Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fighting The Zoomies

T.A.R.D.I.S. is being trained for Agility. I'm always working on it, and he's constantly enrolled in classes, since he was maybe 8 months old.

He is actually quite good on the equipment - he is pretty fearless for the most part and takes it all with pride. He's fast too - almost... too fast.

So fast in fact, that he finds running to be rewarding.

Now I am by no means a professional trainer - I am always learning new things and trying things to see what works best.

So one of things I've never had to deal with before has come up with this puppy - The Zoomies.

All of my other dogs are very old - and were that way when I got them. Because they were older, they were a bit more 'clingy' and less likely to leave my side, and they didn't move very fast. I've never experienced The Zoomies in my own dog before - although I have seen it in others.

I was always grateful that it wasn't my dog, and usually felt a twinge of embarrassment for the handler.

Now of course, it's my turn to deal with it.

T.A.R.D.I.S. loves to run, and he loves to run fast. When I take him to agility class, he goes with his happy fun tug leash, a bag full of toys, and a squeaky toy.

I made this leash out of fleece, some faux fur, and beautiful Tardis material.

He knows the drill - showing up for agility class is just going to be a fun time, and he's always eager to get started. 

Lately though, he has developed a habit of just running off, and once he gets going it's hard to call him back. And in his new class, he has a favorite dog - a beautiful blue Merle Australian Shepherd dog. When he sees that dog, he can't contain himself - he stays with me for a few obstacles, but usually, decides the Aussie is more fun, and so he darts off.

The past few classes have ended up with him timed out in a crate due to over obsessive Zoomies. In one case he squeezed out of the fence and ran into the other agility class even.

I've found this frustrating. I'm sure that's no surprise. My brilliant puppy who does so well in obedience, and has such lovely off-lead heeling - completely loses his brain in agility class.

After many weeks of frustration, last night we had a mild break through. His favorite dog was not in class. This gave me a better opportunity to work him without that added distraction, and I tried a few new tactics based on a variety of suggestions:
  • I practiced a few obstacles on lead. Like sending him over a jump, then calling him back to me. Or sending him over two jumps, then calling him back. Doing figure eights between jumps. Sending him back and forth through a tunnel. Making him take the teeter 20 times in a row.
  • I never let him look around bored. Every time he was just standing while I was listening to the teacher, I let him play tug with his special tug leash. Every so often, instead of always using food, I sometimes played tug instead.
  • After every few obstacles, I stopped what we were doing, and played random games. Sometimes tug, sometimes fetch, sometimes I gave him a squeaky toy, sometimes a jackpot of food, and sometimes just cuddles. I tried very hard to keep it constantly varied.
At the end of the class we set up our course... and he DID try to dart away from me once - he got nervous of the teeter and thought he'd rather bolt instead. I figure this was a clear case of it being stress related, so when I saw him put his ears back like he was ready to go - I threw his tug in front of him and dragged it back to me, and he chased it and engaged in play instead. After a few tugs, I skipped the teeter and moved to the next set of stuff. He finished the rest of the course with no problem.

It was almost miraculous that we made it, but my little guy did manage to stay with me for the rest of class. I hope next week is met with as much success.

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