Riley

Riley has finally got her game on! And she’s enjoying herself! In one year using a new modivation method, she’s gone from running in her first Singles, to running Pairs, and then running on a team! I’ve learned alot from working with Riley in the five years its taken to make her a Flyball Dog. I’ve learned so much about motivation, patience, understanding, and picking my brain until i come up with an idea! I’ve opened my eyes and my ears many times in 5 years, and you’d be suprised how much you are learning-until you’ve learned more than the dog!

Riley has earned 100 points in NAFA, and her first two titles. You can’t imagine how i felt putting those framed Titles on the wall. They symbolise so much more than words printed on paper. Riley also has 475 points in UFLI and her Top Flight title.

Her fastest time on a team is a 5.7, with a 5 foot pass from 20ft. She has room to feel more comfortable in a pass and will improve with her confidence level. But what matters with Riley is not the titles, the times, or her speed, but her happyness. With happyness, we always win, even when we lose the race.

BIO: Say hello to Riley. Or Riley roo, or Rye, or Roo-lu, as she goes by other identifications. Riley is a 6.5 year old All American Mix, or as I like to affectionatly say, a Mutt. I became her guardian and she became my teacher and companion on September 15th, 2001, when she was 2 months old. She has been christened the “Walmart Dog”, because of her origins. Back when I was in High School in Prescott, Az, a trip to Walmart for a pair of knee-guards for Volleyball turned into a quest for the right types of dog food, toys, and necessities for the new puppy I had obtained at the front door. She was being given away to a loving family along with her other littermates, which looked just as mixed up as she. It was obvious she had had numerous fathers.

Riley proved to be a sensitive, calm, and affectionate dog. She is easily motivated by food of any kind. Bananas, carrots, lettuce, bread, tomotoes, cheese, potatoes…she’ll eat it all. I joke around that if you marinated a piece of paper in a broth she would eat that too, or even if you sprayed it will a food smelling substance. She is happy and energetic to learn any new tricks and behaviors you are up for. Her toy drive is much to be desired, but there are many other activities she enjoys. She has done some agility, lure coursing, and sheep herding. She has also earned her Canine Good Citizen.

When we moved back to California, I had decided to search for dogs sports, and settled on Flyball, at that time mostly because the class was a few minutes from my home and my cousin was involved with the club. Upon entering the 1.5 year old Riley, I learned many things. Riley ws grossly over-weight. A steady diet of Old Roy and Alpo given at any time was the culprate-she needed to lose weight to do Flyball. Also, it became apparent that Riley didn’t take a simple game of fetch to heart-in fact, when presented with a tennis ball, Riley acted as if she had never seen one her whole life. Maybe, because, she never had. She also, did not want to be touched by strangers, not even for a recall.  

For months I had my homework cut out for us…I learned clicker training, and so did Riley, but for 5 months I could not get her to fetch one. While she began to to recalls for a tug, she didn’t care about tugging, and food was not allowed as a recall toy. We toiled for a while, while i ran other team mates dogs and learned the art of handling. Riley lost lots of weight and became trim and lean. Still, the ball was out biggest challenge. She learned to pick it up and drop it repeativly, and got frustrated if i asked her to bring it to my hand. After a year and a half, she progressed to trot down to the box, trigger the ball, and then have a sniff-athon in the grass area around it as i called and asked her to pick up the ball. She would then trot back to me without it, and look at me with her eyes full of stress and confusion.

It was when I took Riley out a few months later at practice that her tail went between her legs and she refused to try any more. I couldn’t do this to her anymore-she retired. And seeing how i was now obsessed with Flyball, i searched for a new dog who would love it just as much as I did.

When i got Jet, Riley became a pet dog, her original job. When Jet was up and running on a team and became a team dog, Riley came along to practices to get out of the house. I began working her for food. Our original club broke off to become MRR, and we decided Riley should be able to use food, since toys were not modivating to her. At this point, she was just there to have some excersize, i wasn’t trying to train her. In fact, she helped train newbie dogs by working as a distraction and passing partner. With food as her modivator, Riley shook off some stress and began to enjoy herself. I never asked her to get a ball, but she had a beautiful box turn and i asked her to hit it for food. When the new dogs were learning a box turn on the wall, she learned it gracefully and fast.

With the addition of baby dogs, came the use of squishy water-bomb balls. One day, while cleaning the house, one rolled out of my flyball bag and Riley picked it up and began to play. With hope flickering a bit, i asked her to retrieve it for a treat. In a few days, she was happily racing after the squishy ball and bringing it back to me, all the way. We had found our lucky break.

Riley is now happily going to the box and bring back her squishy ball. She is almost always reliable in bringing it back. She’s not fast like Jet, but who cares. In March, 2008 she got the opportunity to run in her first Singles race. She had slow, (6.5), but clean runs where she looked happy and willing to play.

Riley will continue to work on her Flyball skills for as long as she is happy. If this continues, she may work to earn a title or two. In the year 2008, she will do more singles and run pairs with other team dogs.

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