Novice Agility Dog Dropped Bars Help

agility dog dropped bar helpDog agility is one of those places where the old adage, “Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins,” rings true. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and pass judgement on teams on what you see at that moment. Many times those “bad runs” you see are folks who are in need of help not criticism. Here is a question posed by a viewer who was one of those competitors.

Twister, the demolition dog, really makes the pole setters work. They see my screaming collie on the start line and roll their eyes.  I don’t know how to teach her to stop knocking the poles.  She is a young and inexperienced dog, but we can’t go on like this.  Please help me to help her.”

Anyone who has this problem; and it is a common one with fast, young dogs; will know the feeling of frustration it can cause. First you have to understand why your dog is knocking down poles. The place to start is an evaluation of you and your dog on course. Yes, this means you need to find a way to get either an experienced eye to watch you or someone to video tape your runs.

With a video you will be able to see if your dog is knocking poles because they are excited, taking off for the jump too early, dropping a hind leg on a turn and catch the bar, or do they not know their spacing between obstacles. All of these are signs of inexperience, and have training exercises to work at home.

Here are some tips to evaluate for both dog and handler issues that could be causing those dropped poles.

When you have a fast dog, remember that it’s not a race and you need to let your dog take the lead. It may be that your dog is anxious to stay ahead of you and is trying to “beat” you. You need to learn how to guide your dog from behind when possible, remember that the timer stops when your dog crosses the line, not you.

Watch your body cues and be sure you are staying upright when you are running your courses. Watch to see if you are bending your knees or dropping your cue arm. Your dog could be mimicking your dips at the fence and knocking down the bars as a result. Keep your body movement to a minimum and see if your dog isn’t able to focus better with your quieter, neater cues.

Wean yourself from redundant verbal cues. Your dog knows to jump the jump in front of them if that is the way you are moving. You could cause an early takeoff if your dog listens to your verbal cue as a takeoff point. Let your dog do their job that you have spent so much time teaching them. They will surprise you.

Make use of jump chutes and jump bumps. Start low if you use hurdles and practice send outs over a line of jumps as well as recalls. Set proper distances and then modify them to teach your dog to extend or collect and rate their distances. Send outs are great for you to practice running behind your dog and letting your dog do their job without excessive signals from you.

We want to caution you in the thoughts of respect for the poles. Using fear or pain in training ALWAYS has bad side effects, ALWAYS! If your dog continues to drop poles, they either need more work on correctness in jumping or you are causing them to make mistakes with your handling. Simply not rewarding for dropped poles or ending the session when your dog gets careless, are both great ways to get your point across.

We also want to take a minute to state that these tips are useful for any team, but are intended to address the young or inexperienced dog that is dropping poles due to lack of focus or carelessness. If your dog has trouble clearing poles as you reach their competition height, or suddenly stop clearing them, you need to have them evaluated by your veterinarian. Injury, bad joints, or even illness can cause your dog pain and thus poor performance or even avoidance to jumping.

When physical issues are ruled out, get back to practice for both your dog’s correctness in jumping and your correctness in handling.

Posted in Dog Agility Training Tagged with:

Dog Emergency Stories Helped by being Prepared

injured dogWe had a contest awhile ago where we asked you to share some of your worst and craziest accidents you have encountered with your dog(s). And while some of your stories were absolutely scary, it is a reminder that our dogs can get into jams and we need to be prepared with emergency plans and first aid. You can read more about how to stock a doggie first aid kit here.

Meanwhile, we are sharing the best stories to help everyone think ahead and plan for the worst.

Nadine Chounet shared:

My BC was on an outrun (on 5.5 acres) through woods and ledge on a search for a few missing sheep, and though the errant sheep came back she did not – I immediately started searching for her using a second dog, and found her struggling to return with a huge 8″ gash the length of her abdomen. The wound was dirty and full of bits of twigs and debris. I performed emergency first aid and bound her up using items out of the first aid kit I keep for the horses/sheep and headed for the vet. After emergency surgery to close her abdomen and untold numbers of stitches inside and out, and some long-term R&R,she pulled through just fine and is back to being my main working dog. I would love a first aid guide to go along with my own emergency kit. Thank you.

Courtenay shared:

At the beach, suddenly I’ve got a bleeding dog! I still don’t know what he cut the bottom of his pad off with. It was pretty scary!

Kathy shared:

A doggie first aid kit is something I have thought about getting but have not gotten around too yet. And as my Border Collie mix just cut her nose while rooting around the wood pile for some mice, I think now would be a good time to finally get one.

Maydog shared:

A couple of months ago my dog cut her paw pad pretty deep on some metal laying in the grass. To help release some energy the night before an upcoming agility trial I let my dog go play with our neighbors dog. Little did I know that there was stray metal laying in the grass and my dog’s paw was bleeding everywhere with a deep cut in the main pad. After being pulled from the trial, stitched and glued numerous times I still feel that if I would have known exactly how to handle the situation it wouldn’t have been so stressful for her. I would love to feel more confident with first aid techniques if they should arise.

