Since Wednesday is usually "What's This Wednesday" around here, and I was all sorts of frustrated yesterday, I missed posting about Glacier's first Rally Obedience class. The class takes place every Wednesday night for the next six weeks.There are eight students in the class and one instructor and one assistant. Glacier is the only yellow lab, but there is a chocolate lab, a golden retriever, two shelties, a Bernese Mountain Dog, another dog I can't remember and I'm not sure what the last dog is because he/she was not there.
The class was started off by everyone introducing themselves and their dogs. I went first and somehow I introduced myself standing backwards to the circle. LOL How I got facing the wrong direction I have no idea, but I realised it after the first person introduced herself and her voice was coming from behind me. Woops. Nothing like a first impression.
After some debriefing about collar types-anything goes except shock and prong collars, which is just fine with me-class rules-no talking when the instructor is talking-and a few other things, the class began. Our instructor, I will call her Miss B, showed the class a few different Rally signs and explained what they meant. Because I had skipped right into the Rally Novice class, we aren't really learning any new cues, but rather polishing the handler and dog's performances and the ability of the handler to interpret the different instructional signs. Miss B was quite good at describing what the signs looked like to me. I won't actually need to know this if I choose to show my dogs because I will have someone interpreting the signs for me at competitions, but I still like to know what the signs look like for my own interest. After explaining two or three signs the class would split into two groups and practice.
I was pretty impressed with Glacier. He was a little unfocused since there were so many dogs around and he technically wasn't doing any guide work, but the more signs we did the better he got. Glacier wasn't the only one with focusing issues. There was one dog, and I don't know who, that was bouncing all over the place. I was glad when Miss B said that the dogs are not to socialize with each other while in class because this was a working atmosphere for the dogs and handlers. If the dogs are allowed to be all crazy when they are in class, then it has set the tone for competitions. The dogs would think it was okay to meet and greet every other four legged furry creature that went by and that would not allow either of the dogs to focus and perform well. This suited me just fine because it means that Glacier can work on his "dog distractions." Dog distractions are exactly what they sound like; Glacier being distracted by other dogs. In harness it is very important that guide dogs do not interact or try to play with dogs that they may encounter. If the guide dog is distracted by another animal, or human being for that matter, that could prove to be dangerous for the handler. So when Miss B said no puppy play, only on our own time, I was very happy.
The cues that we practised were quite easy and Glacier did very well. We had to do "sit" and then a "down." We also had to practice a few different turns, including a 360 circle. I was so excited when I was able to turn in a circle and end up back at the spot where we started. Glacier has to walk with a loose leash and so I have to rely on my own sense of direction to tell him, and myself, where to go. We also had to make 90 degree turns to the left and right. Glacier and I are very good at the right hand turn, but need to practice the left. He walks way out in front of me when turning and I accidentally bump him with my knee or trip over him. So, in the next couple of days, it is my goal to be able to make that turn smoothly and without Glacier and I tripping over one another. All of the turns and "sits" we did all have fancy names, but I figure that is just confusing.
We also need to practice his "sit" and "down" positioning. He likes to cross over in front of me instead of lying parallel to my side.
When we were at Leader Dogs for the Blind, his "sit" and "down" position were perfect. He would just slide into a "sit" or "down" right where he was if I asked him to. Now he wiggles his bum or takes a few steps so that he ends up lying in the wrong spot. So, I suppose that is another goal of ours.
I have also received a document from the AKC outlining the accommodations that have to be made for a blind handler. I am very excited that there are actually rules in place to ensure equal opportunity to compete. I haven't looked at the document yet, so here's to hoping that the rules are actually useful. :)
I think it was a good class and in the long run I believe that it will be good for Glacier. It makes him focus on me regardless of the distractions around us. Miss B is very good about not interacting with the dogs as well, which I think is also good for Glacier. Rally Obedience class is time that he and I get to spend together having fun and learning at the same time.