I have to admit, at times I was worried that playing at agility on top of obedience might be overwhelming at best, detrimental at worst. I was worried that maybe I would have to choose one over the other... after all, three years of "watch me" certainly created a dog who will twist around on agility equipment to continue to stare at me.
But having both agility and obedience in our lives has improved things tenfold.
Maybe it's the added challenges. Maybe it's the increased exercise and conditioning. I think those things are big contributors, but I also think that engaging in exercises where Scorch gets to run ahead of me and set the pace really opened up a whole new world. With heeling, Scorch often felt barely restrained. But suddenly, heeling feels more natural, and I think it's because he has an outlet for his desire to work and run at the same time. He also seems less anxious and frenetic. He still whines if he's bored, but he calms down much faster overall.
And we've only just begun!
There's still an ongoing struggle to teach him to target 2on2off without me right in front of him. He tends to want to turn around, face me, then target, thus falling off the obstacle. But we've had a few successes and we're getting somewhere.
Tonight I pulled out the dumbbell for the first time in a while. We did 6 retrieves on the flat and 4 retrieves over the jump. We had a 100% success rate on the flat (although he was occasionally a bit far away on the front, he did better when I upped the encouragement) and a 50% success rate with the jump. He always jumped on the way to the dumbbell but in the two middle sessions he came back around the jump. Still, he held on to the dumbbell so I calmly took it from him and started over. He got jackpots the two times he was successful and we ended it there.
The biggest Open exercise we need to work on is the broad jump. His out of sight stays are coming along great and are pretty solid. I need to start attending Friday night run throughs and buddy trains to get him back into a line of dogs. It's been a while since we've done figure 8s but he always has gotten full points in trial, so I'm not too concerned.
The plan right now is to show in Rally Advanced at the Orlando trial. It'll give us some low-stress trial experience, and the judge is Robert Withers, who is a pleasure to show under. My expectations are pretty high, but I'm not putting a whole lot of pressure on it (yet).