Tag Archives: Training

More than Fetch

Recently, I made sort of a whim of a purchase. I was walking around Petco and saw the Outward Hound Zip and Zoom Outdoor Agility Kit, and immediately thought it was pretty cool. I mean, the agility course comes with three obstacles and in a handy carrying case.

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Really, how could I pass it up? I must admit though that I almost did pass up buying it due to the price. It was $50, which (to me at least) seems awfully expensive for something that comes in such a small bag and was not very heavy. Yet, I wanted it. I wanted it because it’s not something I’ve ever seen before. Of course, I have looked into dog agility courses previously, but besides books that cover building one’s own course or simply assume that the course pieces are easy accessible, I haven’t found an actual kit with pieces. Unfortunately, I am neither crafty nor handy enough with tools and such to build my own course obstacle pieces. DIY-er I am not. Still, I’ve wanted to try doing agility with Simon and Rosee for a while. Along with being a good form of physical exercise, agility training can also be mentally challenging for dogs, which is very good for dogs like Simon. I do know that actual training classes for agility are out there, but there’s really no class available close to us and these classes typically require your dog to listen to you well off leash. Regrettably, Simon does not listen so well off leash because he finds everything and everyone else he encounters more interesting, which is why he is only allowed off leash when we go to a dog park. Rosee is pretty similar, and, well, she is very lazy. If left to her own devices she’ll mostly choose to lay down and take a nap. She doesn’t like to exert herself if she doesn’t have to, and I can imagine she would decide to lay down instead of listen to me. Also, training classes can be expensive, and I wanted something that we could all do at home on our own time. As a result, I broke down my initial misgivings and decided to buy the Outward Hound Agility Kit to try.

The kit comes with three obstacles: a tunnel, weave poles, and a high jump.

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It seemed like a pretty good deal at first, and very good for a beginner like me who doesn’t know too much about agility. I know the basics from watching the annual dog agility competitions, but, really, that’s not a whole lot. Luckily, this kit comes with a handy-dandy instruction manual along with a tunnel, eight poles (six for weaving and two for the jump), and several curved pieces that create a circle in which your dog is supposed to jump through. There are also metal spokes included to hold the tunnel down, stakes to attach to the poles to stick them in the ground, and clips that attach the circle-hoop jump to the poles that hold it up.

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It’s all fairly easy to set up, and can easily be taken down and packed away when you’re down. I like the fact that it comes in a case because it makes storage easy and all the pieces can stay together so as to avoid losing any of them.

Now, I have to brutally honest here. While I may have initially liked the idea of this product, the actual product is kind of a letdown. The tunnel is awfully short, maybe three feet long.

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The poles are made of very thin plastic and tend to fall down when a gust of wind hits them, let alone a 75 lb. dog. In fact, after setting up the weave poles Rosee decided she wanted in on the action and stole one. The plastic was so thin that just by her carrying the pole around in her mouth left it dented. She didn’t bite down, but rather simply held the plastic piece in her mouth, and when she dropped it it had two pretty serious dents—pretty disappoint.

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Lastly, the circle-hoop is barely big enough for either Simon or Rosee to jump through, and some creative problem-solving was needed to create a jump that was actually usable. I actually had to take one of the weave poles and attached curved pieces to each of the ends to make a high jump that could accommodate Rosee and Simon.

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Plus one of the tails from the tunnel that is used along with a metal spoke to attach the tunnel to the ground ripped way too easily. Seriously, all that happened was Rosee went through the tunnel and when she came out she hit the end and the tail ripped.

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Tunnel tail with metal stake to hold it down.
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The metal grommet ripped right off of the tunnel tail.

Despite all of these issues with the agility course I do have to say that Simon and Rosee along with us humans have had an awful lot of fun with it so far.

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The course is not very big, but for the size of my backyard that’s okay. It fits on our small patch of grass, and is long enough to be good exercise. However, it’s not too long and overly complicated so as to have either Simon or Rosee become bored and run away to do something else– which Simon totally does by the way. Overall, I would recommend this product, but only if you happened to find it on sale or maybe you have a coupon. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s worth $50, especially considering the quality of the course pieces and the fact that it’s not really made for large dogs. There should be a recommendation on the tag that says for small to medium sized dogs (just my opinion, of course). Nevertheless, it is easy to use, to store, and has been fun to use so far.

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She just loves it so much she can’t wait!

Fly Chasing 101 (as dictated by Simon)

I thought I would be a generous companion this week and dictate a blog post in lieu of my human. She offered to do it for me, but really what does a human know of the sport of fly chasing? I’ve only been perfecting my methods for the last three summers. (Your sarcasm is noted Simon—Theresa) Though, I did require some help from my aforementioned human to actually type this post because, alas, my paws are not dexterous enough for the laptop’s keyboard. Nevertheless, my human graciously agreed to type my story out for all of you to see. She also tried valiantly to capture my demonstrations of each step, but I fear my movements occurred somewhat too quickly for her camera to capture easily. She did do her best however. Not everyone can be as multi-talented as me.

Now on to the main event…

First spot the fly

In order to properly fly chase the first thing that must be done is to spot a suitable fly. It’s preferable to choose a fly that is not moving around too much. If a fly is moving around a lot, then it can be more difficult to catch. You will need the right mix of focus and control to find just the right fly to attempt to catch. But do not fret, for it can take a while to spot an appropriate target.

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Searching for just the right fly.

Next move in closely (yet carefully) until your nose almost touches the fly

Once you’ve got a target in your sights you then come upon a most sensitive step: getting close enough to pounce. It can be difficult to approach, especially if the target is shifty. Yet, if you’re not close enough to the fly, then it can be difficult to ultimately catch it. That’s why a careful and patient approach is required. My owners may not think I’m very patient, and while most of the time I’d have to agree with them, I make an exception for fly chasing. Luckily flies aren’t the most intelligent creatures around (and surely everyone knows dogs are the smartest), which makes them an easy target. Still, it’s best to approach with some finesse to ensure that your target remains cooperative or at the very least unaware.

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Try to be as quiet as possible while moving in on the fly.

Then stay perfectly still until just the right moment

It is of the utmost importance to wait for just the right moment to pounce on your unsuspecting target. After you’ve gotten close enough it’s imperative to wait for the right time to make your move. Patience is key here! My people may not think that I’m capable of patience, but given the right motivation I can be quite good at waiting for the exact instant to act. The truth is I just happen to be cleverer than my people and have them trained well to suit my needs. (I, meaning Theresa, would 1) like to object to this statement, and 2) state that “I knew it!”) It is quite important that your target not know what you are planning to do. Instead the fly should remain in blissful ignorance until you make your move. Otherwise, you chance them fleeing before you’re ready. The phrase “still as a statue” comes to mind at a time like this, and also “keep your eye on the ball” (or fly in this case).

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I cannot stress enough just how still you must remain!

Last pounce on the unsuspecting prey

Last, but certainly not least, pounce on the fly! Hopefully, if you have been able to get close enough, your pounce will result in immediate capture. However, if you’re still working on your technique it can take a few tries in order to be successful. Flies are tricky targets and due to their size and ability to move quickly it can be difficult to capture them. Ultimately, their evasive maneuvers only make their eventual capture by me that much sweeter.

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This is me mid-pounce.

Now go forth on your on fly chasing journey. It may take some time and practice to master my steps, but actually capturing the fly is only part of the fun anyway.