Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My dog is above average

Karma the Dog passed a rigorous evaluation to be accepted in a hard-core agility dog training class (or should I say “cult”). Her exam included:
  • walking with me through a meandering sort-of-densely-packed crowd of people and dogs without pulling on the leash or greeting the other dogs or otherwise misbehaving;
  • immediately sitting/downing on command after excitedly playing;
  • sitting quietly while I greeted a stranger; and
  • sitting quietly while people walked around us squeezing squeaky toys and bouncing balls.
It amazes me that she can do these things when I think back to our very first obedience class about a year ago. I thought that night that surely it was completely impossible to get her attention in the presence of other dogs; I thought she simply wasn’t like other dogs who look at their owners when they hear their name, that her inattention was some sort of immutable personality trait. And, a year ago, I was so clueless about dog training that I didn’t even know that one wasn’t supposed to use the leash to maneuver one’s dog.

I grew up with two dogs who had no obedience training and were so poorly behaved that they had to be locked in a bedroom when company came to the house. (My folks disciplined the dogs by blowing cigarette smoke in their faces.) My first dog in my adult years was old and rug-like when we got her, so I didn’t bother with any training. So Karma has been my first training experience and it's been so rewarding to be able to communicate with her and get the behavior I want from her, at least some of the time. It’s convenient to be able to say “leave it” and have her walk away from yucky things (like the head of a pig, sans eyes and brain but with fur, that we encountered during our most recent dog park visit – wacky teenager fun, I’m guessing). There really is no bad behavior that hotdogs and Velveeta can't correct.

Karma is athletic and smart, so I think she might be a good agility dog. I don’t think of myself as a dog-agility sort of girl, though. The crowd of experienced handlers/evaluators and hopefuls last night laughed and giggled wildly at this exchange:
Person running the evaluation: Are there any intact males here tonight? Raise your hand.

Man in crowd (and I know you already know what’s coming which is exactly why it’s not that funny): You’re just asking about dogs, right?
I felt there like I feel at the grocery co-op by our house: these just aren’t quite my people and I don’t really want to turn into these people. Not that they’re not lovely people. It’s just that they’re a little bit crazy in ways that aren’t the same as my crazy.

The place we’re going for agility training is a nonprofit membership organization that has a reputation for being very serious about dogs and training. They’re not interested in provided agility training for everyone who wants it, so they have this evaluation process. There were about 30 dogs at the evaluation last night and eight were rejected (effectively, for a year). But Karma passed, so we’ll start our training in June.

Someone slap me if I start making double-entendre “bitch” jokes.

(Update: Link to the training club here.

Update II: Top photo is Bella, the old well-behaved dog; Bottom photo is Karma)


Scooter said...

Looked forever at the site and couldn't find a pic of the wonder dog.

Scooter said...

Ah, but I did go back and search the site for "Karma" and found the pics.

Scooter said...

Lots of collie/shepherding types in the group, even a Corgi. I'm going to have to get some acreage somewhere and get back to dogs.

Stephanie said...

Who's got a Corgi?

Scooter said...

Piper - Owner Patty Fulton

Stephanie said...

And yes -- dogs a must!

Stephanie said...

Ah -- at the training club. Thought you meant amongst our contributors through their dog-owning histories.