Agility training round two: Epic fail

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I know. It doesn’t make sense. But I am really mad at Cooper.

“You’re not really mad at me, are you? Just look how cute I am!”

I’m mad at him for being scared. Well, not for being scared per se but for the way he reacted while scared. I’m fully aware that me being mad is illogical. I know. I’m working on it.

It started out badly: We pulled up to the training facility. The owner’s dogs were out in her yard barking, but Cooper couldn’t see them through the fence. The neighbor’s dog was out barking, and Cooper could see him charging their fence. He jumped out of the car quivering, his tail tucked, his ears back. We walked into the facility. From the entrance you can’t see all the way into the room, and the trainer called a hello… and Cooper lost it. I mean, meltdown city. Piloerected (aka hackles up), tail tucked, defensive barking and snarling. The works.

So the trainer suggested we move outside to the agility area. That made perfect sense. We would move from an enclosed weird-smelling dark space to the open air outside. But going through the door proved to be a challenge when he opened it for us and Cooper had to skitter past him to get outside. Coop whirled around and let loose another torrent of barks, snaps, and snarls.

Not a good start to our first of four private agility sessions.

We started agility a while ago in a group class at another facility, and – for the most part – it went well. By the end of those sessions, the trainer (a woman, which I think is relevant here) noted how much more confident he was. In a room with several other dogs and their people (aka strangers), he was able to complete a short course off leash.

So I thought a private session at an outdoor facility would be just the thing to continue our progress! Right?

Right, Cooper?!

Here’s the thing: He did GREAT on the obstacles. In our previous class, we never tackled the weave poles. By the end of this class, he had a good sense of what to do. He got the dog walk, the tire jump, the pause box. He leapt over jumps, and he sailed through mini-courses.

But in between every single obstacle (every. single. obstacle.), he went off on the trainer who, bless his heart, kept a big smile on his face and stood on the opposite side of the field the entire time. In between weaving, Coop would whip his head around, bark ferociously, then weave around the next pole. On the one hand, it was quite the multitasking. On the other hand…

I don’t know, guys. Prior to the whole year-off cancer situation, Cooper and I had done a lot of training – classes, both private and group, in addition to stuff around the neighborhood – to work on his fears. We made progress. I knew the last year set him back. I just had no idea how far.

Turns out: Faaaaaarrrrrrr.

I think some of the contributing factors were the new location, the greeting from the barking dogs, the trainer startling him with the hello, the fact that the trainer was male, and this was our first real foray into training (outside of neighborhood walks) since he surgically attached himself to my ankle and named himself my sole protector during cancer treatment.

And I’m so mad. Not really at Cooper, I guess, but at the situation. I feel sad that he’s just so scared all the time and that the progress we made has been wiped away and that we’re further behind than where we started from.

Sigh.

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