Kona and I have been training in agility for over a year.
Agility has been such a great learning and bonding experience for us. I am so proud of all Kona has learned and love being able to see how far she’s come. Before starting agility you could not pet Kona, she hated being touched by strangers, even people she knew. She has now come a long way, she is more tolerable of being pet in situations where it’s a must, like at the vet. I still do not let others pet her, as I know she does not like it and I can speak the words where she cannot and others may not be able to read her signs she gives. I believe that agility has built up her confidence and our connection in order for her to be more tolerable and obedient. This along with her just growing up.
To date Kona has been entered in two trails. Both trials were held at the Fair Grounds barn where she has attended fun trials.
First time fear! Our first trial did not go well. I didn’t expect things to go the way they did. I was excited! I didn’t feel nervous mostly because I view trials and agility different than I realized others did. For me it’s something fun to do with my dog, and if we do well, great, if not, oh well, we’ll keep practicing. On the big day, on our first run, Kona seemed off. She wasn’t focused, sniffing, and disconnected. I was lucky she even did the course. By the third run, she only did two obstacles and b-lined it for the exit. She was terrified of the ring. I was shocked and couldn’t figure out where this behaviour was coming from. I knew I had another trial coming up in 2 weeks and figured we’d go to our practices as always and hope for the best next time.
Trial number 2. This time around, I’ll admit, I was feeling nervous. Was Kona going to avoid the course and try and run off again? She was showing signs like before. We enter, get up to the start line and I could tell she did not want to do this, she was nervous! I did what I could to rev her up and start off the line with her. This time she ran the course, like we were at class! I was so relieved. Things went so well we qualified and came in first for that run. For our next two runs she ran the course, but didn’t take the dog walk. After the first few steps on it, she jumped off, feeling unsure of it. Once we made a second failed attempt, we continued to the rest of the course. I was so happy she ran the course even if she didn’t take the dog walk, I wanted her to have a positive experience and we will always have time to build her confidence with equipment in the future. My trainer thinks the problem with the dog walk was that it was black versus blue, and so for her she can’t see the top to know what it is and that it’s the same piece of equipment as she knows, just different colour.
Now, I will wait to attend some fun trials at this barn to reinforce that it’s a happy place. Everyone told me she must be picking up everyone’s “trial” energy, because at fun trials where she had fun, the energy was different, no one is stressing about a win or lose. Looking back, I do believe that is true, because at fun trials or practice, she is having a blast, she’s focused, and has speed. There should be no difference at trials, but if she’s picking up a ton of tense energy at trials, she’s reflecting that.
If anyone has experienced this with their dog or something similar, don’t give up! Remember, it’s not the end of the world and always look to make it an positive experience for the dog. Back to our first trial, seeing how Kona was acting and that she clearly was not having a good experience, is what made me decide to only try for 3 obstacles out of the whole course. I knew I would qualify, but I wanted to at least have her jump a few obstacles, get big reward and get out… Anything to make the last thing something great for her.
Cali has started agility training just a couple months ago. In such a short time she has picked things up very quickly. Not to say we haven’t had some struggles. She is very driven and that means she gets irritable fast. While at agility classes she needs special attention, working through some behavioral issues around other dogs. As I continue to work with her through this, I have no doubt Cali will go a long way as Kona did.
When searching for agility training, I searched out all the trainers in my area. I emailed questions and got as much information regarding class times, number of sessions and pricing. What was the determining factor for me was finding a trainer that understood Cattle Dogs. Lucky for me a found a trainer who not only had two Cattle Dogs but talked to me for an hour about my concerns I had with Kona and gave me great tips and tools for moving forward. This showed me she her passion for dogs and she would be the right trainer for us.