It’s been a hectic few days! After a hard night’s sleep and a quick trip outside, Ladybug is napping. 😛
After the amazing events of flyball and visiting a friend (Ladybug allowing someone else to hold her leash with increasing confidence, and even letting me go to the bathroom while she waited outside with my friend), we went to agility and puppy yoga yesterday with excitement and some tiredness. Well, maybe just me. 😉
For agility, we had a substitute teacher. I was quite sniffy at the idea (how will Ladybug manage with a stranger for just one class), but I also didn’t want to miss a class. Every week there is a new challenge, and I don’t want Ladybug to get behind. It was hard for her to skip a week of weave pole practice (not because we were absent, but because we didn’t get a turn). I’m not sure what we’ll do when she’s spayed. I don’t have anywhere we can safely practice at home, and equipment is super expensive.
Happily, my doubts were for nothing. Amy, the substitute teacher, was great. I especially liked how she explained everything instead of rushing dogs through the obstacles. The disadvantage is that we only had time for three obstacles in the class (we usually do more). Yet again, Ladybug got shortchanged with time. She got to do all three obstacles this time, but as the last dog for each obstacle she didn’t get as much time as the dogs who went earlier. I’m a bit frustrated with that but not sure how to handle it. I don’t want to be the annoying complaining student, and I don’t want to be the helicopter mama who says my little baby isn’t getting treated fairly.
The first obstacle was the tunnel. This time, it was set up at a slight curve. What made me hesitate was the instruction not to throw the ball inside. (I’m guessing because it wouldn’t go around the curve?) As Ladybug only got over her fear once I threw the ball into the tunnel last week, I didn’t want to push her that fast. I was being over-protective, though. She did run back out the tunnel the first time, but I think that was more about my fear she’d get scared. She was desperately eager to go in but confused by my hesitation. The second and third times, she bolted through the tunnel and jumped for joy at getting her tennis ball. I wish we had gotten to try it at least one more time as she hadn’t gotten any tunnel time last week, but I guess she had achieved the goal.
The problem is that she runs out and wants to say hello to the other dogs afterward. Part of that is classroom management–the dogs and people were standing too close to us. Part of it, though, is my needing to work on her recall. (Sigh.) It’s so much easier at flyball when there are other people helping us, and it’s easier at obedience class when she’s on the leash almost all the time.
Second obstacle was jumping over the poles. This time, they were set slightly askew. She was supposed to run in a straight line, but it meant jumping at an angle. She was perfect. Like superstar, got it right on the first try brilliant. She did it perfectly once. Then got confused on the second try, but that was my fault. I timed my throw (of her toy) badly, and I made her think she should veer to the right. Then she did it perfectly for the third attempt.
What bothers me about the class is that the dogs who go before her might take several attempts to get it right, but everyone cheers and applauds when they do. They take up lots of time, but no one begrudges it. But when Ladybug gets it right on the first try or struggles to learn something hard for her, our teacher has either given up or no one cheers her on. I’ve noticed that the others are all much friendlier with each other than with me. Is it racism? Anti-Americanism? Ageism? Or they just plain don’t like me? 😦
The one couple who’s been really nice is moving away (they were absent yesterday). The poodle parades around getting into everyone’s way, but no one minds. I was really annoyed as I’d gotten Ladybug settled, relaxed, and totally calm while she waited her turn. The poodle came right over to us, and her mum and dad then stood right next to us. Ladybug got upset, started barking, and was jealous that the poodle was able to run around while she couldn’t. I had to move far away to try to get her to relax, and she never did. She was too annoyed that all the other dogs were getting a chance except for her.
After the pole jumps, twice Ladybug went up to another dog. At one point, the other dog growled at her. The looks on everyone’s faces! Even the teacher said that it wasn’t “nice behavior” (although, to give her credit, she told people to give us some space and not to make a fuss about it). People were crowding her. Maybe not by their standards, but by Ladybug’s standards she was being crowded. She was annoyed at having to wait so long for her turn, the poodle had gotten into her face multiple times, and she needed to run.
I really hate being made to feel as if I have the unruly problem child. That hasn’t been the case in agility class so far. Our regular teacher did start off by making sure people gave Ladybug plenty of space, but she’s gradually become comfortable enough that she doesn’t need it as much. I guess we were all a bit unsure having someone new come in, and especially for myself I was irritated at the poodle. (Full disclosure: I grew up with a poodle. I have nothing against poodles, but this one does irritate me–particularly because she does tend to get more than her fair share of class time. She behaves just as badly as Ladybug, if not worse, but she’s older and slower so no one gets annoyed with her. Plus, she has two people with her helping to manage when she prances around.)
