Monday, March 3, 2014

The Surprise Dog Agility Course

There is a theory that is accepted fact in Psychology called the "Tabula Rasa" or the blank slate.

You have heard it before.  An individual is born with a mind that is a blank slate upon which all knowledge and experience is to become written.

I believe that is the same with dogs.

You see, the nice thing about a blank slate is that you can erase it.  What you erased won't be completely gone, but what was there will leave an echo while the new knowledge will be sharp and clear.

That is especially true to remember with rescue dogs, and of course to rescue cats and adoptive animals and people everywhere.

We got our Rack without knowing what had been done to him.  He was a terrified little ball of fur who was seven months old and simply didn't know what was going on.  I met him in the back room of the Dog Liberators and he seemed to know he could trust me.  He was well known for running away and cowering in a corner.  One of the first pictures of this gentle soul was him cowering in a corner of a concrete block cubicle in a rescue somewhere.

We fixed that.

He's now much more curious about is surroundings and is beginning to show his likes and dislikes about things around him.

One night we were shocked as to how he puts things together and showed us an echo of a moment of before he met us.   He also gave us something to work with.

It is our habit to sit in front of Wilton Manors, FL City Hall at least twice a week for about fifteen minutes.  We sit on a concrete wall, next to a busy road with fire engines, motorcycles, busses, and people.  This is a lot for the little guy to take in.  He started doing this in abject horror and fear.  He'd sit there shivering in terror until we would leave, then jump up and scrabble away to get off the hated Drive.

The edge has gotten blunted off of that particular reaction.  He's still uneasy with sitting around out there exposed but now he understands that we will be there for a while. He is learning to try to enjoy the experience.


When we left, we walked South on the Drive, then would cut behind a bar so that he wouldn't have to be greeted by any patrons who may be a bit too insistent to say hello.  Rack is a beautiful dog, and we're continuing the tradition of having the Canine Ambassador to Snowbirds here in Wilton Manors, whether he likes it or not.

He visibly relaxes once we get off the Drive, and behind the bar.  We did see one thing that was completely unexpected.

There is valet parking there.  Mind you, that is normal here, or as normal as it could be to have a stranger drive your car that is. 

That particular night, they had out little traffic cones.  The ones that look like a day-glow orange dunce cap were set four in a line to mark a do-not-park area, and we were paying little attention.

That is, the three humans and one of the two dogs did.   Rack was tugging me toward the cones like a magnet to steel.

Those four cones were an old friend and he knew what to do with them!

First he walked to the far side of the nearest of the cones.
He then weaved back toward us and toward the line of cones to the right.

We thought he was just being curious, or weird, or both, and he was done with it.   Nope, wrong!

The second cone he passed to the right, then looped to the left.
Having seen this same action on TV many times,  I expected and got the next pass to the left of cone three.
My dog was doing an improvised agility course in back of a bar!
Looping to the right of the cone, he weaved past cone four.

Yes, my dog who I have never taken to an agility course just "involuntarily" weaved through a course of four cones, on his own, with no coaching on my part.  Perfectly I might add!

I asked the rest, did you just see that?
They had and we were all quite surprised.

The next time through there, we tried it again.  It was a couple days later, and yes, Rack decided to do the old bob and weave like a champ.  Pass to the left of cone one and weave back and forth until done.

I'll be trying this with him in the future.  He's indifferent towards many toys.  He will pick up tennis balls from all over the house and drop them in his bed at night as if to herd his puppies back to the pack for sleep.  He could care less about my large swimming pool.  I don't blame him, I'm not exactly a fan of the thing either.

But this agility stuff?   I have a stand of bamboo that can be cut to form weave poles if I need them.  I will try that out back where there aren't any distractions.  I'm sure he will find that intriguing as well.

It's all towards keeping him mentally stimulated.  You CAN have a herding dog in an urban setting, but if you don't keep their minds active, they will drive you insane.  Guaranteed.  If you do keep your dog's mind active, you will have an amazing companion for life - a Dog Of A Lifetime.  Mine is in the making, and you can have one too with just a little practice.

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