Agility For Fun Class: Magnus Learns To Skateboard

Magnus and I have now had two weeks of Agility For Fun class. We are having a BLAST!

This is the class we started back in December, but then Real Life got in the way and our instructor and CAD’s was were king enough to let us wait to finish the last four weeks when Real Life had calmed down.

Thankfully it has!

The first class we attended was a review of what we learned in December. We did lots of propriaception work with the wobble board, boxes, exercise disks, and my favorite: a skateboard!

Magnus is so brave, nothing scares him and the biggest problem is helping him not be like a bull in a china shop. The point of these exercises is not just to teach a dog to be confident on all kinds of equipment, but to channel his energy and enthusiasm into some control. That may take some work!

Our class last week was jam packed with some review and many new skills. We covered perching on a step stool, rear foot targeting, getting all four feet in a box and again my favorite: skateboarding!

You may be thinking the last time you checked an Outside Boardslide wasn’t part of any agility course you’ve heard of, so why skateboarding in an agility foundations class? I have been amazed how much you can learn about rear foot awareness and handling from teaching a dog to skateboard.

While pushing with his rear feet. As a handler I have to think of treat placement, watch where his front feet are on the board, where his back feet are pushing him and I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own feet!

We are both learning so much, but mostly we have just been having a blast! I am learning so much from the class and can’t wait for next week. Until then we are practicing getting all four feet into a smaller box and rear foot targeting a piece of cardboard.

Interestingly I have been working these same tricks with Maizey and since we have never worked any of this I expected it to be harder for her. Of course I was totally wrong. It took her less than twenty treats to go from the biggest box into the smallest box. Now the only problem is she thinks she’s supposed to sit in it! She just makes me laugh.

I’m reminded again of Sue Ailsby’s training rule: “It’s all tricks, relax.”

Even though this is a serious class with serious lessons to be learned it’s still all tricks and having fun with the skills as tricks has been a good 4legged lesson for me to learn!

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Agility for Fun: Class One: Proprioception

Thank you for all of your kind thoughts on Thursday. Sometimes we all get into moods and it’s nice that there are kind people out there that will take time to leave a kind word!

Magnus’ class turned out great. I was not in top form, it is hard for me to train in overload mode, but he did great.

As classes should it revealed some holes in our training, but the best part was I learned how to do some of the exercises we’ve been working on here at home more effectively.

The class is only three dogs, which is wonderful. We get lots of individual attention that way. There is a five ear old Belgian Sheepdog named Zoro. He is gorgeous! He really gets to my love of big dignified black dogs. The other dog is (I think) a Bernese Mountain boy named Berkly.

The Importance of Body Awareness
Proprioception is defined by Wikipedia as, “from Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own” and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body.”

Our first class was focused on helping the pups get used to getting on strange objects and proprioception exercises. In agility dogs need to be highly aware of what part of their body is doing what and where it is doing it.

Excitement Short-Circuits the Brain
We used getting on a step stool, a small exercise disk, and wobble board to start the dogs getting used to where their feet are and strange objects.

Magnus took all that in stride as those are things we have worked with at home. My biggest challenge is his excitement level. He just gets “ooh, ooh this is sooo awesome my brain is short-circuiting on how awesome this is” excited.

I don’t think it is a bad thing, more of an unbalanced thing, probably due to age and lack of experience in working. So we will have to work on that.

This really came into play with the walk through a ladder exercise. The point is to teach the dog to pick up their rear feet and not touch the rungs of the ladder.

We have been working this at home, but again the excitement level gets in the way. At home he just wants to blast through to the target at the end. He doesn’t care who or what he tramples on the way, that target at then end is his! He does a killer impression of an one puppy heard of elephants. (Yes this is me laughing and sighing.)

The solution is to place a treat between each rung of the ladder so they have to slow down to get the treat. It helps. . . sort of. This needs lots of work.

Shaping Body Awareness
This class is heavily geared to shaping, which I love, but find hard to do in a public environment. Thus far it seems distractions are going to be a bigger challenge to me than Magnus!

My lack showed up in the perch exercise. It is totally new to him to put just his front feet on a box. Presentation of the box is the cue and the goal is have the dog learn to move only rear feet around the box.

The challenge in shaping is my fault really. You get what you pay for and since it was a challenge to get a down out of him I have paid heavily for them. Now the little monkey that wouldn’t ever lay down has a ridiculously firm default down. In shaping down is not a helpful behavior. So another thing to work on.

All in all it is going to be a great class. We have a long ways to go, he is young and has the dreaded adolescence looming, but this is great foundation for both of us.

Links
Perch work:
JRT Skeeter
Crystal and Maisy

Ladder work:
Black poodle

Balance Disk
Zelda (from :25-1:18)

Wobble board:
corgi

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