Monday, January 7, 2008

First Night of Class

Our Kennel Club held the first night of beginner Agility classes tonight. Lindy Loo (lying on top) was in the first class, and her BFF Swede William (Lindy Loo's extra cushion in the photo above) was in the second class. They are both about a year and a half old. Sam I Am went too, as he is entered in a trial in a couple of weeks, and I thought maybe he'd learn by, I don't know, osmosis possibly.

I love watching animals learn. I loved it when I worked with young horses, and I love it with dogs. Our teacher is one of our Kennel Club members and she's patient and kind and explains things well, so neither the dogs nor the humans are having anything but fun. Lindy Loo and Swede William have gotten a little headstart; yet another Kennel Club member took pity on me this fall and graciously has given me some private lessons at her home. I could tell she has started us off on the right feet, because both of the puppies were thrilled tonight to see the equipment.

We think that humans are the only ones who learn by observation, but I don't believe it for a minute. Back when I trained young horses to accept a saddle and rider, I soon realized that it was exponentially easier and less traumatic when the horses had seen other horses be ridden. When youngsters came from broodmare farms where they never had seen a horse under tack, no matter how used to being handled they were, they were much harder to convince that this was a reasonable proposal!

I had messed up training poor Sam I Am the teeter. (In Agility, one of the obstacles is a seesaw. The dog runs up one side, hesitates slightly as he reaches the fulcrum point, and then runs down after the teeter tots.) Sam was afraid. So for two training sessions last year, I stood Sammy next to the teeter while the advanced dogs ran over it. And every time a dog banged the teeter, I gave Sammy a treat. Bang! Treat. Bang! Treat. After watching all those dogs and getting treats just for watching, he stopped being afraid. Now I have to work on slowing him down on the teeter!

In tonight's class there was a beautiful big Doberman. Just a gorgeous dog with a gleaming coat that a Pantene commercial would crave. His handler blatantly adores the dog and is justifiably proud. To introduce the dogs to the A-frame, a pause table that was set at about a foot off the ground was placed on the side almost at the bottom of the A-frame. The dogs were to jump up on the table, and then ease onto the A-frame and creep down to the bottom. Just a few steps. The Doberman thought this was not a clever thing to do with his Monday night. He climbed willingly onto the table, but was intimidated by the pitch of the A-frame. Our instructor wisely didn't want to frighten him, and when he placed just one paw on the obstacle, she had his handler give him a treat, and tell him he was brave, and that was it.

I looked at the Dobe as the other dogs climbed onto the table and down the A-frame. He'd watch, and then glance at his handler. And wag. I could see his brain working. When it was his turn again, he climbed right up on the table and then put one of his big, gentle paws on the A-frame. And with trepidation but without hesitation, there went the next foot and the next and the next and he had his courageous bulk on that steep ramp and there he was with his back feet on and front feet on terra firma and he was getting treats and whoops of praise and he fairly beamed and his human beamed right back and is there anything much cooler on Earth?



It's amazing what dogs will do to please us. Astonishing how much they trust us.

hug your hounds


  1. That is neat that we dogs learn so well by watching others. My mom has gone to bill's art website and is now in love with a painiting she can never afford.

  2. Dogs are just so innocent and so smart.

    They have fantastic memories. While I have forgotten many people, Koobuss hasn't forgotten any. Koobie has also learned, on her own, just what she needs to do to get what she wants.

    Dogs can think and dogs can solve problems. They are far more intelligent than mankind originally believed. We have been underestimating them for centuries.

    Humans are fortunate to have dogs as their friends. With all of our imperfections, dogs still love us, whether we deserve it or not. How many humans are capable of that?

    Koobie's Mom

  3. We canines are always truthful and sincere but hoomans are always the one to betray us. Dun you think so?


  4. As the Teeter Tots! That is a classic! I love it! Maybe I will have time to blog this week.

  5. I totally agree that dogs learn from watching other dogs, I've seen this with other pups watching Taj swim at the ocean and in our pool, and I have also seen Taj copy my actions (he watched me hit bells with my hand before going outside, and the next time he wanted out, he pawed the bells himself, he is also leanring to paw open a very difficult gate after watching me do it with my foot).