Linda Nevard shared:

I sure could have used doggy first aid info when my little Malteepoo was bitten by a coyote. He had swelling around the sights and the only thing I could think of was to take a drawing salve that I used myself and applied it to the wounds. The big one burst and then I put Neosporin on the areas. I got him to the Vet who said that was a good effort. There was nothing more to do except make sure all his shots were up to date. I was lucky that time but it sure would have been better if I knew what to do in an emergency.

Allison Moss shared:

I made up my own 1st aid kit and carry it any time we travel. A couple of years ago, my “always into something” Bichon, Mattie, raided a friends purse and ate gum containing Xylitol. I immediately gave her hydrogen peroxide from the kit, to induce vomiting and rushed her to the vet. He said if I hadn’t been able to induce the vomiting immediately, she probably wouldn’t have made it. Needless to say, no one is allowed in my house now with anything “sugarless”!

DustyDuckDog shared:

While pheasant hunting in S.D., Dusty ran into a barred wire fence in pursuit of a bird. When I got to her, she had blood on the side of her face and eye. I was frantic with fear that she had injured her eye. Upon closer examination, we discovered that she had cut the end of her ear and by shaking her head, Dusty had gotten the blood on her face and in her eye. Much relieved that Dusty’s eye was OK, we still had to address the Problem of the bleeding ear. I always carried a dog first aid kit with me in the field and this was one time I was glad I had it.

Lisa H shared:

One of my 2 border collies is stick obsessed and despite my efforts to stop the behavior, others always want to throw him sticks. Once he got a gash to the chest that required antibiotics, and another time he got an enormous gash in his side that required surgery & antibiotics which may have been stick related – either it was in his mouth and he ran into something so it bent back or he was running in the woods and was cut (I was at work when both happened). 1st aid kits would be useful. Also, for great detailed health info go to The Modern Dog website – a blogger who is a vet wrote a series on assessing your dog’s health, system by system, and its worth printing out for future reference.

WellMannered shared:

We live in Southern MO where we have a lot of hilly, rocky ground. I always try to run the dogs in our pastures as they are much more grassy and we try to keep the rocks out. 🙂 However, one day we were playing fetch and Ruger came back with a bloody paw print. I checked his paw and found a pretty nasty gash (most likely from a sharp rock). I thankfully keep a small first aid kit on the 4wheeler and got him cleaned and bandaged.I also have worked as a Vet Tech for a number of years, so I knew how to handle this. It healed quite nicely and we were back to playing fetch within about 10 days.

Eden Le Bouton shared:

I carry a animal first aid kit with me and I needed it when my dogs and I were hiking in one of the Metro Parks. An itty bitty dog stepped on a pricker and it was stuck pretty far in between his pads. I had disinfectant that I sprayed on his paw and tweezers to pull out the pricker. I put antibiotic salve on his paw and wrapped it in one of those stretchy clothes that was put on my arm after a blood donation. The dog’s mom could carry him so he didn’t have to walk on his paw. He was such a sweetie. He gave me a kiss on the nose when it was all over.

You never know when you may run into an emergency with your dog or someone else’s. Being prepared is the the best idea for keeping you and your dogs as stress free as possible if and when an emergency should happen.

Posted in Dog Agility Training, Dog Health and Wellbeing Tagged with:

The Key to Success in Dog Agility is Good Communication

Dog agility is all about good communication, but even the best communication can go bad if too much is given and at the wrong times. Some dogs will trick you into thinking you need to “babysit” them and you fall into a trap of giving too many commands or even conflicting commands. At some point you have to relax and let the dog work it out on their own. It’s a team, that means you do your job and your dog needs to do theirs.

Conflicting commands. This can happen when you are not focused on your course and you point to the a-frame but shout out tunnel. It can also be far more subtle when you say the correct obstacle, but your body is telling the dog to go to a different obstacle. Normally found on a course as a “trap,” it can also happen when you are thinking about the next obstacle before your dog is committed to the current one. It can also be a product of not having a plan when you enter the ring. You need to study your courses, stick to your plan and keep your head in the game.

Too many commands, too quickly. When we get in a hurry, this is an all too common error. Your dog follows the commands, but because they came out too close the dog ends up executing them early. Be sure your dog has time to process your commands in a chain before giving the next command in the chain. If your dog is not committed to the obstacle at hand, you can cause them to pull off that obstacle in an attempt to comply with your request. This can be a real challenge for a fast dog. A delicate balance between getting the information to them early enough, without getting too fast and cause an off-course.

Too much going on It’s hard to focus on work, especially when learning something new. If you try to practice recalls at the dog park when you can’t get the at home, you are destined to fail. Yes, you need to proof your work by adding distractions, but never so much that your dog cannot focus on you. And when you do “up the ante,” be sure you have high value rewards so your dog has plenty of incentive to stay in the game. You don’t want to create a “treat hound,” but a good worker is well compensated.

If you are finding yourself wondering if your dog even hears what you are saying, examine your communication system and see if it might not be a simple fix on your part. Then watch your team soar to new heights!

Posted in Dog Agility Training Tagged with: