a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: I Have This New Dog

Thursday, March 08, 2012

I Have This New Dog

SUMMARY: Working on enthusiasm and basic agility skills.

First, see yesterday's post.

Today, I adopted a new Border Collie. Her name is Boost. She's 7 years plus a month old. She has quite a bit of agility training, but apparently the wrong kind of training, because despite her speed and her drive, she has very little to show for it in the agility ring. F'rinstance, she often gets the highest opening points in Masters Gamblers, but who ever notices when she doesn't get the gamble due to a refusal or a bar down? F'rinstance, she sometimes has close to the fastest time in Jumpers, but who notices when she doesn't get the Q due to refusals or bars? Getting the picture?

So her old handler has decided that she needs a different handler, and it turns out that I'm the only one available. So now she has come to live with me, and I need to figure out how to fix almost 7 years of bad habits.

She's the sweetest dog you could want. Not super-affectionate, but not completely stand-offish, either. She will jump onto my lap and lay her head on my shoulder if i really insist. But only for a moment. She loves to play. She's really smart--rumor has it that she learned how to get into a tiny box simply by watching her previous handler teach Tika how to do it.

Today, we started working on attitude and enthusiasm. First, I encouraged myself to actually put on dog-agility clothes before going out into the yard rather than work clothes (ahem, well, my work clothes are jeans and slip-on walking shoes, but ya don't wanna get those jeans dirty before going in to see the client, and those slip-on shoes aren't the best for running in, although it can be done even at agility trials in a pinch).

Next, I encouraged myself to actually set poles on all the jumps and think about a couple of small courses that we could run. Yes, I'm oversubscribed in work and at home at the moment, but really, what difference could taking 15 minutes out of each day really matter to everything else, when it can probably make a huge difference with my new dog and her new handler.

I picked a couple of things to work on:

Like, the table. I watched videos of her old handler saying "Down" and she always leans into and over her dogs. So I'm going to work with both dogs keeping my shoulders back and my head up and work on the speed of the "down". Tika's table down has gotten to be SO slow in competition, it's nuts. Boost hasn't been bad at it lately, actually going down and staying down rather than gradually elevating, but we want to reinforce that. Keep at least one thing going that her previous handler fixed OK!

And, like, supporting my verbal cues with my body. I watched videos of her old handler, running and making a stab at an obstacle with her hand and then pulling the hand back in. So I practiced running while signallling a jump or tunnel with my arm held firmly in that direction until the dog was completely committed.

It may be tough, and maybe today it was easy because it was such a beautiful day, but for enthusiasm and basic agility skills, yes, I think Boost's new handler can learn them! And maybe the new handler can gradually turn Boost into a really fine agility dog.


  1. Loved yesterday's post ... and LOVE this one too. Congratulations on your new dog ... I know the journey to work out the glitches will be so worth it! Hang in there ;)

  2. Congratulations!!! So happy for both of you :) The neat thing is I would bet everything that Boost is very, very excited.

  3. Hang in there. Creating new habits is hard. I love the insight you discovered in the other post - the honesty with yourself on how to take the last 7 years of learning and put it into new action