Slow is Fast: Taking Extra Time for Foundation Skills

Gambit

Gambit and I are trying to move at his pace. In August, I wrote about how that meant repeating the Agility Foundation 2 class and not moving forward with some of our classmates. I am happy to report that this was the right choice for us.

By choosing to repeat the Agility Foundation 2 class and concentrate on our foundation work and focus, Gambit and I’ve become a stronger team. I can feel the connection – one of the main reasons I love agility – and his ability to focus on what I am asking him to do has improved greatly over the last 2 months. He nailed his contacts in class when we back chained them for the first time on the dog walk. Gambit held his position when I ran by him for a blind cross. When I moved laterally away, he pressed his nose more firmly on his target.

The times we practiced contacts on Gambit’s platform in the kitchen led to this moment. Using the toy as reward helped increase Gambit’s enthusiasm and helped him work through distractions. Teaching the sustained nose touch helped him understand to hold his position with his head down. And I got better at following instructions – I began to only release him when his nose was pressed firmly to the target. The extra time helped.

When we worked on sequences, Gambit was fast, as fast as I could want. He drove to the new and longer tunnel confidently despite its length and darkness. He flew out the other end ready to move into the next jump. The extra class time helped improve Gambit’s focus around other dogs. And my handling improved. All of this increased his speed. I also increased my rate of reinforcement, frequently rewarding offered attention and offered downs. And I began to use “treat magnet” to set him up for the next repetition.

In the extra two months we continued to work on Gambit driving back to me with his toy. Baby Gambit only wanted to chase but not return. Teenager Gambit runs back, slamming into me with his front paws, shoving the toy at me. When we worked on baby weaves in class I was able to toss the ball ahead of him with other dogs working 5 feet away. And the biggest difference is that 14-month-old Gambit worked off leash the entire class. He couldn’t have done this in October.

The cute terrier girl from August also repeated the class. But in Monday’s class Gambit chose to face me and lie down with his back to her, requesting to work. The time we have spent watching squirrels and deer and reorienting to me are starting to make other dogs less exciting.

My beautiful red boy has made great progress. I am excited for Foundation 3 and so glad Gambit and I played at these skills a bit longer before moving on. We are more connected now and I am excited about our team. Going slow is now helping us to go fast.

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