Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Earlier this year, as I was scanning the list of classes offered by Teamworks Dog Training for what had to be the 8,000th time, I decided it was time to get more information about the Virtual Agility League. I was trying to find classes that Kodiak could take and, ideally, pass without having multiple meltdowns. Nothing looked particularly promising, but I knew I needed to keep him in training of some kind. I contacted Michele Godlevski (owner of Teamworks and founder of VALOR agility), told her about my dogs and asked if she thought VALOR might be something worth trying. Naturally, she said yes. I decided to start with Duncan since I didn't know anything about agility and I didn't want to risk screwing up Kodiak before he had a chance. As we all know, Duncan took to jumpers agility just fine, as long as I run the course in a way that compensates for his natural tendencies. For various reasons, Kodiak didn't actually have his first agility lesson until June 17.

Kodiak had a very hard time with his pre-agility class, he stresses over new people and places and things and sounds and textures and smells and everything else, and he often forgets that something he did yesterday didn't actually kill him, so I wasn't really expecting a lot for his first lesson. Not surprisingly, he was concerned about the gate to the agility field and all of the new equipment. Somewhat surprisingly, he was taking cookies from Michele (although not quite ready for petting) and not too worried about her being in his general area shortly after the lesson started. We worked him on jumps (which he loves) and tunnels (which he likes) and the table (which terrified him). It was really nice to watch his ears and tail perk up every time he sailed over a jump. He wasn't too interested in paying attention, so we kept him on leash for that session.

His second lesson was the following week. Jumps - yay! Tunnels - okay! Gate - scary! However, he was willing to get on the table that time. Big yay! He also took several obstacles off leash with only occasionally having to be directed away from the fence. The biggest thing, though, was the plank. Michele had a flat plank on the ground that we wanted Kodiak to walk along. The first time, I had to put him on the plank. The second time, he eeeeeeeeased himself on and managed to walk without looking too stressed. Off to the jumps for a break, and then an amazing thing occurred. We were going past the plank on our way to something else and Kodiak deliberately walked over to the plank, stepped on it, and walked its length. Twice. I say again, it was an amazing thing. I was so proud of my little boy! Michele and I were both very excited about his progress and she mentioned that for his next lesson, we should see if we could get him to touch the A-frame. Crazy idea, right?

Monday was Kodiak's third agility lesson. This is where I remind you that Kodiak has consistently demonstrated that he is afraid of the world. Keep that in mind. Third lesson, afraid of the world. He seemed a bit skittish, so we decided to keep him on leash so he would have the physical connection with me. We started with jumps and tunnels, then headed off to the table. "The table? Oh, yeah, I've been sitting on the table for years." Everything was going well, so we headed for the A-frame, hoping we could get him to touch it, figuring we'd be feeding him lots of treats the whole time. He walked towards the A-frame, stopped, looked at it, and then strolled right up the thing without a care in the world. He stopped at the top, looked around ("I'm king of the world!"), and strolled down the other side. You could have knocked me and Michele over with a feather. We turned him around and up he went, no resemblance at all to the pup who was completely freaked out by the little baby ramp in the pre-agility class a few short months ago. The plank thing? From the week before? That was nothing compared to this. And Kodiak wasn't done.

The A-frame went so well that we said what the heck, let's try the dog walk! Michele wanted to start him nice and slow (its much narrower than the A-frame) so she had him step on the lower portion from the side and walk down. Kodiak seemed a bit confused by that, but he was willing to humor the silly humans. After a couple of tries, Michele told me to pick him up and put him a little higher on the ramp facing the ground so that all he had to do was walk to safety. We did that once and then Kodiak decided to take matters into his own paws. I was getting ready to pick him up again when he strolled right up the ramp, along the full length of the dog walk and down the other side, no worries at all. He immediately turned around and did it again. Apparently, he didn't need to start nice and slow.

After such unprecedented success, we figured we'd break out the video camera and see if we could take him through an entire course off leash. I still think it was a good idea, even though it didn't work. It turned out that Michele is okay, but Michele with a video camera is worrying. Kodiak couldn't get his focus back on me and kept turning to see what Michele was doing. To distract him, I decided to take him over a couple of jumps. Well, I distracted him all right - I forgot he was on leash and didn't manage to get it over the jump support, which resulted in the leash pulling the jump over right after Kodiak's front paws hit the ground. That was it for him; he wouldn't go over any jump after that without me literally pulling (or pushing) him over it. I have to admit I'm actually surprised that was the first time I'd ever done that with him. Even though running the course was no longer an option, we had him go over the A-frame and dog walk a couple more times so that he would end the lesson on a good note. He wasn't as enthusiastic as earlier, but he was still willing to do the obstacles. The video is a little dark (it was nearly 9pm) but you can see him on the A-frame. On the dog walk, you can mostly see his brown legs.

He has a lesson next week and I'm hoping he'll be willing to go over the jumps by then. I've managed to get him to jump the one we have in the back yard, so maybe he'll be okay (enough) by Monday. Paws crossed... Regardless of how things ended, I'm so excited about how far he's come in only three lessons. I really do think VALOR agility is going to be a wonderful thing for him.


Molly The Wally said...

Wishing you continuing success with the training.
Best wishes Molly

Anonymous said...

Way to go Kodiak !!!!!!
:)Love, Mom

Faith Shen said...

Your a great superstar! Your doing well on your training keep it up:D

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