Buffy has been an agility dog for many years. Even at her age (almost 10!), she is an exuberant dog. I don’t think she has met another living thing that she hasn’t liked.
When I first saw her at Petsmart (she is a Petsmart rescue) when she was about 10 months old, she was trying to lick everyone as they passed by her crate.
When we first started in agility, this exuberance was more than I knew how to deal with. Buff was all over the place, greeting the other dogs and people in the middle of a run. Sometimes, she would just go crazy and run around as fast as she could,
maybe taking a tunnel or two for fun. My heart was frequently in my throat as I watched her catapult herself off of the top of the A-frame or dog walk.
All of this drove me crazy! Agility training has evolved quite a bit since the time when we started. Contact and weave pole training have really changed. When we started, contact obstacle training constituted being told that the dog needed to go from one
side to the other and to get a paw in the contact zone, but we really weren’t shown any ways to accomplish this. Buff’s natural enthusiasm for leaping off of the obstacles along coupled with no method to get desired contact performance gave us a contact performance that plagued us for years.
As I became aware of different methods to work on contacts, I tried them. We had some contact success. We finally
settled into working well as a team, but I inadvertently taught her not to want to work away from me. And I never quite got her to understand contact obstacle performance.
There are 2 titles I really want for Buffy: ADCH & NATCH.
Both of them required distance work. We had none. Jan started working with us to get Buff to feel confident working away from me. She now is willing to work away from me. Not only does it help for the events were it is required, but I don’t have to run as much in the others! I can remember a jumpers run shortly after Buff working away from me. I sent her out to a jump with an out command. She went out – and out. She did a whole loop of jumps at a distance from me. Though she went off course, I was so happy that she did all that at such a distance. All I could
say to her was “GOOD DOG!” We are still working on communication skills at a distance, but we have gotten so much better.
She has gotten more of her NADAC distance challenges since March 2006 than she has gotten in previously in her career. Distance challenges are required for the chances events and for the regular events.
We need 5 more Chances Qs for Buff’s NATCH. Though we haven’t gotten a Master Gamblers Q in USDAA yet, we have gotten close several times in the past year.
We recently had a run where she got the gamble, but the buzzer just as she was about to stop the timer! We couldn’t have cut it any closer and not get that Q than we did. I count that as a big success for us.
Once the distance work started to go in the right direction, I realized we NQ’d mainly because of Buff’s contact performance. I had retrained her several times. In training, she always got her contacts with a 2 on/2 off performance. In a trial, Buff reverted to original behaviors, usually just missing the contact area. Buff and I took the summer of 2006 to retrain her contacts in Jan’s
contact class. When we started our retraining, it dawned on me that Buffy had no idea that contact performance had anything to do with her back legs. As far as she was concerned, she was doing what I asked: she went up and she went down and her
front paws hit the ground. With Jan’s help, Buff learned “backend
Her trial contact performance is getting so much better. At first, she was very confused in trials. We used NADAC’s training-in-the-ring to our advantage. She has gotten better and better every trial. She is doing the contact obstacles at speed and giving me 2o/2o. At a recent NADAC trial, the Chances distance challenge included the Aframe. Buff did a fantastic Aframe, nailing her 2o/2o with me about 30 feet away from her and moving! The photographer caught it, too! While we didn’t
Q on that run, I count it as one of our most successful runs because of that contact performance at such a distance!
I am very proud of Buffy! Who says you can’t teach
an old dog new tricks?!?