Tonight was Perri's first night in a class called "Intermediate Rally" offered by our club. The class focuses on Rally Level 2 and is moving into the direction of Level 3. Off leash. Other dogs around. Scary.
I did not know what to expect out of Perri. Well, that's a lie. What I did expect was floor sniffing, floating and drifting and the general and upsetting disconnect that I have experienced so many times before. At most I expected the class to be a place for us both to build our confidence. I considered asking if we could leave the leash on. (And this would have been completely acceptable, two other classmates did this.)
The course had:
Halt-Fast Forward from Sit
Right Turn to Moving Down (two separate signs, but a preparation for Level 3)
Call Front Forward Left
Halt Pivot 180 Halt
Halt Pivot 90 Halt
About Left Turn (x2!)
Halt About Turn Right
Halt Recall Over Bar Jump
Bonus! Halt-Leave Dog-Down Dog-Return to Heel
Perri struggled with the 'Downs'. She has very weak downs, especially outside of our home, so I was not upset about this. I was pleased that, even though I had to crouch and use verbal and hand signal, that she hit the drop on the first cue. That's big for Perri!
The Fronts, Finishes and turns were second nature. That was truly a pleasant surprise. I was thinking, "My dog actually knows stuff that I taught her!" That may sound silly but Perri seems to drift around when I ask her for things due to stress, so to see her do behaviors without my begging was really cool for me. And she was straight when she did it all. Not a crooked front or finish to be seen.
And her heeling was very improved. Her pivoting was excellent. Could be a little tighter but we will get there and I can see we are headed in the absolute right direction. On the "straight-a-ways" our instructor encouraged me to open up and walk quickly and look at my poodle with her head up and front feet flying like a horse. She was really heeling with me!
The Recall exercise started off with a bang, Perri anticipated the recall! When we returned to the exercise I gasped (to fake her out) and she broke and I brought her back to her stay. She was demotivated by that and I felt a little guilty for even doing it. Breaking and anticipating has been a problem in the past with Perri though, so maybe it was not too bad to do. Our instructor reminded me of some ways that I can practice with Perri to overcome this issue. When she recalled demotivated all I had to do was say "Yay Perri!" and she was back up and running and slamming into her straight front.
I really really really really really did I mention really needed this confidence boost with Perri tonight. She is such an oddball, such a strange dog, she is "My Favorite Martian." I love her so bad it hurts and I don't know what to do with her at the same time. This baby step, so small, reminds me to keep chipping away at that shell that surrounds my amazing dog. Keep working, keep believing. "You're going to have a great little working dog on your hands in the future..." I was told at a match last summer. Could it be true?