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Oh my goodness. Trying to get through an agility class with an energetic dog who didn't get his 2 mile after work walk? Even worse than I thought it would be. I did not enjoy that class.

I take some mild consolation in the other dogs being kind of squirrelly too. It was the last class of the session and I swear that all of the dogs were like thirteen-year olds on the last day of the school year.

But back to me, if had had any doubts that the long walks make a difference in handling Tom, last night would have cured that.

I'm actually thinking about trying to take up running again for our evening walks. It would be good for my own fitness, Tom would like that, I think, and, most important of all, it might aid in my quest to keep his energy levels contained.

Oh, in one bit of developing good news, Tom does seem to be getting better around children again. About two months ago or so, he decided that kids are Very Scary and do everything he could to get away from them. Which is sad, because a cute, fluffy dog is like catnip to kids. There are some really nice children that we see regularly in the course of our walks and I've been working on things by giving them treats to give to Tom. In the past couple of days, he's started to walk right up to a couple of the kids with little or no hesitation. *Knock on wood,* I'm hopeful that we're starting to turn the corner on that issue.
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--Dog school that is.

Tom and I went to our first beginning agility class last night. It was lots of fun. We were introduced to the open tunnel, closed tunnel, A-frame, and low hurdles. It's a nice sized class--fewer than ten dogs. Most of the dogs are some variety of herding dogs or herding mixes. There's one or two "you pick the breeds" dogs, and Tom, a hunting dog.

The person who was near me for most of the class and I struck up an ongoing conversation. I thought she said her dog was a Malinois, but I think I misheard because to me he didn't look right for that breed. Anyway, we got started laughing, because at one point she was watching the way Tom did the tunnels and said "he's very independent, isn't he?" I laughed and agreed. She was commenting how that's so typical of a hunting dog--while all the herding dogs are all like "what do you want me to do next? is this okay?"

Tom caught on to the "over" with the little hurdle right quick. He wasn't so sure about the A-frame, but seemed to be more at ease with it after doing it a few times. Then there were the tunnels. He seemed a little unsure of them the first couple of times. But then he went through them fine. He took his time, though. And his attitude very much seemed to be "All right, hold your horses. There are all kinds of interesting smells here." This is what prompted the conversation with the classmate about the more independent nature of hunting breeds.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I think Tom had fun too. I don't know if I'm really going to be able to afford to get into this in a big way, but if nothing else, at least a round or two of classes should be fun.
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Take heart dear flist of mine. Eventually Tom will stop being a puppy and I'll find other things to post about. In the meantime...

Yesterday I read through Patricia McConnell's little pamphlet on how to be a pack leader. I think it was all stuff that I'd heard or read in other places before, still it was very helpful. I think there are some visual cues/body language that I can work on that can help smooth things out a little. One thing that she talks a lot about is occupying space. That's something that I think I can do a much better job with and I'm already making a start. I also started in on her book The Other End of the Leash which deals with behavior and communication--especially with regard to the human half of the equation. I've only gotten a few pages in, but so far I think she's good and interesting writer. I'm really looking forward to reading more.

Small Victories:

Motorcycles are the bane of Tom's existence. (And by extension, mine.) When they go by, he barks and lunges and generally wants to go after them. He also frequently has that reaction to buses, trucks, and vehicles that are loud (or have that "motorcycle" sound). Well, some of the homework that we're working on for class is "quick sits." This is when the dog sits as soon as the human comes to a stop. Tom's doing quite well with this one. I've also been using it as a tool against provoking vehicles. If I see a motorcycle or vehicle that I think might be trouble on the horizon, I've been having Tom do a sit. Then I have "watch" me (well, the treat actually) or otherwise occupy him until the vehicle passes. It's been working pretty well--as long as I go into action quickly enough.

Today at noon when we went for our walk, as we turned down the street a motorcycle was approaching while we happened to be at a stop. (I was letting Tom do some sniffing.) Tom looked up and saw the motorcyle, looked up at me, and then he sat down. On his own. And stayed seated while it went by. Without me even asking him to. He got a treat and lots of praise for that one! Later he made sudden/unexpected lunge at a pickup truck that drove by. I restrained him (of course) and gave a sharp "no!" and then he turned back to me at sat down! I didn't treat him because he did lunge, but I praised him for the sit. :)

I think it helps that he's still feeling a little mellow from his day at day care yesterday. He's so much more manageable for the 18 or so hours after his day out. A tired dog is a good dog. Still, I was really, really pleased with his behavior for 99% of our walk. It's moments like that that let me think, "okay, maybe I can do this after all."
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There are a couple of other people of other people with dogs in my complex area. Well, there are lots of dogs in the area, but Tom and I frequently run into Duncan and his mom and Edison and his dad in the late evening when we're out. Last night the three dogs were playing with each other. (This involves a lot of leash tangling and feeling like one is a maypole. None of us feel like our dogs are reliable off-leash, and sadly there's not a fenced in area on the grounds.)

Anyway, at one point Tom sort of disengaged from them. Then he went into an alert sit, looking at me while I scritched around his ears.

Edison's dad: "He really pays attention to you."
Me: "Sometimes."
Edison's dad: "No," [he points at the other dogs] "there are all these distractions and he's looking right at you."
Me: "Oh." [said with dawning realization]

What kind of idiot needs someone else to point out that their dog is bonding to them? Me. In the midst of my anxiety about barking issues, and feeling inadequate and not quite sure whether my dog and I are attaching as we should, it took a relative stranger to observe to me that Tom was looking at me in pretty much the way that we want our dogs to look at us. In all my self-flagellating over stuff that I might be doing wrong, I failed to notice a couple of cues/body language. I guess because my not-quite-ten-month-old dog isn't behaving perfectly after one month? Good grief. Clearly I need to step back and take a couple of breaths.

And just for the record (or myself) a couple of other notes about things going pretty well training-wise. He does extremely well with "sit." It's his most reliable command. He does pretty well with "down." He obeys "off" and "leave it" when it suits him. And much to my surprise, he's caught on to "stay" almost from the first time that I tried to teach it. I expected that to need to work with a partner to even get the concept across. I also met with someone this afternoon who showed me a technique for leash training that doesn't involve jerking-the-leash corrections. It'll require time, patience, and persistence, but it already seems very promising. So, I remind myself, in the midst of frustrations--and I'm sure there will be plenty to come--there are also things going right.

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