Keeping a dog Focused on the course

Dogs can be funny, they can train perfectly at home or at a training club…but add the excitement, noise and bustle of a trial…and that self same dog can turn into a completely different dog.  A dog that barks, that doesn’t listen, that acts like it has NEVER seen a tunnel before it’s whole entire life.

What does a trainer/owner/handler do?

Some things to try:

Here is something I was told to do with my high drive agility crazed PWD who
would fly off, well, still does once in a blue moon..

  1. exercise well morning of trials
  2. For the next several trials do not run the entire course – Run just long enough to have your dog be successful and then leave on a high note.
  3. do not attempt to go from crate to ring, you must spend time with the dog before going in the ring first – warm up, then let the dog blow off some steam, then work on fun focus ringside
  4. change your expectations for this dog – this may not be the dog that gets the big ribbons.   Maybe this one is one you have fun with in the ring as a team and  live with lots of NQs Maybe this dog should only run jumpers and not  Standard. After all, are you running agility for you, for the dog, or to do something together?
  5. use some Rescue Remedy and / or some lavender oil to help calme and ease  the dog’s nerves. (I tend to recommend that a person try all other options before turning to medication).  — -that’s just me though
  6. ask other people what they see.  Perhaps you are not trialing the same way that you train. Perhaps you are getting louder/softer/more vocal/less vocal/more active/more demanding etc.   The old adage holds true…trial like you train, train like you trial.  Be consistent.
  7. Try doing some fun runs.  You know…those mock trials that trainers put on to help green dogs chill out about the bustle and wait of the trial setting.  Not quite the same as a trial, but helps.
  8. Try training at odd  places, busy places, quiet places, places with odd things going on and so forth.
  9. if your dog is getting reactive at a trial perhaps it’s time to step back from trialing and just get your dog used to the atmosphere.  Go to a few trials.  Teach your dog to chill out.  that is lay down and relax.  reward good behaviour and then ignore or correct inappropriate behaviour.   Take your time .. as much time as you need to.
  10. Consider if your dog is a trialing dog.  Not all dogs are.  Some dogs just can’t deal with the whole trial thing and for the good of your dog… should you require them to do so?
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