oh my auggie

Contact Obstacles

Alternatively, “count your blessings.”
I’ve been sick for over a week at this point and am rather doped up on cold meds, so please forgive anything random, weird, or horribly misspelled in this post.

Contact obstacles have always presented a challenge. Not for Auggie, oh no. For me. Auggie, you see, just loves contact obstacles. He loves jumps too, and tunnels, but there is little else in this world so rewarding to him as charging up an a-frame, the teeter, or the dogwalk. When it comes to the a-frame, there is also little else so rewarding as springing OFF it about halfway down the other side, completely blowing the contact area. This has never been as much of a problem with the dogwalk or the teeter. They are thin enough that he is usually watching his step and moving at just enough speed that his brain can catch up and remind him that there is a behaviour he needs to do to correctly complete this obstacle down at the bottom.
The a-frame, however, is so big and wide, and he gets SUCH a kick out of it, that his brain apparently flies out the window. Have you ever seen those dogs that LEAP over the top of the a-frame like it’s a jump or something? It’s pretty scary, right? Yeah, Auggie likes to do that sometimes. Scares the crap out of me. See, on the a-frame, all he cares about is the “WHEEEEE!” of running up it full speed, hopping over the top, and flying off it as soon as he thinks he can safely land on the ground and less about the “whee” involved with scooting his little butt down to the bottom of the a-frame and doing the obstacle correctly.

Now, I will reiterate here that Auggie is not the best judge of what is safe for him. This is the dog who ate a poisonous amaryllis bulb; the dog who ate a poisonous mushroom with gusto, and then, as I was trying to keep him away from it while I scooped up the remaining mushrooms, tried to gobble the rest as though I had spilled dog treats all over the floor and he was trying to thief them before I could pick them all up. OBVIOUSLY he is no judge of “what is safe for Auggie” and “what can kill Auggie.” Similarly, he is not the best judge of “what is safe for Auggie to leap from” and “what can break Auggie.” This has always been a big pain for me as I’m SURE he is going to hurt himself, or at least will suffer joint pain later in life from the constant shock he MUST be feeling when he jumps off that a-frame completely clear of the 42″ long contact zone.

So it is for two reasons that it is agonizing that Auggie enjoys blowing is a-frame contact. It’s agonizing because we’ve never Q’d in standard because of it and sometimes I think we never will, hahaha. But it’s also terrible to think of him hurting himself.

We had a fun run yesterday, and given Auggie hasn’t been on a full-height a-frame since October or so he was like “OMG YAAAAAY!” and off-courses onto it (it was actually set up right behind the first jump we took, and he broke his sit-stay to go check out the a-frame before we even got started – snot!). Since it was a fun run and we were allowed to re-do things if we wanted, I ended up putting him over it about five times (when it was ACTUALLY time to do it) before he remembered what I was expecting while I was screaming “YOU TOUCH YOU TOUCH YOU TOUCH” at him, and it still was a less than perfect 2o2o. By that I mean I stationed myself right at the bottom of the a-frame and screamed “TOUCH TOUCH” at him and he pretty much crashed into me because I was body-blocking him. *facepalm*
To his credit, in the next course he managed a FAR better 2o2o… that is, I still body-blocked him but he didn’t crash into me, he hit the brakes early enough.
I can hardly call this entirely his fault. He got out there and was like “OMG OMG OMG THIS IS AWESOME” because we’ve been working indoors for ages and don’t have nearly the amount of space the club has, so not as much stuff set up. Not to mention I’ve been sick for a week so we haven’t even been able to play together much. This was the most exciting thing in the world for Auggie and part of why I dragged myself out to the run, despite being sick.

So obviously, training a target command and re-working his contacts are still on our Agility Goals list.

Now, you might remember that I said this could be alternatively titled “count your blessings.” I say that because I know a lot of people who have other real issues with contact obstacles… dogs that won’t go up them, dogs that don’t pick up enough speed to make it over the a-frame, dogs that are fearful on the teeter, dogs that bail on the UPside of the frame, so on and so forth. Besides one time that Auggie got teeter buggies for no apparent reason (and then got OVER his teeter buggies for no apparent reason… go figure) we have never had a problem getting him to take any obstacle at all. He loves them and has never been afraid of them. Yes, this love and sheer joy he gets out of performing them is the same that leads him to blow contacts with gusto – but I think I will still count it a blessing.

Oh yes, and the other major occurance in the fun run… we haven’t worked a heck of a lot on obstacle discrimination, particularly when it comes to the tunnel under the a-frame (or dog walk, even.) Given the choice, Auggie will want to take the contact obstacle 99% of the time. Well, in the second course they placed the tunnel under the a-frame. “Crapmuffins!” I thought. There is no problem getting him up the a-frame when it’s time for that, but getting him to take the TUNNEL rather than the frame is the challenge. There was a horseshoe of jumps set up before we got to the tunnel, and I decided my only hope was if I started to scream “TUNNEL TUNNEL TUNNEL TUNNEL” as SOON as he was in the air over that jump, in a desperate attempt to get him to really hear me and look for the tunnel. I kid you not, while walking the course I fiddled with that multiple times to try and remind myself to frantically start screaming “tunnel” with the proper timing. The other issue was that I wanted to be on the side of the a-frame, to try and physically block him if I had to, so I would need to rear cross. We have come leaps and bounds with our rear crosses into tunnels this winter, which was a big goal for me, but we’re certainly not perfect with them, so it was a toss up if he’d even allow the rear cross.
So let me walk you through what I went through. Auggie comes off the table, goes over jump 1, jump 2, here comes jump 3, okay he’s in the air TUNNEL TUNNEL TUNNEL TUNNEL!!!!
He looked at the tunnel. He saw it. Would he take it? Would he stay in once he realized I was rear crossing him, or go “HEY WAIT!!” and pop back out on me?
He went into the tunnel.
I crossed behind, and while crossing I could see his little butt vanishing away into the tunnel, unphased and undeterred by the fact that I had rear crossed him.
I pumped my fist and hissed “YESSSSSS!” to myself. If I had video I bet it would have looked hilarious, the victory celebrating I was having mid-course as I hustled to the other end of that tunnel.

But if I had dropped dead at that very second, I guarantee you that I would have died the happiest, proudest dog owner in the world.
Which is saying something since all the screaming basically destroyed my voice, and right after the fun run, I immediately went to the doctor to discover I had bronchitis. Whoop whoop!

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