After our regular agility class this morning, we did a session where we each ran someone else’s dog through a simple course of jumps. There are a few advantages to doing this; one is that you get to work with a dog different from your own and with whom you don’t necessarily have much of a relationship, so you may really have to put a lot of effort into getting the dog to work with you.
Another advantage is that you actually get to watch your own dog run the course! It might seem as though you get to do that all the time, but in reality when running a dog you’re thinking about the dog’s path through the course, your own path, how to get there, how to recover from a mistake, connecting with the dog… there’s no time to stand there and watch your dog and think he looks amazing… something I’ve been guilty of on more than one occasion, missing part of the course as a result. Oops.
We drew names out of a dog bowl. My trainer picked Seelie, and I picked a friend’s dog – a big black lab named Riptide. Before any of us could try to run the dog, we needed to connect with them. Seelie seemed easy for my trainer – he knows her well and he’ll work with anyone when there’s food involved. Watching him run was a blast… I’m biased, but my dog is beautiful. Unfortunately, my trainer was able to execute a move called a blind cross with him – which means I have no excuses. Seelie seemed to have fun; he barked a few times when he didn’t read her body language correctly and ended up off course. They’re so cued in to the tiniest moves that I imagine working with a different person is like having to understand someone speaking the same language but with a very thick accent.
Riptide’s favorite thing is a tennis ball, so my friend gave me the ball and I spent several minutes throwing the ball for Rip, trying to connect with her. Riptide is extremely attached to her mom, so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hold her attention. When it was our turn to run, Rip could see her mom with our trainer’s dog, so she was a bit torn about what to do. I was able to hold her attention, though, and we ran the course pretty well. Watching is so different from running… Rip is a lot faster than I’d thought. We had a good time, although I think Seelie pitched a hissy fit. A lot of dogs aren’t thrilled to see their people working with another dog. I’m hoping we do this dog swap again and I get a chance to run a variety of dogs.