I went along to the training class with Jan and Ellie last night. Typically, I managed to pick a night which was mostly talking. It was mostly talking because Christina, the instructor, had been given the dates for the KC Good Citizen exams. The Bronze, which is the first one that we will take, will be on 29 March.
However, the lack of activity was offset by being able to just view the other two dogs in the class - a German Shepherd and a Rottweiler. Rotties are my favourite breed, with German Shepherds being my second favourite. The only reason that we don't have a Rottie is because of the ill-deserved reputation that they now have here in the UK. It doesn't worry me, but I don't want people crossing the street to avoid me. Further, if a Yorkshire Terrier grows up to be a lash-puller, nobody really bats an eyelid. However, if a Rottie ends up being a leash-puller, people take an entirely different stance. It's a huge shame and it's so unfair, it really is.
I did comment at the end of the class that the owners of both dogs were lucky that I hadn't run off with their dogs. But I did get to give each of them a bit of attention before the class disbanded. Then, moments after sitting in the car to return home, Christina invited me to meet another Rottie called Cookie, which had just arrived for the next class. It was worth getting cold again for. An absolute gem of a dog, with a stunning temperament; it was so docile.
While in the class, we did do a few exercises. Well Jan and Ellie did. I observed. There was the meet and greet, and I knew that Ellie wouldn't do well on that. That is her major weakness. She sees everyone who walks near her as someone who must want to stroke her. Her tail wags and she strains at the leash to get near them. I'm sure that in her mind, she's helping the person out by getting to them sooner. She just loves people. It's nice that she does, but we need to find a way to curb that enthusiasm. I think I might have to start some town walks again, where she will experience more people, and learn to ignore them. I also think that it will lessen with age too. Many dogs become less trusting of strangers as they move into adulthood.
There was the "send to bed", where Ellie did excel. She's done that since we got her pretty much, and so I'd expect her to do well in it. She passed the two-minute sit-stay without any problems.
There was a session of having the dogs walk past Christina, on leash, while she was holding food out in her hand. Again, any slight movement Ellie made towards that direction was to get to Christina, not the food. I've left plates of food in front of Ellie before today and she hasn't touched it, so I've little concern in that area. In fact, I think "leave" was one of the first things we taught her, and so it remains one of her strongest behaviours.
We also did an all over inspection of the dog. Ellie has usually been very good at this. However, and it might be because her season seems to be approaching, she seems to be a little sensitive around her back end at the moment. I'm going to focus on this quite a lot now until the exam, so that it doesn't become a major issue.
At the end of the class, each dog got the chance to run around a small agility route that Christina set-up. Only the Rottie really excelled in this, I must say. Ellie was awful, but then she is, by far, the least experienced dog at less then nine months of age. Everyone seemed to assure me that Ellie is usually much better than she was last night. Christina seems to share my view that Ellie isn't going to be far off her first season, as she seems quite distracted. But hey, I've been predicting her first season for a few weeks now.
However, what the agility run did confirm to me is that my heart really isn't in agility. I do admire those who can think quickly enough to get their dog around the twists and turns in the fastest time, but it just doesn't excite me. It wasn't just because I was watching and not participating. I just don't have the urge to participate in it either. I can see, for a start, that it needs thinking at a much faster rate than I am accustomed to thinking at, in order to be successful. But apart from that, it just didn't ignite me in the same way that competitive obedience does.
For me, there is something about competitive obedience that switches me on. I could watch it for hours, and I love the challenge of shaping a behaviour which, frequently, is completely alien to the dog. Agility just doesn't captivate me in the same way. Of course, that is one of the good things about dog breeds and dog-related pursuits. There really is something for everyone.
I think I'll need to go another class where there isn't so much talking, as, I'm assured, that they are usually much more engaging and active. It was just my bad luck to pick the night where the exam dates had come through. Still, it's really good to have the exam date. It was also interesting for me to watch how Jan interacts with Ellie in the class. She's much different to me and, I think, different to how she is at home to some extent. Usually, I am the reserved one and Jan is the outgoing one. However, when it comes to training Ellie (at least in the class), it seems to change. Jan seemed quite "stuffy" and unexciting, I thought. (Apparently Christina has commented than Jan needs to make herself more exciting too.)
I've learned through playing with Ellie in the fields, several times every day, that you have to be really exciting for her. For a start, she's young, and then she's a Border Collie. She needs to have a good reason to be near you and to pay attention to you, otherwise she'll quickly find something else to focus on. But then, who knows, maybe I would have felt more self-concious in such an enclosed area as the training barn too. (Actually, I'm sure that I would have as it's very me to do that.) I was just surprised to see Jan acting in a self-concious manner. It's not something that I'm used to seeing!
And so the next few weeks will be spent getting Ellie as ready for the KCGC Bronze exam as we possibly can. I'm reasonably confident that she'll do ok, but as is the case with dogs, anything at all can happen on the day.