Ollie - Reactive Champion


Although I started agility classes with my dog older rescue dog, Wave, the day before I adopted Ollie, I never seriously trialed her and therefore consider Ollie my first true agility dog. He had been found as a stray in West Virginia and brought to a high-kill shelter where he was pulled by a rescue group that brought him to PA. I'd been looking for a dog specifically to do agility with and was looking at some border collie mix puppies on the rescue's website when Ollie's "also available" picture popped up in the corner. He may have not looked like a typical agility dog (but as I would learn - and it's a good lesson for all of us - you can't always judge a book by its cover), but I am partial to cute small mixed breed dogs. Within a week or so this ~10 month old pup had joined the family.
Ollie with Wave short after adoption
In preparation for future agility classes, I took Ollie to some obedience classes at a local training school. I'd taken Wave there and had a good experience. Unfortunately, an incident during Ollie's time there caused lasting damage. During a recall exercise, he was coming to me at a good rate of speed which happened to trigger a prey drive response in one of the other dogs in the class and its owner lost a grip on it and it headed straight for
Ollie. Luckily Ollie did not get hurt, but he was severely shaken up. I will NEVER forget the look on his face. It made me feel like I'd completely let him down by not keeping him safe enough. He seemed back to his normal self during the next few days, but I would see just how much of a toll the incident had taken on his psyche the following week when I pulled in to the parking lot and went to get him out of the car - his hackles were sticking up a bit. Then he spent class trying to hide behind me to avoid going anywhere near the other dogs
in class. Then, as if to rub salt in the wound, while doing a recall exercise, a dog of the same breed that had gone after him the week before, decided that, instead of coming to its owner, it would come jump on Ollie to try to get him to play. That was the straw that broke the camels back. I found myself with a reactive dog from that time forward. I never went back to that obedience class.

Ollie didn't show the signs of full reactivity until I took him to the pre-agility classes at an
Red "reactive dog" bandana worn in nose work
agility club. It was a trying experience for both of us. First of all, it was a bad match. Nearly all the dogs in the class were large, young and exuberant with little impulse control. I spent most of the time trying to manage Ollie's space; his "zone of safety" at the time (i.e. the space around him where he wouldn't react to another dog) was pretty wide - maybe 20 feet. I was very concerned about his reactivity - lunging, screaming, snapping - anytime a dog crossed that threshold. To make matters worse, the instructor blew off my concerns. Agility was supposed to be something fun for us both to enjoy, wasn't it? Instead we'd both come home stressed out and exhausted. It was a painful decision, since when doing the agility exercises themselves, Ollie showed so much potential, but I decided to pull him from classes.

First agility trial
We spent a couple of months chilling out and licking our wounds. Then I decided to get busy trying to solve the issue. In order to separate the agility training from all the reactivity triggers, I started taking private lessons. That is where he really started to blossom and show me that, yes, he could be an amazing agility dog. In the meantime, I worked on his reactivity by taking him places where other dogs were required to be on leashes and working through his issues. I have run into many set backs along the way, mainly because of people who think the rules don't apply to them and so they let their dogs off leash and when I'm yelling at them to get their dog that is approaching Ollie and I, they give me the "don't worry, he's friendly" line. Nothing makes me see red more than that! He's come a long way since then. He made his agility debut a few months after we started private lessons. Just a couple of classes at a CPE trial. He Q'd and won both classes he was entered in and came home with his first agility title. Although he's still a reactive dog, he's learned that agility trials are a safe environment and as long as I'm vigilant about managing his space, especially at the in-gate, he is fine. Once he steps in that ring, he is all business and focused on the course in front of him.

And I couldn't have asked for a better first agility partner. But for his reactivity, he was a joy to train and handle. His Q rate is amazingly high and his list of accomplishments long - several championship titles, lifetime achievement award, USDAA top ten, and many medals in team events. He is now trying his paws, or should I say nose, at the sport of K-9 Nose Work.

C-ATCH Ollie
ADCH Ollie

ADCH-Bronze Ollie

PDCH Ollie

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