So I have a strategy that is "working" with Sagan, and that is reframing dogs with the presence of a ball, which is heroin.
While i am totally encouraged by this, this year is characterized by a reigning in of my goals. Sagan is not my competition dog. At least not in the near future. After 2 years, we are still looking at 20-50 feet threshold radius for unknown dogs, even with our "secret bullet" of the ball. I have no goals to compete him this year. Even with behaviorists, control unleashed x 3, and practice, he still isn't calm enough to be within working distance of dogs. Even tonight in agility, he couldn't handle dogs he has known for months.
I am OK with us never competing, but it has taken me two years to get to that point.
I'm motivated to write because there is a new student in our agility class who has no clue about reactive dogs. They walk their dog within feet of Sagan's kennel, even after reminders from Ross and me about how reactive Sagan is. They leave their dog out and require reminders to put him up when we run. They look at us with scorn when we ask for that.
I feel like the successes we derive out of class are in jeopardy. I resent that there is no place we can really safely have our dog, and I am fiercely protective of this venue. Our instructor does not require crating, and this may be the reason we end up leaving class, and leaving agility as a whole. I hope this is not the case, but I do understand that this is the result of the dog problems I deal with. It may be that we are relegated to nosework, which seems to be one of the only venues that is truly friendly to reactive dogs.
I came to understand tonight that what is upsetting me is the pressure to compete and have Sagan be workable in this environment. It is a humble pill to swallow that this is not reality...and it really isn't. While he may love agility, he may have to deal with loving agility in class, and that being the end. He is a smart dog that needs brainwork, but that brainwork has to be tempered and protected by what he finds overwhelming.
At the least, I feel I've learned agility handling skills that will benefit us in class, and possibly a solid temperament dog in the future. Coming back to the numerical distance we have to have for Sagan not to react. After 2 years, we are still at 20-50 feet for calm dogs. In my estimate, that is progress neutral.