Recently, our dog club was invited to do a dog obedience and agility demonstration at the East Texas State Fair! I was very excited to take my two dogs to their first PUBLIC showing! I was excited despite the realization that something would go wrong. Fortunately, I have developed a very high tolerance for embarrassment, so the high probability of looking like a dope in front of an audience wasn’t dampening my enthusiasm.
I arrived a little later than I had hoped, just on time to hear the “plan.” The plan was three rounds of the “show” over three hours. About eight of us would go one after another running the agility course, then a large group of us would do a group obedience demonstration. Horror of horrors! I didn’t know the GROUP demo part. The chances of getting Lizzie to look at me in the face while heeling are slim to none when there are a group of doggie butts in close proximity to sniff. PLUS we were in the livestock arena next to two Brahman cows! Task number one: make Lizzie understand that barking ferociously at cows is not permissible. Fortunately, I was able to communicate this rule to her relatively quickly, though I did have to remind her a couple more times during the course of the evening.
I got there too late, so Riyo missed the first agility run, and I went straight into the group obedience demo. It did not go quite so well. Lizzie, as I suspected, was far too engrossed in other dogs, cows, the smells of fried everything, and just generally not interested in me. If I had just gotten there early and let her sniff everything in sight BEFORE the first demo, I’m sure things would have gone better. So ended the first demo.
Second obedience demo. Now Lizzie has had time to settle down. The heeling exercise
does improve and we go into the down-stay demonstration. I dropped her leash and walked across the arena with many of the other handlers. All was going well, yes, my dog is doing great!!……Then, in the blink of an eye, all was lost! My dog went from politely laying in a line of other good dogs, to charging the arena fence in full, ferocious German Shepherd fashion. And as I am chasing after her, I catch a glimpse of our nemasis….a passing BIKE! If Lizzie could speak, you would be hearing “MOOOM!!! A BIKE A BIKE A BIKE! WATCH OUT! I’LL SCARE IT AWAY! IT’S A BIKE! DON’T YOU SEE IT! LOOK I SCARED IT AWAY! YEAH! STAY OUT YOU BIG NASTY BIKE THING!” — (see the black blur in the picture? That’s Lizzie. A club member snapped that picture just on time to catch her taking off)
I finally catch her. She didn’t go far, and fortunately she didn’t go through the fence. I put her in a sit to snap her out of it and take her back into line as the our Club director calmly explains to the audience about these “issues.” Yes, this is embarrassing. More so because I can hear in my head all the people wondering what I am doing with such an obviously vicious and dangerous dog at a fair. Fortunately, the club teachers are the greatest and really understand dog. Even German Shepherds. They understand she is not a vicious dog. She just has a weak spot for barking at bikes and motorcycles!
The third demo, Lizzie did great. She heeled well, she did her stays (though this
time I stayed close with her leash laid out where I could catch it should another two-wheeled contraption appear as you can see in the picture).
Despite the loud, dramatic snaffoo of the evening, it was a great experience for both Lizzie and me. We both really enjoyed it, though we do have training planned to stop her habit of chasing bikes and motorcycles. Next step is also to train an instant “PLATZ!” This will take some work, but I MUST be able to stop her in mid-charge, for her safety and to make sure she is never labeled a dangerous dog. (which she is not!)