When our Saluki, Brio, came home from Sandy's class last night, she galloped all over the house, insisting that Kala, our Tibetan Terrier, play with her, and throwing a huge (forbidden) pillow off our bed. I felt exactly as she did. For the past three classes she has been running the courses faster and faster, and enjoying herself more and more. Last night there was absolutely nothing she didn't do with energy and joy. Of course I hope she will carry this attitude into competition! Meanwhile, I want to give thanks where they are due.
For the first two or three series of classes, all Brio wanted to do was go home. As soon as she was off leash, she would run to the gate and stand there pathetically. No chance of cheering her up with treats, since away from home she refused everything from liver to roast chicken. It wasn't so much the equipment that troubled her as the presence of other dogs, non-Salukis! Most teachers would have advised me to try another breed. Even when Brio began to participate a little more, she was depressingly slow. One of the world's fastest dogs was only creeping around the course - Sandy once said it was as if the collapsed tunnel were giving birth! This is definitely not fun.
And all the time Sandy was fighting my attempts to make things easier for Brio by babying her, wanting her excused from having to lie on the hard table, etc. This is a most difficult form of teaching, because the student is so sure she understands her dog better than anyone else. I thought Brio couldn't possibly be asked to do gambles, for example, but when she and I were forced into it, I found that, although slow and awkward, she did them much better than I had expected. Last night a Masters Gamble was scarcely a challenge!
It's hard to say just what has caused the change, apart from time and patience. Sandy and I both attended Rachel Sanders's motivation workshop, and that added an emphasis on play which helped for a while. In classes we began selecting a few obstacles in a line and simply trying to get Brio to run, any sign of speed being rewarded with play. But at this point Brio is scarcely interested in toys - she seems to love the sport for itself, and the best part of it is that, for her, the sport and I are the same thing. For me, it's Brio and I, and Sandy.