Distraction Testing For Simon
I've been really encouraged by the amount of interest that Simon has in me now. It has been an amazing transition in him and seems to be exponential. He is really paying attention to me now, is always watching, and has become much more affectionate with me. He has always been willing to offer his special hugs where he climbs up on your lap and puts each front leg on either side of your neck and then rubs his face or head on you, then just looks at you straight on for a while and then does it some more. What he hasn't done in the past is pay attention when he has been off leash or playing agility.
The work over the last few months seemed to be paying off, so after my last private class with him I told my instructor that I planned to see what Simon would do if we went to a very very distracting place and tried to do agility.
Sunday I took everyone to an arena that you can rent and is the place that Al and Grace and I used to play the "crazy time game" to get Al interested in having fun first and doing it around agility equipment. This was going to be a version of "crazy time" and a test of how Simon would do in a place where if he was going to blow me off he would.
The arena is a horse arena until noon and then it is for dogs afternoons and evenings. There are pigeons roosting in the rafters, with feathers falling out of them and littering spots around the building. Broken eggs that have fallen out onto the ground. Pigeons flying in and out. Cats use the arena as a litter box, and there are rats, although I haven't seen one, and pigeon poop on the dirt, and then there are the dog treats that people carelessly throw around when training. And Horse poop.
It's a big building with enough room for almost 2 agility rings. So if Simon was going to blow me off this was going to be the place. My idea going in was to arrange the equipment (just jumps) in big open sequences, that would open Simon up and get him up to full speed, and not a lot of tight handling. The idea was to get him to run, have fun, do some jumps and stay with me.
"Crazy Time" started with just running around with all the dogs. Whatever they did was fine, and Simon Al and Gracie had a blast just running around while I was a treat dispensing, crazy running, laughing, cheering, idiot with them that totally turned them all on. It was a lot of fun watching them all race through tunnels, and see who could get in first and then have to jump a jump that was right in front of them when they came out, and seeing all of them take the jump and race to see who could do the next thing fastest or first.
Then I started to work with Simon and Al individually, while the other watched from their crate. Simon did great. He learned the tire in about 3 minutes, and worked very hard for me and was well focused.
A couple of times he drifted off. Once because he had to go potty, and the other to try and dig up a cat poop that was right where he was sitting.
So I think he passed the test. For a baby dog, I'm really really pleased right now that he could do that. Stay focused, have fun and learn a little in a very distracting place. I know I have a dog that I can work with now. It was great to watch him anxiously watching me from his crate with his mouth open, smiling, and wagging his tail and then barking, and barking when I ran Al, because he wanted to go and work with me!! That is such a big step and so different from the dog I had a few months ago.