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?

Inexpensive Weave Poles and Jump Standards

Cindy found an inexpensive make-do weave pole set! I found some electric fence plastic 48 inch tall step in plastic poles that are perfect for me to use for training at home. A good picture should be at Deer Fencing.

She only paid $1.85 each at TSC (Tractor Supply), so a set of 12 was inexpensive. They have metal spikes on the end, and they are “step in.”

These fence posts can also be used as jump standards.

You can also use them for the sides for Jumps . Just cut the 3/4″ 10″ PVC
pole in half. Cut a notch on each end and rest them on the tabs that are on the
poles. Jump for about $4.00!!

And to make them look more regulation, try adding some PVC

I use the step in electric fence poles as well, and get PVC pipe in a diameter that slides over the top of the fence poles. I tape the poles as well.   That way the dogs get the same view of the weaves as they would have at a trial.  The diameter is a little bigger than regulation as it needs to go over the  wire holder tabs on the fence poles. But it is worth it, in that they go into  the ground easily with the step on edge. I actually turn the step on edge in  the direction that I don’t want the dogs to travel in on the weaves. This also  keeps the edge out of the way of the dogs feet.

Some Issues you may want to consider:

  • do you have rocky ground?  if so, inserting them may be a challenge
  • can you put them in a straight line?
  • can you build a line to help you make consistent spacing?  I.e. use a rope, tie knots it in at the appropriate intervals
  • will you remember to move them before the ground freezes?  If not…they will stay there until the ground softens again.   This may or may not be an issue for you.
  • Do you have the strength to pull them out again?

Dogs Weaving in Poles

Dogs who know how to do weave poles tend weave either by single tracking or hopping.

Dogs that single track go through the poles using their front feet individually as they go through the poles.  Dogs that hop, well….they hop!   They use both feet and alternate hopping back and forth between the poles.

Of course then there are the littlest dogs who just run around the poles.

This page shows dogs that are single tracking.  It also talks about how to help train them.

I’ve searched for pictures of dogs hopping through weave poles but have been unable to locate one.  If you know of one, let me know please. 🙂

Any method is fine for getting through the poles as long as the dog is able to be consistent the whole way through on a consistent basis.   Some prefer to train their dogs to single step, other trainers prefer to let their dog choose how they will negotiate this object.

This page talks abit about how to go about figuring out how to train weave poles.

Here’s a good site

Instant Agility. It’s a blog that talks about agility equipment design and how to perform the obstacles.

Most dogs love to work, and agility gives them a challenging and fun “job” to do. It can be a casual way for you and your dog to have fun in the backyard, or an intense activity performed on an official course against other competitors. In either case, you will need obstacles that your dog can jump over, jump through or climb on. That’s what we’re here to help you with.

Rear End Awareness Exercises

How does one teach their dog that they have a rear end?

Some dogs who only go for leash walks seem to not realize that they can do stuff with their rear end.    When I first learned this, and then saw it, I was stunned!  How could a dog get like this?

I’ve never had, nor do I ever think I will have, a dog who doesn’t know just how important their rear end is.   How do I get this?

I run them off leash A LOT as a puppy.  Through a bush, through culverts, over hills, over toys in the backyard.    Can you get down to this stream?  Let’s go swimming?  Fetch that stick that I’ve tossed hither and yon!

The question becomes more important as the dog ages and this type (the above) of play/work hasn’t been done.   So how to teach it in an older dog.

1. ladder work – have the dog walk slowly through a ladder.  This teaches the dog that they have to actively do something with their back feet, they can’t just follow along in a ladder.

2. walk over odd surfaces.  i.e. carefully walk down those rocks that they often has a soil barriers down to the water surfaces (or anything like that).

3. teach a spin, turn, circle on a piece of wood that is off the ground (perhaps don’t start off the ground, but add that height).

There are other things one can do, but my time is short and I’ll need to come back to this.  🙂

Contact Behaviour

The question was asked of me the other day.   How does one train confidence on equipment?

My initial response is that is takes time and repetition to build confidence, so perhaps it’s another question that needs to be asked.

Perhaps the question is “my dog doesn’t like doing the down side of the dog walk” what can I do to help him through this?

First you need to ask yourself some questions.

  1. Does my dog do the down part on other pieces of agility equipment?  If so, what is different about this piece?  If not, then perhaps it’s a body awareness thing and the dog doesn’t know he can use his rear feet to help brace himself as well.  And then one needs to train rear end awareness.
  2. What type of contact behaviour am I training?  Do I for this piece of equipment need to modify my expectations?   For instance, My dog Sassy has a basic 2020 for the dog walk and teeter, but a running for the a-frame.  The angles are different for each.
  3.  Is there any way that your nerves are starting to show about how this dog performs this equipment that might have some bearing on the problem?
  4. Can you lower it?
  5. Can you teach him to walk back and forth on a plank on the ground?  Can he turn in a circle while staying on the board?   Will he do so confidently?

There may be other questions to ask, but this will get you started.