get to see other dogs on our daily walks. I make a real effort to take Mina out to see other dogs and to keep her sub-threshold - that is not reacting (barking, lunging at other dogs).  With all this in mind, I decided I'd give the agility club environment a try.

I knew it would be a busy environment - lots of other dogs along with lots of action and movement (sure fire way to spike a sighthound's interest) - but I was confident we would cope.  So, I arrived at class with a vast array of treats - chopped cocktail sausage, homemade liver cake, cod bites, venison sausage and chopped chicken thighs - and my clicker.

The class was in an open field with zero fences, so I wasn't comfortable with having Mina off lead. My main aim for the lesson was to get her relaxed enough to function around other dogs and by using Leslie McDevitt's Look At That! technique, slowly but surely Mina relaxed enough to focus on me and on doing some jump and tunnel work.

Mina - just before flopping on to her side for a belly rub
Admittedly, the grid work and jump/tunnel combo were all done on a very long line but Mina completed them with gusto and drive.  I have to say (although, I'm extremely biased) her startline stays were rock solid and by the end of the night, she'd relaxed enough to lay down for some belly rubs.

I did have to reassure the trainer though - as she didn't think we had got much out of the class as we hadn't participated as much as the other class members! To me, the class was a great success (and I told the trainer so). Mina was sub-threshold for 99% of the class and when she was over threshold it was minor barking and a quick recovery.  We completed 4 reps of the grids and 4 of the jump/tunnel/jump combo.

Baby steps, maybe, but certainly steps in the right direction...we're both tired out now. Mina's been sleeping ever since we got back and I like to think that if she's dreaming, she's dreaming of a fun time at agility.

08 May 2012

The Greyhound Agility Diaries - Weaving a Spell

I haven't blogged in a while, or updated the agility diaries... to be honest, I've been struggling with my motivation and have been a tad under the weather.  I've tried not to let it impact on my training sessions with Mina but, of late, both of us haven't been that motivated (I don't think the nearly constant downpours have helped)!

However, onwards and upwards (as they say).  Today, the sun was shining and we had an agility 1-2-1 session booked. My motivation seemed to be back (hopefully for good) and Mina was keen to get out in the sunshine.

As I've said, we've both been struggling with motivation...Mina's special agility toys weren't seeming to excite her and my 'world famous' liver cake just wasn't cutting it.  However, thanks to one of my college friends (Mr Spraggins - you know who you are!) I'd discovered Pet Munchies and the small roasted duck breast treats (aimed at cats but just the right size for rewards in training) and these little bites of duckie deliciousness seem to be weaving a spell on Mina.

I'm using them on a sheet of clear laminate, to help Mina's 'forward focus' and 'drive'.  Today we used them for getting Mina to go through the weaves.  I've got a set of 6 V weaves at home, but today was the first time Mina's had a chance to generalise and go through a set of 12 V weaves in our training field.

The weaves may not yet be fully upright but Mina's made great progress which, thanks to the power of my iPhone, has been captured on the video below:

Today's training session was great and just shows what a difference a change in mind/motivation (along with sunshine) can do.  I didn't manage to capture it on video but we had a dozen successful trials with the tunnel too, along with some good grid work.

So, what do you think? Will we make it round the grade 3 course next January?

I'll keep blogging when I can and continue to work hard on making the training fun and ensuring we keep our motivation.
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