I had one of the best days out I've ever had with the dogs yesterday! I have them both signed up for Saturday classes with Tara and Lisa at Dog Training Ireland ( www.dogtrainingireland.ie ), Leo for basic obedience and Jaspar for basic agility.

Leo has had home training but I realised, after he attended a day of the training seminar last week with Dee Ganley ( www.deesdogs.com ) here, that he really comes to life when on his own and benefits from mixing with dogs and people on his own. Hence I have him in obedience more for the social aspect and for his self confidence as he's a shy dog. Well he just blossomed! Not only does he have some canine friends in his class -- other dogs who also board at Tara's mum's (and Tara laughed when she noticed that a certain group of dogs all acknowledged Leo when he came in and she remembered they already know each other! So funny, like going to a party where you already know some of the guests... ). But he also was eager to meet others large and small, and also, got a chance to get some treats from some kids who are in the class -- which he really needs as he's very wary of kids. By the end of the class he was comfortably standing amongst groups of people, and would cautiously go over to the two kids. It just reminded me to emphasise to people how good a calm, positive-method training class is for socialising your dog and giving him or her a really fun workout. A training class full of fun and reward for the dog is such a pleasure and gives them great confidence and better social skills too. Also you get a rare chance to teach them to concentrate despite distractions, in a safe setting.

Then it was tme for Leo to go in his crate with a pizzle stick and Jaspar came in for agility. I was a bit worried he'd do what he's started doing, whining for attention etc. But very quickly he was interested in meeting dogs and exploring the equipment and once we started working in small groups on different bits of equipment, he was amazing. This dog has been waiting all his life for agility class -- that's for sure! He has always been a very sharp dog but I never really appreciated how sharp and eager he is til yesterday,when he threw himself into trying to figure out what I wanted him to do with each piece of equipment. He is fearless and so enthusiastic and it took him only three tries to go through that fabric tunnel thing, I think he was the only dog in the class who would go thru it without it being held open or shortened and most wouldn't even go in the entry of it. The u-bend tunnel he had sorted in three tries as well. The A frame he loves and had tried previously. I eventually just took him off lead for the hour, as it only inhibited him. He never left my side and went after one goal then another. It was so much fun! Also I know that helping him to focus like this will help with his self control and curtail the whining.

Needless to say he and Leo were like logs all evening. They were so, so, SOOOO tired! Working their brains for an hour tires them out and satisifies them far more I think then just a good run. I could have Jaspar play fetch nonstop for an hour and he'd still be up and about all evening but last night, he was out cold. Two very satisfied dogs. I am really looking forward to the coming weeks on Saturdays. I also want to get Jaspar started on some fun clicker work of the type Dee demonstrated in some videos -- Jaspar has a brain that never stops and obviously relishes having work to do and it is such a great bonding experience too that I want to keep him active and challenged. A dog like this is obviously a delight -- he really is my ideal dog -- but also can be a handful if bored.

I highly, highly recommend getting a dog into any of these kinds of environments; great for your dog and truly enriches your own relationship with him/her.