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Distractions - no experience

bob d

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Sparc loves agility stuff, and I have been making obstacles in the back yard for him - at least three times each day we go through his 'course' (multiple jumps, large teeter, tire jump, weave pole, 'plank to walk' - and a bit more. )


He listens to me, takes direction well, learns stunningly quickly, and just appears to love this stuff - the only issue is...


Sparc is now 13 months old - when he was 7 month old I was diagnosed with cancer, and I have, for the past 6 months been spending A LOT of time in hospital (chemo and 4 surgeries) - the net effect is Sparc has not, in all this time, had any exposure to other dogs (except for our 9 YO Sheltie), or much exposure other people (chemo has been brutal, and I have had to worry about infection, so I've been a 'home body' for nearly all this time).


My concern is that I want to find a club / group / gathering / .... where I can take Sparc to play / experience agility, but for half his life he has had no experience with distractions - and I know, when people come to visit as an example, he gets very wound up ...


He is (like all BCs) so smart, but I wonder if he will ever get over this? I am more than a little worried that he is always going to pee when meeting new people, and generally get stupid for a bit - and from that I worry that he won't settle and enjoy the 'agility group experience'


I do plan to try to help him get over this, but I wonder ??


(Next Tuesday is cycle 6 of chemo for me - home from hospital on Saturday, and I'm DONE woohoo1.gif - as soon as I stop throwing up.. I plan to find a BC group for us :rolleyes: )

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We actually do live on a very quiet and rural island - so at home, or in the neighbourhood (forest) there are really no great distractions either. (just lots of birds, deer, etc - he stares at them)


While I've been in hospital (basically 5 days every 3 weeks), he gets to walk around part of the University of Washington campus with my wife - she spends most of her days with me (in the hospital), and the dogs are sort of stuck in the van - except for their walks and play time before she comes to visit me.. He is a good sport about this, but shys away from other dogs and people (making control of him very easy for the wife).


It just hit me recently that the poor little guy was originally very good in social environments, but now, after all these months, has evolved into a 'shy' and 'scared' dog when encountering people and other dogs. I do plan to expose him to lots of stuff (distractions) so he will have a chance to get over it, but.... (I worry about him)..

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Hey Bob D, good to hear from you again! I want you to know that thanks to you and a few others on this board, I decided I could no longer live with the camera I had and have just taken the plunge for the next model up (though nowhere near as big as the step you took). We'll see if I can manage to get any pictures to rival yours....


About Sparc, I have a few thoughts to offer:


1. Sparc is growing up. His behavior towards dogs and people was going to change one way or another regardless of what he was or wasn't exposed to during that time. We all take for granted that humans change dramatically during adolescence, but we often expect dog personalities to remain completely static from the day they walk in the door. Adolescence is a time of change for all of us.


2. Adult BCs often don't want much to do with other dogs. That's not Sparc being unusual, and there's no reason at all that he needs to take an interest in playing with other dogs, as long as he has the skills to avoid situations he doesn't want to be in. BC body language is relatively reserved compared to a lot of other breeds, and that makes BCs a bit uncomfortable with lab-types that just come bounding up with no introduction. We call it breed snobbery, but really it's that different breeds have different manners and are put off by dogs with manners that seem strange to them.


3. The submissive peeing nearly always goes away with maturity. Just ignore it. During that phase I did try to anticipate it though, making sure that when my adolescent dog met new dogs it was outdoors where any pee wouldn't stain someone's carpet.


4, A huge part of learning to do agility is the dog learning self control in ever more distracting settings. Sparc will be no different from many other dogs in this respect. Most dogs do agility with much better focus in their own backyard than in a public setting, but that doesn't really count unless you never want to do agility in public. Otherwise, you and Sparc have lots to learn, along with the rest of us, and if you find a good club or class you will find everyone else working on that issue to some degree as well.


My advice is not to try too hard to push Sparc to be social with people and dogs. Let him tell you how much he can handle. Don't feel like he needs to "meet" every dog he sees. If he wants to stand at a distance and observe, or watch through a fence, let him. I think he'll build confidence faster that way, and you'll develop sensitivity for what level of interaction Sparc will tolerate as he progresses.


I once took a class from a couple of great trainers. Unfortunately, the room was just too darn small for my dog. It forced her to be so close to the other dogs that she couldn't concentrate on the class. There was nothing wrong with her, the instructors, or the other dogs. It was just asking too much of her at the time. She needed more personal space to be comfortable than the setting allowed. I feel that way a lot too when I visit the city, and I don't really see a need to change.


When you're ready, here's a page that lists most of the agility clubs and some of the trainers in your area:




Rock on!

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Thanks Alaska, some excellent points and things to consider. Sparc is my first BC, it is a wonderful match (the two of us), but I don't know the breed terribly well except for what I read here, and my 'hands on' stuff. He is a loving and very smart dog, and time will tell if the last 7 months will have 'warped him' in any way..


Looking forward to seeing your photos :rolleyes: .. Related (photos I mean) - I decided to put together an online album of a few of my photos of Sparc:





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