Sometimes, you don’t know what sets a dog off. It’s one of the things that makes me wish they could talk and tell me what’s wrong.
I’ve been working with Bean on the tippy board, to ready her for progressing to a teeter in agility. She’s done fine with the board, even when I raise the height of it. She’d even get halfway on the small teeter in class, and get on the tippy board by herself and walk around at home. And last night, she went without pause onto a piece of the dog-walk that had been laid out for warm-up practice, which is similar to a long, narrow tippy board.
And freaked out.
I don’t know if it was the weird noise or the narrowness of it, but suddenly it was the Most Evil Thing Ever. She wouldn’t go near it, or even the regular tippy board. We were back at square one.
I had a feeling that somewhere in our agility career something like that would happen, and I’m okay with that. It’s hard to say why a dog will suddenly freak out and refuse to have anything to do with an obstacle, and there’s nothing for it but to take a deep breath and move on.
It’s different with every dog, but Bean tends to regress suddenly and without warning, and I have to work up from Square One again. Usually, the second ‘learning’ process is rapid, when she realizes that it’s not the Most Evil Thing Ever (for a long time, the chute was one of the Most Evil Things Ever, and I suppose now that she’s all about going through the chute by herself, she had to find a new Most Evil Thing Ever). Bean is especially prone to sudden uncertainty and fear, which is something we’ve been working through. Agility has given her much more confidence and certainty about herself, but as last night proved, we still have a ways to go.
When we learned the A-frame, it was much the same kind of problem. It was scary, even the tiny A-frame for practice. When we got to the big A-frame, she looked at me like I asked her to climb Mount Everest. Now, however, it’s one of the Best Things ever, and she’ll go up and down endlessly if I let her.
For awhile after that, we just worked on getting close to the tippy board again. Pawing it. Putting her paw on it. Making it move. Putting her weight on it. It goes very fast with the clicker, because she knows what the clicker means, but this time I’m going to go slower, make sure she’s comfortable with each tiny step before we move on.
That’s how things sometimes go with training. You think it’s all good, and then the dog regresses, sometimes suddenly. While it’s kind of frustrating, you can’t blame the dog for it. I could come up with 10 reasons easily why Bean regressed, but does it matter? Not really. What matters is next time, I need to do a better job as her teacher to show her it’s ok, and if we need to spend weeks working up to it because that’s her pace, that’s what we’ll do. I have confidence that she’ll love the teeter as much as she loves running the other obstacles, once we get past her uncertainty about it.
In the interim, this currently sums up her feelings about the teeter:
(Want to buy this shirt for your teeter-hating pup? You can find it at Zazzle!)