The next challenge? Getting used to the sound of the seesaw. Amy had a great point that the sound can scare dogs (especially my little scaredy cat), so we needed to teach them that it was a positive thing. She pushed the seesaw down, and as soon as it made noise we gave our dogs treats. First attempt? Ladybug freaked out and barked. I moved her quite far away. Second attempt? She didn’t freak out, but she did bark and lunge. Moved her so far away we were practically out of the class area. This time, she turned her head at the sound but happily gulped the treats I gave her.
My real problem with the class was the third obstacle. We’ve never been on the A-frame (looks like the top two sides of a triangle, taller than my head, and the dogs go up and over it). In the first class, I was shown how to help teach her 2 on 2 off, meaning her back feet are on the A frame while her front feet are on the ground. In the beginning, they’re supposed to hold this position. It’s both for safety and an agility regulation (they lose points if they don’t make contact in the specified zone). Since then, we’ve done nothing on the A frame. I was quite glad of this because it’s tall and scary! I didn’t want my baby going over and maybe getting hurt.
No one else seemed to have the same worry. Others have been guiding their dogs over the obstacles while they wait their turn, but I’ve never allowed Ladybug to approach the A-frame. She’s confused with the 2 on 2 off because we’re working on box turns at flyball. They’re both at an angle, both on a rubber non skid surface, and completely opposite with their goals. In flyball, she needs to do a U-turn up, around, and back down the box. In agility, she needs to slow down enough to stay in position.
The hardest part is that I can’t find any way to teach her this position at home. She can do it brilliantly on a flat surface, and we’ve practiced that for ages. Wonder if I could find some non skid material? I don’t think I could safely have her practice at an angle at home, but at least it would be the same texture.
All of the other dogs went up the A-frame. Oh wait, one didn’t. But all of the others did.
I should have said, “We haven’t done this, and she’s not ready.”
Why didn’t I? I hated causing a fuss, everyone was looking at me, and no one else pointed out that we hadn’t done the A-frame yet.
Against all of my better judgment, I allowed Ladybug to go up and over the A-frame. I was terrified. There’s no safety rail or guard, so she could have fallen. She wanted to go (of course she wanted to climb), but she was tentative. I’ve never allowed her to go that high before, and I didn’t know if I could catch her if she fell. What if she broke bones and had to go to the hospital? I was a mess!
My little scaredy-cat fears the sound of water dripping off the garbage can, but she made it up and over the A-frame. She jumped off without doing anything close to the 2 on 2 off position. Even a few repeats didn’t help. I am a bit frustrated about this because we were shown this the first day and not since then. It’s been almost two months, so it was too much to expect.
But…see…all of the other dogs did it.
I really wish I would have spoken up. The class can be so unfriendly, though, and there was still quite a lot of judgment hanging in the air (because Ladybug had gone toward another dog twice). Stupidly, I allowed my embarrassment and awkwardness to win. Lesson learned. Ladybug’s safety trumps my concerns of embarrassment.
In more positive news, puppy yoga was great. 😀 Ladybug wasn’t focused on working and wanted to play with her toys instead, but that’s okay. We had a lovely time. It’s great going to class and knowing that she can do whatever is best for her at the time. No dogs interfering with her, no waiting around, and no enforcement of rules that are too hard for a dog of her age and temperament. Biggest accomplishment: she allowed me to run out of the classroom for a couple of minutes, leaving her alone with our teacher. She wanted to know where I was, but she was okay! Huge deal. A first since the hospitalization. With another dog it would be no big deal, but for her it’s yet another sign of her developing trust.
After our first month-ish of agility and flyball, I still think Ladybug prefers agility. She was desperate to play. However, I think I’m starting to prefer flyball. It’s so much nicer to train when we have people helping us with everything. Plus, everything is broken down into tiny steps. I appreciate that we always get an amazing amount of attention and help, as opposed to agility class where we wait 50 minutes for 10 minutes of instruction.
But…flyball seems much more injury-prone than agility.
At this point, we don’t have to make a decision. We’re still so early in the game that attending beginner classes for both is feasible. It’ll be interesting, though, to see where we are in a few months’ time.
So far, flyball has had higher highs and lower lows. Agility has been more consistently stressful for me, but Ladybug’s motivation is off the charts. Now that she’s getting a better idea of what’s expected of her at flyball, though, she’s much more enthusiastic.
Wonder what she’ll pick in six months’ time?
How fun to think of her in six months, rather than worry endlessly whether she will die.
Ladybug, the Mighty Puppy Warrior Princess.
And the little girl who heals me.