Thursday, October 16, 2014


     Ivy and I went to our first flyball class yesterday and it was FUN.  I took my ten-year-old assistant with me and it would have been difficult to manage without him, especially because we had to bring a crate and I couldn't have carried the crate, a motherload of treats, Ivy's squeaky doughnut that doesn't squeak anymore because she ripped the squeaker out, her portable water-drinking gadget and held on to the girl herself.  Thank you, True, for helping our first class go well.
     I was a little worried about the crate.  As in agility trials, in flyball the dogs are crated on the sidelines when it's not their turn.  But my agility teacher doesn't bother having us crate our dogs as it's a class, not a trial, and Ivy stopped sleeping in her crate some months ago.  But we did some practicing with her beforehand, which means I tossed pieces of bacon into the crate, said "Crate!" and clicked as she went in.  It turned out not to be an issue at all, thanks to the wonders of pig fat and the rigors of flyball; when it wasn't her turn, she seemed happy to have a break in her little den, as did the other dogs.  (The two small dogs in the class, "Chiquita" who looks like a dachshund but with long legs and "Kyle," a Yorkie, have crates that are decked out like palaces, or like the cribs of treasured infants, with many colorful fleecy items.  Ivy's crate looked rather Spartan in comparison, but more dignified for sure.)
    We worked on three things in the action-packed hour.  First, asking Ivy to go get a stationary ball and bring it back, the purpose of which is to see if she is "right-handed" or "left-handed."  This is determined by the direction she turns to come back to me, and will determine how we train her to do the swimmer's turn off the flyball box.  We couldn't figure out her handedness, however; she turned both ways an equal number of times, so my homework this week is to find out if she turns one way more than the other.
    Second, we worked on having each dog go over a series of jumps, placing the jumps close enough together so they could do them with only a single step in between.  No double-stepping!  Ivy was able to single-step with the jumps seven feet apart, but she'll have to work up to ten feet to be a true flyball Queen. One of the teachers of the class told me he had an Aussie mix who worked up to 9 feet and six inches but never could do ten, and he eventually had to give up.  "She's a good dog, though," he added.
     And third, we took each dog to a wall and asked them to target a chuck-it stick (touch it with their noses, no mouthing), moving it higher until the dogs had to jump some to touch it, front paws also touching the wall.  Next step to this will be having a toy in my other hand and swooping that hand down so Ivy turns towards it after the "touch," forming the basis for her swimmer's turn.  Ivy did great with the wall thing, and even got some applause.  But we've spent a lot of time working on targeting; when I hold out two fingers or hold out something else and say, "Touch," she will faithfully touch it with her nose and doesn't seem to ever think about not touching it.  I love it when time spent on something pays off!  It doesn't always happen that way.
     When Kathy, the head honcho, said, "Work on this at home," I started thinking about which wall in my house I want to sacrifice to Ivy's paws, and I'm still thinking.
     We went home, Ivy took a massive nap and I gave Revel a massive belly rub to make up for leaving him behind.  Next week I'm going to take my twelve-year-old assistant, because I can't have too many assistants; we can't wait.

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