Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Tika's Agility Adventure

I went on at length about *one run* in Jake's weekend; now here's Tika's info.

Tika is doing *so* well in agility! She Qed 7 out of 18 at Memorial weekend's NADAC, which isn't great, but I can attribute several of the non-Qs to really stupid handler tricks (it wasn't one of my greatest weekends--e.g., I left Jake's collar on for one lovely run!). And she Qed 7 out of 10 at this weekend's CPE, blasting away the competition with 9 first places (usually beating out all the other dogs, any height, any level), including a beautiful gamble that only 2 out of all of the dogs got. OK, it was a small, low-level trial, but still there were some pretty good dogs there.

She had perfect start-line stays this weekend; previous weekend she stood up once and I told her to sit & she did, and she lay down twice after I had walked away from the startline. Out of 18 runs, that's not bad.

All of her contacts have been beautiful. A couple of times she has left before the "OK" and I've done the standing-time-out thing and then she's been good.

She is so responsive and happy and fast. What a joy!

Here's the adventure, though. She has grown up and matured so much that I sometimes let her hang out around the canopy off-leash with me and Jake. Saturday afternoon she was snoozing on the grass while I rubbed her tummy. I got involved in writing notes about some of my runs. She suddenly leaped to her feet, all a-quiver, and just out of arm's reach. I said her name, and she took off in full squirrel-chasing mode across the crating area and towards the kennels next to the site.

It was then that I realized that a dog in the kennel had started shrieking and yowling, yipping and doing that thing that I don't know what to call--deep in the throat sort of howling/grinding sound that is SO grating... in fact, doing *exactly* the horrific noises that Tika does when I leave her in the house while walking Jake, or sometimes when there's a cat or a loose dog outside. Godawful piercing noises.

Anyway, she was trying desperately to get into the building where the noise was (like she runs back & forth trying to get thru the fence at class when she sees a cat or squirrel). I was right behind her as fast as I could go. I called her 3 or 4 times; about the fourth time, while I waited in one spot and tried to sound nonthreatening (I really didn't want her taking off in some other direction and didn't think I could chase her down) she decided that she couldn't get into the building and, instead of taking off around the other side, she actually came back to me. Very stressed looking, ears pointed back at the building, but she actually came. I told her briefly that she was good for coming back, and walked her on collar back to the crates.

In her crate, she went ape-shit. SHE started doing the same shrieking and that grinding/moaning sound, spinning and spinning and crashing around in her crate. I tried bitter apple a couple of times and it stopped it for about 10 seconds. Each time I walked away to go walk a course or whatever, she'd start all over again. You could hear her all the way to Timbuktu.

I took her out (on leash) and practiced just having her do things with me--walking at my side on a "Close" command, doing tricks, just massaging her and talking calmly to her, and more attention games and more tricks. She did them, but very agitatedly, her ears turned all the time towards the building (even after the dog finally stopped, she continued), and every time after I'd say OK or give her a goodie, she'd spin back immediately towards the building and lunge out on the leash.

She had to run a course about 10 minutes after the dog had stopped, but she was *still* frantic, still spinning in her crate, still shrieking, still totally wired when out on her leash. Before I went into the ring, I told Diane Blackman, "Here's my bet: She'll stay at the start line until I say ok, then she'll run straight at that building" (the shrieking dog had been RIGHT at the far side of the agility course we were about to run)--that's what she does in class with the squirrels and cats, right?

I sat her at the start line, and sure enough she tweaked herself to face the building. I moved her back to face the first obstacle and again she tweaked to face the building. I left her, waited briefly (she was looking at the building, not at me), then said OK. Here's the weird thing--

SHE CAME RIGHT WITH ME and did the obstacles! I was so startled that I crossed when I meant to push, and so then I had to call her AROUND the wrong obstacle, and she STAYED with me! And then I pushed when I meant to cross, and AGAIN had to call her off the wrong thing and spin her around, and now she was paying COMPLETE attention to me and sticking with me (although a couple of woof/growls for that "mom, you're messing up" thing), and when we had to leave the course, I just praised her like crazy and she was FINE after that.

Small victories... OK, actually I felt that was a BIG victory...

But I don't understand her behavior in response to that other dog. There were a few other dogs who seemed slightly agitated by it, but got over it quickly, but none that I was aware of who reacted like she did.

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