When Ruby turned eight months old I made this lofty goal: “to be able to work with him on loose leash with dogs 50m away, with ground to sniff, holes to dig, and birds to catch”. I didn’t write “off leash” – I could not imagine how I could motivate him enough to stay with me off leash when there were other dogs mere 50m away!
Over the winter we worked on building his desire to play with me outside and testing lots of little protocols, devised to keep him focused on me for short periods of time. He was intact and hitting the peak of adolescence so on some days he was brilliant, but most of the time he seemed to live in a sort of “brainless” state.
After one particularly embarrassing afternoon I wrote in my diary “It might be that Ruby is a really difficult dog. In that case I will learn a lot and it will make me a better trainer. Or perhaps I’m a really bad trainer. In that case I will also learn a lot and it will make me a better trainer.”
And two months later: “I am panicking. I’m thinking I don’t know how to train my dog and how could I get such a crazy dog to train. Doesn’t life KNOW I’m a novice at this?!” But I kept reading books, asking on forums and tweaking training protocols and Ruby kept getting better.
Around that time I discovered SHAgility group (can’t write that name without smiling :)) and agility sighthound blogs: One-Eyed Agility Supporter & Microfriend (crazy name, Penny!), Dog Blog! and Never Say Never Greyhounds where I got my weekly fix of sighthound awesomeness. Reading Clean Run and blogs made me feel like this agility thing could some day become a reality for us as well.
I pestered Frankie with my questions and she gave me some very useful pointers on keeping Ruby motivated, particularly when doing more than three repetitions in a row, which was a big problem for us.
Spring came and we were nowhere ready to join Agility class so we took a Disc Dog class to practice working around other dogs. Ruby was on 20m leash attached to a bungee attached to his harness, but I still felt uneasy when I threw that first frisbee. There was no need. Ruby was so hyped up from watching us practice throws earlier that he didn’t care about other dogs. All he could think about was how to hunt down a frisbee. It turned out that he was a natural talent… I, however, was not. 😀
In just a few sessions I got a frisbee maniac. I even took him to a 4fun match where he was being his usual obnoxious self until I pulled out that first frisbee. It was like someone turned a lightbulb on in his head – we didn’t come to play with dogs, we came to play with FRISBEES! Yeah, baby!
That summer as I was looking back at a year spent with Ruby I wrote in diary “We both had to work hard to build this relationship, because we didn’t have a natural affinity for each other. But a year later I am really grateful for him, for all that he is and for all that he will still become. I wouldn’t exchange him for any other puppy, no matter how obedient and bright. He taught me a lot more than a calmer & naturally obedient pup would. Now he is mine and I am his, without a question.”
We were finally ready for some agility!
To be continued… (and of course some more photos 🙂 )
All photos were taken by Mateja