We walked on Saturday and I started introducing some Parkour style obstacles. It was our usual place and I didn't remember this many options, but I guess I'm already developing Parkour-eye. I had her climb on some large rocks ("table") and walk down benches ("walkies"). I got her to walk on a curb around some landscaping. Because it wasn't high off the wood chips, it took her awhile to figure out to put all four feet on it. Toward the end I found some more options, but they'd be hard to describe. We'll do them again and I'll take the camera.
The thing I observed which was really cool was how much fun this was for Gimme, and me. Mostly our walks are about me getting mileage on my chubby tushie and Gimme getting to sniff and be a dog. We occasionally do a little training. What I saw was how much Gimme enjoyed this interaction and exploring stuff together. I've always enjoyed walking with her and watching her sniff and be a dog. I've always been sure she enjoyed, even needed, the sniff-and-be-a-dog time. But I think this interactive exploration of our environment brought a whole new element of togetherness to our walk. Fun stuff.
Last night was our first class with the dogs and it was every bit as good as I'd hoped. To start with Gimme was completely unable to focus. I'd set up an alcove for us in the far corner with her soft crate, bedding, room dividers and sheets for visual breaks. It was a challenge to get her in the building and to begin with, I found she wasn't able to be Operant. For you non-trainer-geeks, this means she was not able to thoughtfully use her own behavior and actions to get me to give her something she wanted.
We started out with PVC ladders and a wonky cavaletti.
Gimme got to interact with these and she did okay, was able to slow down and start thinking about her feet more than the environment and the other dogs. The instructor, Jo, was very good about making sure we had the room she needed to be comfortable and noticed and commented each time Gimme started making moves toward being thoughtful. She's very supportive and I felt good about the environment. Gimme needed a lot of peanut butter go toob to start with, but then was able to do with less and less.
Jo had us do cookie stretches and other warm up behaviors to get their bodies ready and we are supposed to do it at the beginning of each class. Lots of "spin", "turn", "thru", "behind", "around", "sit", "down" and "stand". Gimme could do these, but in this environment I had to lure her through them. We got a couple to the cue at the end of the warm up session.
I was able to set the camera on a chair and get a little video of part of our "box" training session. We'd already done quite a bit and then she'd taken a break in her crate before she did this little session. By now she was getting into what we were doing and was thinking about her feet and how to get me to pay up. At the end of this part of class, Jo went around the room and had each of us show off what our dogs were doing. Even though one dog had been through this class before, Gimme was still the most advanced. We did so much rear foot work when she was a puppy, so she has a lot of awareness about the part of her body behind her elbows, which is not true of most dogs. Of course, knowing how challenging this environment was going to be for her I'd have been thrilled even if she wasn't the best.
"box" work video
After this Jo discussed the importance of the dogs learning to back up for some of the higher levels of Parkour. Gimme and one other dog already had some understanding of backing up. In fact when Jo came to see how well she could do it, she said she thought Gimme was ready to back onto things - which I had to admit she already does. So I showed her off backing onto the oil pan. Then we decided to work her on something higher - a small table they have. This little video is our first attempt at backing onto the table. You'll see she assumes I just want her to do the 4-on "table" behavior, and when it doesn't produce treats, she listens to me and puts the "back-on" cue together with the obstacle and goes right to offering the exact behavior I wanted. This is one of the really great things about Gimme - her ability to make intuitive leaps in understanding.
"back on" video
She really is a canine genius... This is why I love training her - she makes me look waaaay better than I am. Of course sharing this intuitive leap sure lets the cat out of the bag...
Gimme says, "Cat! What cat?"