The story of a boy living with Type 1 and his family's journey to raise and train a diabetic alert dog.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The First Session of Level III Class

I took Bo to Helen's new studio this afternoon for our first Level III class. Bo was one of seven dogs in the class and one of a few who had never done agility before. The first part of the class involved jumps and running thru a tunnel.

The experience of watching other dogs, in a studio environment, run off-leash through a course of obstacles was new to Bo. He reacted as one dog ran towards a jump positioned in the area in front of us. I immediately dropped the leash, as Helen has taught me, and he and the other dog had a vocal exchange but they separated quickly without incident. Nonetheless, the experience left him agitated. The instructor, one of Helen's colleagues, had me move with Bo to a short hallway adjacent to the studio space. It was a space where he could see the other dogs run the course, yet not feel as though they were running at him. I treated him generously for remaining in a down stay and looking at the activity happening on the course and then looking back at me. Once he calmed, we moved back to our place in the studio.

I have read comments on Web sites about how service dog can be 'ruined' by a negative interaction with another dog, so I'm extra cautious with Bo around dogs in a leashed environment. I try to keep my anxiety in check as I expect he can sense my stress level. I have to admit, it was hard for me to keep it in check today. Having Bo on leash while another dog is working off-leash, in close proximity to Bo, is going to take some getting used to for me. I understand growing Bo's confidence in this area will serve to help him in his public access work.

When it came to Bo's turn on the course. He had no problem jumping or moving through the shortened tunnel. (I was happily surprised by his enthusiasm for jumping -- not to mention the air he got!) I, on the other hand, required gentle guidance from the instructor. I was slow to grasp the body positioning changes that go along with moving from one direction to another. Thankfully, the instructor and Bo were forgiving of my mistakes.

The instructor taught some targeting games involving the Staples 'easy' button and a battery operated push/touch light -- the kind sometimes installed in closets that are not wired for electrical lights. Bo did well with this exercise. I expect because of the target work I have been doing with him as part of his DAD training.

We did some games with 'sit' and 'down' signs, as well as some heel work on the left and right sides. I always work Bo on the left and both of us had a difficult time going from working on the left to working on the right. Learning to work on the right will definitely be a challenge for us.
Bo tired after Level III class.

The class was mentally exhausting for me and left me feeling physically tired. In Level II class, I felt confident. I knew what to do and Bo knew what to do. He worked well around the other dogs. He knew the commands. He demonstrated a readiness for his CGC test.

Today, I felt less confident in class. We have a new set of skills to learn and we are learning them in a new space, with a new instructor. I'm hopefully optimistic we will learn together and our confidence will grow over the next five weeks.

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