The trainer taught us a handful of exercises to use to engage our dogs- some basic things like default sits, hand touch, eye contact when you say their name, etc. Delilah already knew these things pretty well. We had missed the previous class but I don't think they covered anything new for us in that class.
But then we applied them in some activities, and this was really helpful. There are four dog students with their owners and we each got our own corner of the room to work in (with a gate to block their view if needed). One activity we did was we took turns taking one step at a time towards the center of the room- the point was to use our voice and the exercises to keep our dogs engaged and non reactive as they moved closer to triggers. The trainer watched their body language and had us return to our corners before any of the dogs went past their threshold.
The other activity was we all walked clockwise around the room and at each corner we came to we practiced a different activity that we had learned.
The trainer really emphasizes using a happy voice and praise and NOT verbally or physically correcting the dogs. Also a lot of clicker training so far.
Delilah did really, really well. I had no idea how she would react in that class. In the beginning she did bark at the trainer a few times but he tossed her chicken throughout the class and she liked it so much she even touched his hand when he asked her to touch. She's worked well with our agility trainers in the past but she's never worked with a male trainer before.
She focused on me the entire time and did everything I asked (I had some really smelly tuna treats so I'm sure that had something to do with it). I could tell towards the end she was starting to get stressed but the class ended shortly after so she never got to the point where she would have lost it. It's at a dog kennel and there was a lot of hair and dust on the floor- when she gets stressed she starts fixating on things like that and that's a big problem we had during agility lessons. Towards the end she started looking at the hair on the floor but didn't chase it and was very easy to redirect, so that's good at least.
There's another little black dog there that was similar to Delilah- he seemed nervous and shy but the owner has done a lot of training with him so he knew all of the exercises too and didn't seem to react to anything. And there were a couple of other dogs and those two seemed to have more trouble in the class. One was pretty engaged with his owner but the other seems to be a very reactive dog and has a low threshold so had some difficulty with the activities. And when she starts reacting the other would sometimes bark and lunge back. I'm not judging those dogs and owners at all- Delilah used to be much more reactive herself so I understand. Delilah seemed a little unsure and worried by the reacting dogs but she didn't react to them herself- just watched.
I'm so proud of her- she tries really hard to be a good girl, it's just harder for her than it is for other dogs. She did a really good job last night.
I really like this trainer too and I saw he offers a recall class. Maybe if Delilah does well in this class we'll be able to take that one next. She still needs knee surgery before she can get back into agility but it would be nice to focus on foundational skills like recall, impulse control, etc in the meantime.