Monday, April 30, 2012

Finding Her Inner Terrier

Yesterday, Maisy found her inner terrier.

We headed over to the Arctic Blast Fun Day, where they had several terrier events: terrier racing, go-to-ground, and barn hunt. We had so much fun! This was my second time at an Arctic Blast event (I went to observe a trial with a friend last fall), and I absolutely love the people. They're so laid back and welcoming. They taught me what the games were about, and modified things so that Maisy would be comfortable.

The first game up was terrier racing, which is similar to lure coursing in that the dogs chase an automated lure. However, it is quite different because multiple dogs run at once. The dogs are placed into a start box, chase the lure in a straight line for about 200 feet, and then enter a small hole built into a wall of straw bales to enter the catch pen. All dogs must wear muzzles for safety (both their own, and that of the catchers).

I wasn't sure what Maisy would think of this game, but she loved it. She watched one race and was hooked! She absolutely rocked her first time on the course; some dogs are a little unsure at first, but Maisy knew she wanted to chase that fake bunny, and she wanted to chase it now.

She wasn't a fan about the start box though. She ran from the box twice- once with the top open, and once with the front doors open (hopefully this makes sense when you see the video). She had no problem at all when the front door was open, but she struggled a bit with the door shut. I think this is because the mechanism that releases the front door is a bit loud; she was momentarily startled when it opened, and it took her a few seconds to recover and chase the lure. The rest of the time, I simply released Maisy from outside/in front of the box. Like I said- the terrier folks were really accommodating for us beginners! Maisy was also a bit uncertain about the finish line. While she had no trouble going through the hole when my husband or I were in the catch pen, she only went through it about half the time if one of us weren't in there.

This was the first time Maisy has worn a muzzle for extended periods of time. Although we have spent a lot of time playing with the muzzle, most of it has been shaping her to put her nose inside it and hold it there- she hasn't actually done stuff while wearing it before. She did great though! She didn't even know it was on while she was waiting her turn, and she only pawed at it after her race was over once or twice. After that, she was completely fine wearing it.

After the terrier races, they set up the go-to-ground and barn hunt games. Both of these games involve the dog finding a live rat (I felt kind of bad for the rat, even though it was safely contained). In go-to-ground, the dog must go through a series of tunnels, find the rat, and then show "sustained interest" (usually by barking) for 30-60 seconds. In barn hunt, several cages are hidden in a pile of straw bales. One has a rat in it, the others are decoys. Again, the dog must find the rat.

This was a total and complete bust. I wasn't surprised; Maisy is a cautious dog, and I didn't expect her to either run through a dark tunnel or jump on and burrow into a pile of straw bales. Again, the terrier people were really nice and brought out a rat in a cage so that Maisy could see it. The hope was that she would realize there was a point to the games, but instead, she merely sniffed at the rat, flinching slightly when the cage moved. After a few minutes of investigation, she looked at me as if to say, "That's it?"

Whatever. We still had a totally fun day. Maisy thinks terrier racing is the coolest thing she's ever done, and I was proud of her for handling an incredibly chaotic environment (all that barking!) without becoming unduly stressed, upset, or reactive. I'm already looking forward to the next fun day!


Anonymous said...

Wow, Crystal! I would never be able to tell that Maisy is a reactive dog, especially one that's reactive to other dogs! She looks so happy and natural in the video!

Of course, even good stress/arousal is stress, right? How long did it take her to recover? Did she have any lingering effects?


Crystal Thompson said...

Nicky, there were DEFINITELY after-effects, and I plan to write about that later in the week. I want to wait a few days and see what her recovery is like. Of course... last night's events probably didn't help. ;) I'll have to write about that, too, because I have a new appreciation for what extreme stress does to the body.

Raegan said...

Don't feel bad for the rat. I've only been to one earthdog event, but the rat was all "Yeah, yeah, bark your head off dog. You can't get me, neener neener neener."

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Oh my goodness! I am so proud of Maisy for having so much FUN in such a stimulating environment!

Joanna said...

Super cool! I really want to do lure coursing with Dragon. I should get him a muzzle and start conditioning him to it. (There's a local all-breed lure coursing association but they run multiple dogs at once.) These sports that bring out dogs' innate hunting abilities are so great. :)