My Own Dog Sport

I envy people who do dog sports. It took me a long time to pin down exactly why–I’m not keen on giving up every weekend to agility trials, and I am so not standing in the sun all day to do field testing. So, why did I feel this little nagging pang of envy?

Lately I’ve figured it out.

I envy dog sports people because they have such clear, established training agendas. Their dog needs to do X, Y, and Z, with X, Y, and Z speed or accuracy.

Silas really does love to work, although his anxiety interferes. I didn’t put this together until the behaviorist pointed it out, but it’s true. For a dog who, let’s face it, spends 98% of his life hanging out in the house, it’s not always easy to channel that drive into anything. We’re at a place now where he knows the basic cues very, very well, and the “cutesy” tricks are not really in his repertoire. He’s more of a forward-motion guy. It was so much fun teaching him to heel, which I say with zero sarcasm at all.

So, I decided to invent my own dog sport.

It’s called “Competitive Sidewalk Walking.”

Like running an extremely fast agility course, Competitive Sidewalk Walking is not just something we can walk right out the door and do. We will never be the Border Collie of the Competitive Sidewalk Walking games; we’re in it for the fun.

Like all dog sports, Sidewalk Walking will require extensive foundation work, lots of exposure to the venue, and even counterconditioning to the scary things that happen in or near the competition. It might be a very long time before we even get to “compete.”

I’m making a training plan now. Silas is resting up.

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9 thoughts on “My Own Dog Sport

    1. Silas is *so bad* at tricks. And/or I am *so bad* at training them. I should revisit.

      This is typical for us: I’m trying to teach him that he has back legs, which he has no idea about. So I am shaping him to stand on a cookie sheet. He puts the front feet right in. We do this and that. Finally he puts in the back feet. I get very excited by this! He got it! But apparently my excitement terrified him, because now he will do everything possible to avoid touching the cookie sheet with his back paws.

      Walking on the sidewalk is (for real) my biggest life goal for him. I’m just reframing it a little. I should maybe have mentioned in the body of the post that he is completely terrified of the sidewalk and that it would probably be *easier* to get him an agility title.

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      1. Haha – I know exactly what you’re talking about! So many things I have ruined for Elli simply by being overexcited by her success. I’d try something other than a cookie sheet. You might try a pedestal or a stool, or a bowl or a box. I think I used a tupperware container to shape some rear end awareness. But I definitely love pedestal-work: keeping the front feet in place while moving the rear around in a circle. You can even use an upside down bowl for that.

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      2. I followed the breadcrumbs from newer posts…

        Oh, I really like this cookie sheet idea! I’ve been trying to get Ruby to stand on a little footstool, circus elephant style, and the most she’ll do is hop over. I think the cookie sheet would be a perfect stepping stone.

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      3. The cookie sheet thing actually never did work out for us. I suspect the cold metal surface was part of the problem. What we settled on was a small cake pan, which Silas stands on with just his front feet. We work on turning exercises, so he’s “walking” around the pan with just his back feet. When I go back to all four feet on an object, I’m thinking about trying it with a towel or rug that I can just fold smaller and smaller.

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