Last night Bella and I did something that was either going to be very good for us, and make us happy, or it was going to be very hard for us, and make us stressed.
Bella attended a class last night where she was put a field, with her crate there as a place to hide, and 8 other dogs. Only one of which she knew. In this class, the dogs played with their owners (tugging, chasing, running together), they did restrained re-calls, and circle work.
Believe it or not, this was Bella's first agility class.
I started with Bella outside of the ring, where I basically just let her see everything, and clicked and treated her for every little thing she did. Dogs walked past us, people said 'Hi!' and I just clicked and treated every thing. We worked on some "Bella!" where if she's looking one way, she's the turn and come with me in the other direction, some "Leave." which has become her "leave it" command (just dropped the "it" cause it's easier), and we did lots of her favorite things so she'd realize that it was a place for fun, not a place where I'm going to make her sit and stay for a long time, because that bores her.
After I moved her into the field - where I had her crate set up, with a sheet over it, away from any other dogs expect for the one we knew - I took her over towards her crate and just clicked and treated for being closer to the dogs, who were at this point, playing with their owners and practicing commands they knew. She was quiet, had no issues.
They then started playing with toys, where owners where trying to get their dogs hyper and excited. I didn't try this with Bella, because I need to keep her as low on the excitement scale as I can, for now. Bella was fine with the other dogs doing this. She watched them, then looked back at me, completely at ease, looking for her treat (I loooove the "look at that!" game!).
They did restrained re-calls after playing, where all the other dogs were on leash, or in their crates, and the one doing the re-calls was the only one out and "off leash" with the leash dragging. I put Bella into her crate for this one, because a) I didn't want other dogs coming up to her and b) I know that dogs running like they do for re-calls bothers her, so I didn't want to stress her too much. So I clicked and treated her in her crate for watching the dogs. She was great. No issues with that. She started to get worked up, but she has stages of getting worked up now that are very visible to me. She'll look at it and the first sign is that she'll whine, at that point, I can say her name, and she'll look to me for a click and a treat, second sign is barking, not her deep throat reacting full-out bark, but just a playful "I wanna run too!" bark, third sign is full out reacting, barking (not always her low gruff bark) and pushing at the sides of her crate with her body, or lunging if she's out of the crate. I almost always catch her at the first sign now, where she's easy to get her attention back. However, she rarely showed any of these signs last night, except for when the biggest dog in the class was doing a re-call, and even then it was only whining. Bella did her re-call, too, and she was great. They had my Mom hold her, so it didn't stress her out. Next week I'll probably ask the trainers to hold her.
After that they did some circle work, I believe, and that freaked her out a little bit. All of the dogs walking around and closer to her then they had all night, so I put her muzzle on, and faced her away from the dogs walking. Soon she calmed down (by soon, I mean like, a minute) and so I shortened her leash so she couldn't get far from me (probably a 2 foot leash) and took her muzzle off, facing away from the dogs, and clicked and treated for focusing on me. When the last few dogs were heading back towards their crates, I turned her around so she could see them. After that, Bella and I went alone and did some circle work in a spot away from the other dogs.
She was really great. She got impateint with being in her crate, of course, so next week I'll bring her kong for her, I think, and leave that full for her in her crate, because I can't be clicking and treating her all the time, and if I don't, she gets saussy. (She "lectures" me where she'll look at me and whine and whimper at me!) So I think she'll do well with the kong. She has no food aggression issues, so the food shouldn't cause any more of an issue for her.
And what also made me really happy was that a man came up to us, and Bella went right over to him and was cuddling with him. There were times in the last 2 years I've had her that if a person came up to us, she shut down and hid behind me. She greets them all now with a "I loooove you!" attitude, and I love that. She doesn't see people as a bad thing anymore, not like she did when I first got her, she sees them now as friends; so long as they don't bother her mommy.
Over all, very pleased with Bella. I wasn't expecting to get the good behaviour that I did, and I feel like Bella generally enjoyed the class. We will be going back next week (this was a "try one week for $10 and see how you like it" type thing), that's for sure.
Anyway, Bella was great, and it was really what I needed, and what I feel like she and I deserve, so we'll see how next week goes. I'm not expecting her to be that good again, really, but I hope she and I will be able to make use of these 6 weeks, even if she doesn't learn any agility but only learns how to handle herself better.
Way to go, Good Dog!