Friday, March 19, 2010

Big Sigh!

Okay, so I tend to over think things and often times get myself more worried and sometimes stressed about them than is really necessary. If I think about some things too much I tend to build them up into something bigger than what they really are. Tonight was one of those nights.

I have briefly mentioned before that Heffner has some reactivity issues with other dogs. We've been working through it for a while now and with agility especially, he now has a work mode that really helps him to ignore the triggers that would ordinarily get to him if we were out on a casual walk. I am incredibly thankful for this. Still, I do NOT set him up for failure. I'm generally more on edge in any setting when I have him with me because I don't want any outbursts. We've been working too hard for me to fail him like that. Being able to compete at agility trials was a HUGE thing for us! I still tend to stress more than is absolutely necessary, but I'd rather be more on my toes than not and set Heffner up for failure. It's not fair to him.

Anyhow, Heffner's been out of a lot of things for a few months now because of his iliopsoas. We're probably going to start back into agility in April and I'm really excited to get back to working him! We've been doing our morning obedience sessions, there's our few times a week runs, and then whatever random walks I throw in there. Those have been the extent of his out of the house excursions, pretty much. And I've been more lax than I wanted to be on working him in higher traffic dog areas to focus on working on his reactivity stuff. Especially since he was cooped up so much and got out of the habit of being worked around other dogs; we had some outbursts on some of our evening runs.

With Bess in season, performance events are out. Which meant that I either skipped our Friday night obedience practices or I took Heffner. Originally, I had no intentions of competing with Heffner in formal obedience. The long sits and downs make me more apprehensive with him than anything else. I decided to just go for it and take him to the practices while Bess is in season. It's a good opportunity to work on obedience in general, get feed back from others, and get him back in the groove of working around and ignoring other dogs.

Well, I am ridiculously pleased to say that tonight went fabulously well! It was one of those euphoric moments that just make me so incredibly proud of my boy and make me so happy to be working with him again as a team! It took him a little while to warm up and get used to the building. He was a little distracted at first. However, there were ZERO outbursts! No snarkiness at all! He barely looked at the other dogs. Not only that, he got barked at a few times by some other dogs who were there for other reasons and didn't posture or really react at all!! Woo hoo!!

One of the ladies who's there very regularly had asked me previously if I had another dog and if I was planning on doing any obedience with him. I had told her that yes we have another dane and while I wanted to do Rally with him, I wasn't entirely sure that obedience was going to be a great fit for him. I wanted to try it with him and at least go through all the training, but I wasn't sure about competition. Basically I gave an overall view of a dog that I thought wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I would like. After seeing him tonight she and another woman agreed that he was working well and they thought he would be a lot of fun to do this with.:o) Um, yeah, I'm pretty sure I had THE biggest grin on my face!!

Now for the nitty gritty. As I said, he started off a bit distracted and I just need to make sure that I give him plenty of warm up time as well as time to adjust to new venues. Once he's comfortable he's really able to focus on me and what I want from him. Our on leash heeling started off a little rough, but got much better as we progressed. He wasn't distracted by the other dogs waiting at all! Our slow and fast heeling was good. Our turns got slowly better. The automatic sits aren't quite there when we're not working right next to a wall, but I kind of already figured on that. The sits are also pretty crooked, but that mostly has to do with how I'm treating him and I'm now working on correcting that. Again, it's something that I do the exact same for both dogs, but they both respond differently. I need to remember to differentiate between my dogs. Sounds easy enough, but obviously not quite so for me.

Our figure eight was quite nice. He stayed with me pretty well and didn't forge, but there was some lagging. Otherwise, he did much better than expected considering that I've never done that exercise with him before.

The stand for exam also went quite well. Again, it's something that I have neglected to practice with him, but he still did really well!

His recall was awesome! And I really do have to brag about this from a reactive dog standpoint. We're in a brand new setting with brand new dogs and people. I have him in a sit stay with his back to the group of people. I take his leash off. I walk away to the other end of the ring. And he's not bothered. No looking behind him, no getting really distracted by other things going on around him. I call him to front and he does a very enthusiastic recall with a lovely and close front!! It was awesome!! I was so happy that we ended up forgoing the finish. Mostly because I forgot and I was too busy praising him.:o)

I opted not to do the heel off leash. While I actually think that he would have done well, I didn't want to push things too far and make him uncomfortable. My expectations of him were far exceeded! And the best part? He was totally a happy and up dog once he got warmed up! We got lots of positive comments and I'm just thrilled with how well he did.

We ended up holding off on the stays until most of the people had run their exercises. His stays weren't great. We've got a few things to work on there, but it's coming!

So yay Heffner!! There may be some competitive obedience in his future yet!


Training my Mammoth said...

Yay Heffner! I think a good rule to follow would be, keep doing it until he tells you he doesn't enjoy it. I can tell that you're not the type of trainer/dog-mom who would put your own feelings before your dogs, so you don't really have to worry, but he'll make it clear if you guys should stop. Keep up the good work!

Andrea said...

I know how you feel! I had the same grin on my face when Clara went all by herself through the 15 foot tunnel today. I just pointed at it, said "Tunnel" and off she went :)
They do make us proud, don't they?
Good luck at the rally trials. I'm taking a brake from Rally for now and focusing mostly on OB. Our first trial will be at Stumptown in July but I'm thinking about trying out the fun match in Canby next weekend.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

that's fabulous!!!! you must be so proud of him! I must say that you're title scared me though, I was expecting something sad or disappointing not this!!!

Kathie R said...

Sounds like Heffner is a natural for obedience since he did so well on his first obedience class. My Jackson can also be reactive to dogs in his face, but I've found that when he's in 'working mode' he's fine. It's when he's in down time that I need to be more watchful. I think the obedience work really helps the other behaviors. Keep us informed as to how his obedience work progresses.

M.T. said...

I totally know what a challenge it can be working and competing with a reactive dog -- way to go Heff (and that goes for your very diligent owner as well :))!!!