I started to write a post about how I trained Rush to go to yet another foot target, but in between the first sentence and the second sentence, I went to the bathroom and when I came back I realized even the first sentence was boring, so I changed my mind.
I think everyone who competes in a dog sport wants a dog that is enthusiastic about the task at hand. And yet, at agility trials, we’ve all seen a dog or two or three that is not interested, thank you very much. Just before I retired Elly, she was one of them. In practice, with a warmup and a chance to go slow and no pressure, she was fine, even danced a bit with excitement from time to time; at trials, not so much. At the end of two days of trialing, Dancer isn’t that excited to be coming to the line for the tenth time, either.
I think training a dog so that, every single time, the dog thinks “oh my bone my bone my bone, this is the best damn thing in the whole world” as they come to the line is possibly the hardest thing ever. It means, as Debbie Berkley says, that when you’re playing tug with your dog in the presence of agility equipment, you can’t scream when your dog bites you instead of the tug toy… because you want the dog to think playing with you is always always really amazing. It means, as I’ve observed Paige do (not say), that your dog needs to be having fun. And as she says… it’s the dog that defines what’s fun. For Dancer, that means a lively game of keepaway is a fabulous reward; for Rush, it’s chasing a ball. (He brings it back, though, because that means he gets to chase again.)
And it means you don’t slow your dog down just because it would be easier; it means you figure out a way to let your dog be fast and focused.
I’m working on the fast and focused part with Rush right now. Today we played with tunnels and jump standards and going away from me to go into a long straight tunnel. Oh yeah, and a few foot targets at the end of the dogwalk. At this point, all he’s doing is the last three feet of the dogwalk, but Debbie insists that he go right to the end, no hesitating. The target is definitely helping with that!