Last weekend at a dog trial, there were three practice jumps set up outside. All kinds of dogs were in the area, and they had all made sure that they had peed somewhere to mark it. It was a doggy bathroom with agility equipment (jumps) in it. Simon was happy to work at the first jump we were at, which was one on the edge. When I took him to the middle jump in the center of activity, I could hardly get him out of the crate to play. Then my friend Barb Davis, who is famous in the agility world as she has won national championships, and been on the AKC world Team 6 times ( a record) came with me and watched us do a few jumps where we started out on the first training jump. Simon did fine again. Then Barb started to work with him and had him all excited to play agility and happy to work with her. It was so cool to see him running and jumping and being happy with a complete stranger in a very distracting environment. How could 50 feet make such a difference?
On the 11th I took Simon to where Al and I train, and we had the arena to ourselves. Simon got to play first, and although I had been sick with a bad cough/cold for 2 1/2 weeks, we had a lot of fun. Simon played, was happy to go through tunnels, over jumps, through weave poles, and did this with Al in his crate in the middle of all the activity. After about 20 minutes of play and good treats, I put Simon in his crate and started to work with Al. We ran and ran and did all the equipment and the teeter a lot of times. Simon watched and was very vocal that he wanted to come out and play again. So I put Al away, and worked with Simon again for a little while. Very happy, and no avoidance behavior. He wanted to play/work with me. Simon was torturing Al now, and I thought poor Al had suffered enough to have to watch Simon having all the fun with me, so out came Al, and it was the 3 of us. The jumps were set to Al's height (12 inches) and we did agility as a threesome for about 10-15 minutes. It was a blast, as Simon and Al would have to hold their stays at the start line while I led out past the jumps, each one watching the other to make sure that they didn't cheat, and trying to watch me at the same time. I'd release them, and Al would usually be first over the jump and by the second jump Simon would be ahead. I would put them into the weave poles, and always did it when Simon was ahead, as he is faster than Al, and I didn't want him coming out because Al was in the way. This was good for Al too as he had to really charge to try and keep up to Simon in the poles, and his focus was straight ahead of him and not once did anybody come out early!!
Through the tunnels over jumps through the weave poles, treats, treats treats. It was lots of fun. I could barely breath near the end, and both dogs were thrilled. It was the best 1 hour and 15 minutes I have ever spent with Simon while doing agility.
I'm encouraged by all this, but still don't understand his triggers for what shuts him down.
At the trial this last weekend, I took him into a building crowded with barking dogs and lots of people, and although he has never wilted in that situation, I expected that he might. Instead Simon got totally energized by what was going on, totally focused on me, and ready to play and do all his tricks. I know I could have taken him out into a ring and done a Jumpers with weaves course with him and had his attention and all his energy. He would have had fun.
Why is one place different than another. What is the trigger?
I'm thinking that I will try him out in December at a local agility trial just before I take Al to the AKC Invitational Agility Championships. See how he handles it. If he isn't interested, I won't push him. If he is, then I'll make sure he has a fun fun time, while he's on the course.