This morning we went to the Oakland Dog Park, which has a separate section for big and small dogs. There were four or five big dogs on their side, but no small dogs. I worked on Chimera's reactivity. He also enjoyed climbing onto a couple of logs and tree trunks.
This evening we attended our first agility class -- actually, Cai's first class ever. I had asked Anne, the owner of Jump'n Java Agility, if there were any puppy foundation classes starting up. There was one that had just started last week, but at a time slot I coudn't possibly make it to. There was another small class which has been meeting for three months already, but Anne suggested that we audit and see if we could catch up, with private sessions from the instructor.
We arrived early and I stood with Cai at the first of the double entrances, giving him turkey every time a dog barked or entered his field of vision. When our class was starting, I put him into the car and watched for the first fifteen minutes. During a calmer moment of the class, after the other dogs had settled in, I carried Cai in. I knew that he would be less reactive in my arms than if I walked him in. That's not always the case, but here a little bit of flooding did the trick. I set him down and fed a steady stream of turkey. After a few minutes he had settled down enough to be bored and ready to work for turkey. Another ten minutes or so after that, and he was willing to play tug!
The other dogs were already working on (low) equipment, and I want to get more foundation circle work and "race to reward" behaviors down, so we worked on our own foundation without direction from the instructor. We did circle work (of course) and then hopped onto a wobble board and one of those half-globe inflatables. Cai had no fear whatsoever of the wobbling, and even played tug on the board. Woohoo!! There was a contact board set out and I just had Cai walk along it at my side, and threw turkey bits on the floor ahead of him to teach him to look down at his feet rather than staring up at my hands. I practiced holding his chest as he stood by my side and throwing a toy forward, then releasing him to it (race to reward, and building toy drive). I used his long-handled bunny tug, so that I could quickly get hold of one end of the toy without reaching directly for him, and then we would play tug. At the end, when the jumps were free, I took the bar down from one and did a foundation jump exercise: standing right at the stanchion, facing the middle of the jump, and rewarding him for moving back and forth over the bottom metal bar. Also, during the entire class I gave him a treat after the teeter banged (other dogs were practicing 2 on 2 off on the lowered teeter or doing bang games).
We also took breaks here and there, and most of the time Cai was able to calmly watch the other dogs, However he decided that he really didn't like the yellow lab, which was odd as it was the calmest dog in the class. He mostly ignored the excitable bearded collie. I don't get it. There was also an adorable tiny, fluffy sheltie.
I checked in with the instructor afterwards. I told her that although I wasn't sure we could catch up to the other students, we were already working on all the important foundation behaviors, and I wanted to keep coming for the opportunity to work around the other dogs and on the foundation-level equipment (jumps, tunnel, wobble boards, contact board, etc -- although I have that stuff at home, but without the large indoor space). I am very committed to building his foundation skills to fluency before I stick him on any equipment, other than tunnels and no-bar jumps. And of course I'm keeping in mind that he's only a baby and shouldn't be asked to work too long or do anything too physically demanding.
What we're working on now:
circle work - among distractions, building duration, different speeds
restraining and releasing to a bowl of treats or a toy
sending forward with my near leg and arm, tossing a treat or toy forward
sit stays and down stays
shaping climbing onto, into, through, around, etc.
A lot of my understanding of the foundation work comes not just from taking classes with Dragon, but from the amazing book Agility Right From the Start, which I highly recommend!!