January 26, 2010

Staying Focused

When Gretchen and I are in agility class, Sandra (the instructor) is often heard yelling, “Get you hand out of your pockets!” Since I don’t have pockets, this is obviously an instruction for Gretchen who keeps dog treats in her pockets always. Always!

If Gretchen reaches into her pockets too soon to pull out a reward for me, I lose my focus. Since I’m such a smart dog, I know what a hand in a pocket means and I stop dead in my tracks waiting to be rewarded. This isn’t good if I’m on the top of the A frame (a wooden structure shaped like an “A” that i must run up, then down, and then stop at the bottom and wait for the next instruction). If Gretchen’s hand goes into her pocket, I’m sure to stop a the top of the A frame and well, that defeats the purpose of being a fast and obedient dog on the agility course.

But I’m not the only one focused on Gretchen’s pockets. Ollie, our first walk of the day, always sniffs at Gretchen’s pockets when we first arrived. He knows that goodness flows from those pockets and he stares at them with as much attention as his wiggly self can muster.

Gemma, on the other hand, knows all about the pockets, but if something else is more interesting – a squirrel, another dog, god forbid a cat — she loses any focus she’d mustered for the pockets. But when she focuses on the pockets, she focuses as only a terrier can do.

As you can see, these two got to walk together today. I was at home NOT eating my breakfast while these two checked out the foggy view of the city.

The fog cleared, though, revealing a nice day. Not completely cloud free, but still, no rain and lots of blue skies.  Ollie and Gemma had every intention of playing at the tennis courts, but they were being used so instead, they hiked up the hill and visited Dog Mania (pet store) for a bit and then walked along the ridge back to Ollie’s house where Ollie received a treat from one of those anointed pockets he so diligently watches!

Gemma then made her way back to her house, but her eyes and nose were more fixed on squirrels than pockets.

Rosie was up next and for some reason, the pocket of joy are a sign for Rosie to get a bit worried. This is a new phenomenon, so Gretchen’s to changing the treat pocket and working on giving Rosie treats with her right hand instead of the left. And she’s also put them on top of things and encouraging Rosie to climb up to get them. It’s working. Even when another dog walks by, it’s working. Of course, the dog who walked by was Quillette with Jessica and let me tell you, Quillette knows how to focus on a pocket! She was little miffed she couldn’t come visit Gretchen, but Rosie’s shy that way, so Quillette had to begrudgingly make her way home.

After Rosie came Saber. Since Saber is so young, he’s still learning about the pockets of hope and love. And he’s still learning about focus.

Today he was solely focused on stealing my ball. It’s his new trick, but I’m patient. I know he’ll eventually drop it and when he does, that ball is mine!

Still, when he’s good and tired he completely understands what happens next when Gretchen puts her hand in her pocket! Even from far away!

Tonight is another agility class. I missed last week because Gretchen wasn’t feeling well, but today she’ll be in top form, I’m sure. So top, I hope, that Sandra won’t have to remind her to reward me AFTER I do the course, not during. Darn it!

Until tomorrow,


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