Sunday, March 13, 2016
Miley is going through some fearfulness right now. It's fairly generalized and therefore has moments in everything that we do. She had started to become a hesitant jumper. Which progressed to a point where she avoids jumping if at all possible. Or at least, all jumping that isn't hopping up onto my bed. You might be more understanding of this if you thought I was jumping her at a normal (for her height) 24" and maybe she just wasn't ready to be jumping full height. That would totally make sense. Except that I'm talking 4" and sometimes the occasional 8" jump. Heights that she can easily clear by walking normally over. But she got to a point where she was afraid of even that height. And this fear of jumping wasn't limited to agility and obedience. This would happen when we were out hiking as well. Due to a fair bit of rain and wind the past few months, it's not uncommon for us to come across a downed tree on some of our trails. She doesn't even like jumping those. And I will fully admit that I don't get it.
I will also fully admit that I was getting frustrated with her because of it. Agility is primarily a jumping sport. You have your contact equipment and your tunnels, but the one object that you will see the most frequently are jumps in their various forms. Miley is still leery of the tunnel and therefore chute, which I'm okay with. That will come with time and slowly working with her. She will do the dog walk at a lowered height, but she's not super comfortable with it. The table, for whatever reason, also weirds her out. The A-frame she actually likes, though she's only done it at a lowered height. Once she started avoiding jumping, agility class started feeling pretty futile. I'm not going to make her miserable and increase her fear by trying to force her. And my instructor wouldn't be okay with me doing that regardless. So I decided to pull Miley from agility class indefinitely.
Last year I pulled Miley from obedience lessons for a few months and she came back better than before. I'm hoping that this time off from agility will have the same effect. Who knows. Not every dog has to do every sport. Agility may end up just not being her thing. That's totally fine. Admittedly I can say that because obedience is my favorite sport, so I'm less heart broken. And I have a second dog who shows promise. ;)
Oddly enough, during our most recent obedience lesson, my instructor set up the jumps for directed jumping. I was skeptical because agility class had been so disheartening. In the process of explaining what was going on with Miley, for whatever reason, I demonstrated how she would only go over the jump when I had her heel over it with me. So Jill, always changing things up for us, decided that if Miley was only wanting to do things in heel position, lets set up a rally course and give it a go! I was slightly skeptical. Admittedly (I use this word frequently...admittedly...), I kind of burnt myself out on rally getting Bess' RAE and I was thrilled to be done with rally for an indeterminate period of time. My original plan was to start playing around with rally after Miley was already competing in obedience, to sort of spice things up and because I felt like we should do rally. Low and behold, Miley freaking floored me and had a rally practice better than I have had with either Heffner or Bess. And I'm counting rally practices where I was still using food rewards. Her freaking left turns had me in heaven. Her eyes lit up and she was so happy to go along with me and do all of the signs. I was ecstatic!! I LOVE heeling and therefore I reinforce it a fair bit and enjoy working on the little pieces of it at home. Therefore Miley has learned that heeling is the bee's knees. We're still not to the mental picture of have of where I'd like to be while we're competing, but we are definitely getting there and I'm super happy about it!
This potentially frustrating development has actually had some pretty positive outcomes. First of all, it sort of cornered me into giving rally a try with Miley. Which yielded a really positive experience that I hadn't anticipated. And secondly, after some discussion with our agility instructor, I decided to plunk Dominic into Miley's spot, just working at a puppy foundation level. He has really taken to it and has already done the lowered dog walk, some teeter banging, the tunnel and chute. We've also started working on the ground work needed for jumping. I'm really impressed with how he's taking to it. He'll be getting a longer period of time developing foundation skills than any of my dogs previously have. He gets to reap the benefits of the three danes that have gone before him. ;)
I still don't know what has caused Miley to be so reluctant to jump. She hasn't had any traumatic experiences with jumps that I'm aware of. And she's otherwise physically fit and able. Maybe it's just one of those things that she has to work through. Maybe she's just going to be a late bloomer. Maybe there's a horrible boogey monster that reaches up and scares the bajesus out of her each time she goes over a jump and my poor human eye sight is unable to detect him. Maybe I should just not obsess over this for the time being....