09 January 2009

A philosophical rumination about dog fun and exploding clown heads.

Does the red santa clown dog give her nightmares?

Had a weird couple dog training days. Hmm, non dog agility friends. How do I explain this to you? You are actually going to be bored really soon and goodbye so sorry about that, thanks for playing! Dog agility friends, you'll get it right away. It's about drive. When I practice, I like dogs to be wild and hyper and irritating and running all around. Super fun that way, even if maybe things not perfect, it's pretty funny to watch little speed demons fly around and take an off course just due to my slowness of getting them their crucial information on time. I felt fast, but they perceive as slow because they are dogs and I am just a lady. Like pretend you have driven up to the Jack in the Box clown. To order. And the clown talks back to you really, really, slow. You say you want a milshake. And the clown says back like this:

t   h  a    t

w      i      l     l

b    e

o        n   e

m        i    l         k          s      h        a        k             e

And then you need to blow him up. Isn't that what happened to all the Jack in the Box clowns? They got blown up? They're all gone? Due to slowness? When you are slow, and your dog is fast, you have to be fast and accurate and then you have good agility and no one explodes.

When that drive isn't happening, agility not so fun. We have that problem at the bad trials, when Ruby checks out or Otterpop freaks out. Might be having a bunch of fun and wild and fast runs and then some that aren't and super bummer. For all involved. When the dog is slow, the dog is not having so much fun. The dog is sad. Would rather be doing something else, is what I think. No one wants a sad dog. Freaky dog, nervous dog, scared dog. Turn that frown upside down. Hopefully good trials outweigh the bad ones. Practicing super fun because we always have drive practicing. Me and the dogs, we love practicing.

One of the funnest things of Gustavo, super drive, super fast, all the time. Practicing, at a trial, all super, never frowning. Last couple days, dirt nite, not super. Uh oh. Where's the drive? He's not slow, but that crazy spark not so much there. He's running fast but not FAST. Found it eventually by playing around and doing some easy little runs through jumps to a tunnel, but I like it when it just comes straight out of the box and not exactly sure where it went. Not rewarding enough? Overfacing him? Too many weave poles? Something is confusing to poor little squirrel brain? Didn't seem like it.

I do have an idea why. The barking and carrying on during not your turn is making me crazy. When I am running around with another dog, or when a speedy black and white dog runs around, the barking is making me NUTS. And I am trying to make that go away. Sometimes by yelling "SHUT UP you guys!", sometimes by rewarding for not barking, sometimes putting barker in a crate, but I think that some of the fun of Gustavo's agility is in that insane, shrill, awful barking. And as I'm making that go away, I'm taking away some of the fun. Evil barking police nazi. But fast equals fun.

So I have to make a fun substitution. He especially likes to bark when Otterpop and me are running instead of him. His best reward is to play with Otterpop. Which maybe now in hindsight, a dog training faux paw. Dog is supposed to have most fun with me and I have a dog who has most fun with Otterpop. She's the life of her own little party, in her head. Be more fun, I can just hear dog trainers say. I heard it myself a lot of times, when I first started agility with Ruby and she had 3 speeds. Run away, run amuck and run and hide. I couldn't be more fun than squirrels. Focus, focus hocus pocus. Good dog trainers have their ways. I do have ideas. I know it's there. Just making me a little bit sad that I made something that was there go away, and dog agility, not supposed to ever do that.


vici whisner said...

my biggest fear is that I do something that slows down my dog. EVERYone does it. In clean run there is a good article about teaching the dog to lay quietly while the others are running. I really think that making the dog wait for their turn without loosing their minds essentially build drive to work with you (you become more fun than otterpop because you release him to have fun).

I don't think there is a panacia, I just think it is hard work. Maybe leave otterpop at home a few times to get Gustavo focused back on you. Hope this helps.

team small dog said...

Hmm read the dog training magazine and then have to do some actual dog training? AND hard work? Oh MAN.

Elayne said...

Could be he's stressing out because you're stressed out, not so much because you're taking away his barking.

Speaking as someone with a dog that loses his mind when another dog is running I don't think it's a good thing and I don't think it's the same thing as drive. And believe me I do appreciate how maddening it is and how much work it is to deal with. But I do think it's worth it to teach him to be calm while waiting his turn and there are ways to do it without ruining his motiviation. I like the 'Control Unleashed' book personally.

I've also found that my own stress and frustration escalate his hysteria so keeping calm helps. I guess there is something to be said for the power of deep yoga breaths.

Lola is quiet while waiting her turn but often barks her head off on course and I have no problem with that. She's happy and excited and maybe sometimes telling me off for confusing her but it's not the same as that out my head, obsessive, can't control myself barking that Strummer does when he watches another dog running.

It IS a lot of work but in my opinion it's worth it but my dog is maybe a bit more over the top than yours so for me I don't have a choice. Wow, my English is fabulous.

Elayne said...

Oh yeah, and it's way easier if you have just the one dog. I long ago had to give up trying to work all 3 at once. Trying to teach class and manage your 3 dogs is a tall order.