I was so proud of Chimera during agility today! He had excellent focus for a baby that's not even five months old yet. Only one other student showed up, the bearded collie. Chimera pulled toward him when we entered the building but there was no alarm or frustration barking and his tail was wagging widely. We worked off leash the entire time, and twice he decided to run over to the beardie. The dog would then playbow and jump on top of Cai, who would get scared and start biting in defense. Then I would retrieve him and tell him that he was being stupid. But the rest of class went great.
We were able to take more steps during circle work than before, and do more straight lines. Cai has gotten a LOT of reinforcement for moving at my side, thanks to practicing circle work, heeling, and loose leash walking, and it's really showing. Here and there he'd get distracted, and it was an opportunity to call him back and restart, and hopefully teach him that he doesn't get any reward for leaving my side.
I brought his soft crate this time, and after three previous sessions of crate games, he was running into it happily. I'm now able to use it to practice some easy things that usually require a start line stay or a restrained recall, such as releasing him and rewarding him for coming to my side, which we did for the first time. Other things we practiced with the instructor holding him, but which I could also use crate games for: accelerating past me to a thrown toy, and running up to me and stopping at my side if I am stopped (deceleration).
He went through a (shortened) tunnel for the first time, again with the instructor restraining him and me calling him on the other side. He didn't seem to develop any love for the tunnel, but was willing to go through. (Dragon developed an immediate love for tunnels and never needed specific training to drive through them!)
This past week I have done two sessions of standing at a jump stanchion and rewarding Cai for going back and forth over the bar on the ground. I have also practiced restraining him at my side and tossing a toy forward and releasing him to run to it, or setting out food and releasing him to it. Today I combined the two skills and tossed a toy over the lowered jump, and he ran over the bar to get it. He tried to run around with his sock tug at first, but he brought it to me or dropped it and came to me when I called him!! That's huge progress!
Our stay training has been very slow. Down stays have been reinforced more, because I reward a default down while I am prepping his and Jasper's food in the kitchen. (Otherwise he launches himself upward at the counter, even from a sit.) With sits, I often reward sitting momentarily (such as in front) and then reset him, so he tends to get up automatically after his reward. So in class today I practiced slow treats in a sit at my side, and then added just a little bit of motion with my outside leg. With the down stay I was able to take up to two steps at a time to the side, but not backwards (which has become a cue to come sit in front).
The last thing we practiced was running to a front foot target. We've done about ten sessions with this, but because one of my requirements is that he stay on the target without spinning/pivoting around to face me, I'm still using a very high rate of reinforcement to keep him standing still. This could be used for a 2o2o contact, but I'm going to do a modified four on the floor with him. However it's still a useful foundation to teach him to run and then stop and stay still, which is part of any stopped contact behavior, as well as the moving stand and drop on recall in obedience. I enjoy teaching foundation skills when I can see how they'll come up in many different ways in the future. But it's also fun to start putting his baby skill sets together!