Not Exactly Agility, But…

When Coach was just about a year old, I was looking for something besides Nose Work to do with him, something that was a little more handler focused, where he would have to take direction from me and we’d work together as a team.  Since I was teaching Beginner, Upper Beginner and Pre Intermediate Agility classes, I couldn’t run him in those levels, which is what he needed.  I was dabbling around with him and agility at home and before / between / after classes, waiting for him to get accomplished enough to join Paul’s Pre Competition class – the only time slot I had in my evening schedule to work him.

In the meantime, when looking for a daytime class we could do, I came across a class taught by my friend / nose work student Louise Daigle at the NHSPCA – Treibball!  It was 4p on Fridays, so Coach and I would do nose work class in the morning, then Treibball in the afternoon.

Now, I didn’t (and still don’t) know a whole lot about Treibball, other than the dogs move out and push a yoga ball back towards the handler, into a goal, like a soccer goal.  I wanted something where we could practice some impulse control, and have a task that we both worked together, since that is more like agility than nose work (where he is working pretty independently, and I have to keep up!)

So we did Intro to Treibball, which was just what I was looking for. It worked on self control, and it started basic with me sending him out to a mat to lie down (both left side and right side, like agility), and then working on targeting – nose touching – first my hand, then a sticky note. It wasn’t until about week 3 or 4 that the balls were introduced, and we’d put the sticky note on the ball, sit with the ball between our legs, and the sticky facing outwards. The dog is supposed to push the ball to the handler, not away, so the set up was to encourage that.

By week 6, I could move in different directions around the ball, and Coach would nose punch it or chest it to me. I could move a few feet away from it, and he would move behind the ball and nose punch / flip his nose at the ball to move it to me. I practiced sending him around the right side of the ball and the left side of the ball, sort of like sending your dog around an agility jump. Fun! I was bad at remembering what to call right and left directional (is it away to me, or come by?) but he was good at following my body cues.  But then class ended, and it was Christmas, and there was no “next level” after that.

I had an old yoga ball in the basement, and would go down and play around with it on and off. I taught Quattro the same things, although I’m sure I rushed him, and didn’t spend as much time on foundation work with him, as I had w/ Coach in class.  I bought a second ball at Target, and we would have fun burning energy in the basement, although there were some close moments where the ball would hit one of Craig’s bikes, and once hit the thermostat on the water heater.  I was thinking our water heater was dying, as we hadn’t had very hot showers in a few days, when the lightbulb went off – oops.

Well, I brought the balls outside the other day, and it was like they hadn’t seen them before!  New location = new learning had to happen, to bring them up to speed. I had the phone/camera set up on a step stool, and Quattro kept trying to climb on the ladder.  We had been working on picking up toys and a basket as a trick, and he thought I wanted him to pick up the cone I had set up as part of the goal. Oh boy.  After a shaky start, we ended up having a lot of fun!  Some of you saw the best clip that I posted to Facebook, well, here is the progression.  There is a nose work judge who was a K9 bomb dog handler in the Air Force, and one of his quotes that I like is, Practice makes progress.  So true.  You’ll see the progress – I sped up sections where we go off the rails – and it’s really nice to see the progress. Something to keep in mind when you see someone do an amazing agility run, or someone who has a well behaved dog, or even someone doing a mountain biking trick – they didn’t start out that way, there was a lot of practice and ugly moments that led to that beautiful, flawless run. And if you ask any great dog handler or professional sport person, I think they will all tell you, “yeah, we still have some things to work on”.

Here is some information about Treibball (which I clearly need to review!)

https://www.nationaltreibball.com/FAQ

https://www.clickertraining.com/node/3287

And here is our play session!  Note how twice Coach goes out independently and brings me a ball, while I’m focusing on Quattro. I don’t even really notice, until I watched the videos back. What a good dog! It makes me wonder how many other good moments he has that I’ve missed 😦  Its a good lesson to pay close attention, so you can capture and acknowledge those great moments.

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