A Dog Agility Blog Event
The Blue Hound Beagles are, primarily, agility dogs. But they looove tracking. They clamor for obedience work. Boy, do they want to hunt those ratties and chase that plastic bag lure! I’ve always done crosstraining with them to some degree, for both body and mind (but not for my wallet…).
Connery: CH MACH3 Cedar Ridge DoubleOSeven VCD1 RE MXC MJG MXP MJP XF EAC EJC CGC
(That is, Beauty Contest AGILITY AGILITY AGILITY Versatility with Tracking, Obedience, and Agility, More Obedience Stuff Rally Stuff AGILITY AGILITY AGILITY More Agility!)
Dart: Albedo’s Charter Member VCD1 BN GN RE MX MJB CA CGC
(Versatility with Tracking, Obedience, & Agility, More Obedience stuff Rally stuff AGILITY AGILITY Coursing!
Early on, Connery (now 10yo) earned his Rally Excellent and his Novice Obedience, and we started tracking as soon as we moved into an area where it was feasible. Dart (5yo) was slower off the mark in all things. He came to the household as an adolescent without previous training or socialization, and we had to focus on basic expectations for a while. But I knew right off the bat that we’d be doing as much as we could, as soon as we could.
There are a lot of reasons I do the cross training. For starters, it’s all fun stuff. It keeps them busy and fit, and it stretches their brains in ways that agility alone simply can’t do. Tracking is especially fulfilling for them–and for me. TDX training provides a complete “take a deep breath in the country” kind of morning, with silence and beautiful high desert all around.
Connery took years off from obedience (long enough so that the life-altering Giant Schnauzer attack we endured at a show when he was three is as close to forgotten as it can be), but I’m easing him back into it to see if he might just enjoy obedience and rally as agility becomes too demanding. We’re also exploring barn hunt, but having a hard time fitting it into the schedule.
(I’d say “maybe when I retire,” but…what is this word, “retire”?)
Anyway, just this past weekend Connery earned his Graduate Novice title, the exercises for which are sort of halfway between Novice and Open. If he regains enough confidence to do the Open exercises in the ring, I’ll probably enter him in Open B where the dogs are more seasoned in their stays, and he’ll feel safer.
In obedience, Connery’s absolute honesty shines. If he understands what’s expected and he’s comfortable, he does it. Period. So heading to the ring helps me to see what feels hard for him and it helps him to gain a broader confidence if I support him correctly.
Meanwhile Dart is currently learning why Open A is called the heartbreak class (and so am I!). He’s a dog who needs much seasoning, and who needs to learn what’s expected from every possible angle. I teach him a thing and he gets it quickly…and then starts to improvise until he suddenly isn’t sure what I wanted in the first place.
Then I teach it to him a different way, and he gets it and then starts to improvise and… Etc. And unlike Connery, Dart goes in the ring and his head starts to spin until he sometimes just kind of forgets what we were doing in the first place.
Dart has two major challenges with everything he does: impulse control and mental stamina. On the whole, he works so very intensely that he uses himself up. This challenges him in both agility and tracking, and obedience addresses these issues in spades…just as working on his tracking endurance addresses focus issues in both obedience and agility. And doing all of these things in a trial setting helps define where the question marks still persist.
He really wants to be a good dog. He’s pretty highly aware of when he’s not quite hitting the mark. He just…can’t…quite…see it from here.
But as frustrating as it can be to outwit his overactive brain when it comes to obedience and tracking skills, if I had limited Dart’s activities to agility (and mondo playing!), I don’t think he’d be halfway to his MACH, as slow as that progress has been. I’m not sure I think he’d have made it through Excellent.
(Well, I am sure. Because he wouldn’t have done it.)
No fibbing here…it can be crazy-making, trying to mesh all these activities into our lives when the days are only twenty-four hours long. I don’t teach new skills during trial clusters, which means I work on new obedience skills during the more active agility months and agility new skills during gaps in agility trials and sprinkle tracking throughout along the way–but don’t work on new skills of any kind right before a trial.
Even so, during this past trial Dart managed to get the summer’s earlier work on blind crosses mixed into his free heeling and especially his figure eights, even though he’s never shown a moment of confusion outside the ring to prepare me for such a brain fart. “Oh,” he says of the figure eight. “This must be a wily test about changing sides. I’ll put myself on the right. I win!”
Well, Dart, you’re right! You DO win! Because anyway you look at it, you get to do it all!