    I wish there were more trianing groups that treat dogs with respect (like your class, and the one we go to. Unfortunately, there are many that still use outdated and harsh training techniques.


    Michelle and Taj

  6. They do watch and learn don't they!? I do though wish that Lrcher No. 2 had watched and learnt from Lurcher No.1 a bit more!

  7. Dear Servant. Muzzer suggested I write and thank you for all the hugs I get when she reads us the blog. Even Teka gets a hug. So thank you from me and Teka. And muzzer too. Dad doesn't say much. He's a Philosopher, you know.


  8. You're absolutely right! I just love working with animals and see them learn, too! PS : the wrigglebutts passed on an award to you and the Waggle!

    Ane & crew

  9. Patience, it is so true that animals do learn from watching each other. Leetle Nearly learned how to use the nuzzler to get fresh water from his buds Buster and Skeezix. What's funny is each one has a different approach to using the nuzzler.

    Oh and reading about that Dobe, made me tear up thinking about my dear sweet Beau.

    Thanks bunches,


  10. Doggy beds fit for Royalty and made with lots of love I'll bet!

  11. And only the smart and compassionate human beings know how smart we doggies are!!!!!

    hee hee hee

    Frenchie Snorts

  12. Dogs are just the very best.

    I wondered if Sam I Am was the one on my dog pals? He is such a sweetheart.

    And I checked your Bill's website - the other day - his art is amazing.

    We love all those colour mixes.

    We have a local artist here who we are cultivating, have actually purchased three of hers now, one large one (a treat for ourselves!) and two much smaller ones.

    Her colours remind me of your Bill's.

    here is the link

    We know nothing at all about art, but we know what we like, and it is the rich colours and vibrancy which makes us enjoy the pictures.

    love and much light,

    Jeannie from Scotland xxxx

  13. meant to say in my last post, if you look at Iona's website

    in the back catalogue, the one we purchased last year was called

    "Spring Chicken", the web site pic does not do it justice, but it is totally amazing in situ.

    I love your Bill's work, it is so vibrant.

    Jeannie xxxxxx

  14. You are a fabulous writer. I enjoy reading you stories! Keep up the great work!


  15. I am so glad to hear the "the kids" are doing agility. Dogs think and feel so much more than most people realize. There really is someone home there, behind those loving eyes.


  16. What a great story, I need to start training my guys to do more tricks :)

  17. Who are you calling a dumb cat? I would never do what the mortals make you do. I know more than all your nine doggie brains put together!


  18. Patience
    That sounds like so much fun fow the dogs and fow you..I think it would be gweat to go to agility class..I bet MYSamI am will be the BEST!!!
    thank you fow the hugs
    smoochie kisses

  19. Our girl works with horses and they sure do have an interesting smell! Mom always thought our Shadow would be good at agility but she has a hard time focusing around other dogs.

  20. phoebe has learnt how to get into her bed to have her lead put on from joker (the manic sliding around on laminate floors is bad for the nerves) and also to sit from rokit. i haven't started training her at all yet as she is still settling down but she leaps into her bed and sits down the minute i get her lead!

  21. All the whippets and specially Sam I am,Hehehe
    thank you Sam..I just got white, but now you'we making me tuwn pink..I think my sissy would be vewy lucky to have Sweed William like hew..maybe we could double date ow something?

    I wead in youw sewvants' book that you huwt youwself..awe you OKI know that was a while ago, but I still wowwy
    smoochie kisses to all of you..a weally soft one fow the vewy old dog

  22. If Tilly watches me dusting and doing the easier household chores what do you reckon to a bit of doggy help around the house?

  23. Hi!

    It's me again.

    I gave you an award today. Check my blog for the details.

    Love and Koobuss Kisses,

  24. Patience, THANK YOU for this story. Taz is my Dobie referred to in the last two paragraphs. This story was completely unexpected and brought me a great deal of pleasure! Taz is a rescue dog that has brought me unbelievable devotion. Our bond is very strong and building daily. The folks at the PKC have been so very good to us!


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