Stop Crate Door Dashing in Your Agility Dog

It never fails, our dogs will chose to embarrass us in public with behavior that we thought we had overcome at home. It is true your dog may behave perfectly at home, so why do they misbehave elsewhere? It’s called proofing. Dogs don’t generalize so you have to teach good behavior everywhere you go. Some of these behaviors can seem harmless, but under the right conditions, they could cost your dog’s life. Here is an example posed by one of our readers.

My Staffordshire terrier Robin has a really annoying habit of just blowing the crate door open as soon as I unlatch it at class! (It’s an indoor ring so she isn’t in danger at least.) She is super strong, and really fast, so before I can catch her she’s flying towards the agility obstacles without me.  What can I do to stop her?  She’s not aggressive, but I’m worried about the other dogs, or if she does this at an outdoor ring.

The worst place to start training the correct behavior is at class, you are setting your dog up for failure. We suggest more proofing at home. Start by crate training your dog at home with more enticing distractions. If you have done all you can, you need to find something that is equally exciting to your dog as agility equipment.  Dinner is usually a great distraction. Crate your dog, and then fill their bowl. If tht isn’t appealing enough, let them see you add something delicious, too.

Ask your dog to sit inside the crate and give a treat.  Put firm pressure against the door of the crate so your dog can not push out as you unlatch it. This may be all you can do at first. If your dog gets up from the sit when you unlatch the door, latch it again and ask for another sit. If your dog maintains the sit, give them a treat.

Work here until you can unlatch the door without your dog getting up, then you can try and open the door. Again, if your dog gets up shut the door before they can get out and ask for another sit. You may need a helper ready to pick up the bowl before she can get it, in case she DOES break past you. Be sure to treat the stay. Repeat until they stay sitting in the crate even as you open the door. (This may take a few sessions!) Then release with an ‘okay!’ to go to the food bowl.

You may find you need to give encouragement to leave if you have done a good job rewarding the stay. If so, simply toss a treat toward or into the food bowl. Try other distractions as well starting from the beginning. A favorite toy being tossed, other dogs running into the room, be creative. Then you are ready to take the show on the road.

If possible find a quite place away from home where you can recreate the above lessons before taking it to class. The more proofing with smaller steps, the easier it will be for your dog to succeed in the problem situation. Once you get to class, repeat the above lessons and don’t let them have there turn until they’re letting you open the door without charging out!

It will take time, but it is time well spent that will keep your dog safe when you go trialing to places that are not enclosed like an indoor class.

Posted in Dog Training (General) Tagged with:

Training Dog Agility Contacts with Targeting

dog agility contact trainersThere can be great debate on which style of contact you should teach your dog, the 2on 2off or running. Each has it’s own downfalls and benefits and really depends on your and your dog. Some dogs are prone to flyoffs when given the opportunity, or take the initiative, to perform a running contact. While others lose motivation and drive when asked to stop. Many trainers now teach both so they can interchange as the course or mood of the dog dictates.

Most will agree, however, that it is imperative to teach your dog a solid 2on 2off for the teeter for you and your dog’s safety. When taught on all obstacles, the 2on 2off can provide you with the time you need to catch up when running a fast dog or getting a lead out on a sticky line that may come after a contact.

On the flip side, a solid running contact can give your dog the ability to perform distance work and keep up their ground speed. It can also help shave some precious time with a slower dog. Though we stress that running contacts should be taught with the help of an experienced instructor as it does tempt fate for fly-offs and injury to your dog when taught incorrectly.

Either way, contact training is a necessary step in agility and needs to be fun and rewarding for the dog. The use of a target as well as teaching a “touch” command is a great place to start with 2on 2off contacts. You want to fade the target as quickly as possible and teach the 2on 2off as an end behavior to the contact area.

As with all new lessons you need to pay attention to your dogs, stopping before the dog becomes overwhelmed or bored. Drilling any agility obstacle can cause avoidance and resentment, you want to keep contacts fun and upbeat. Here are some helpful tips for target training.

REMEMBER: keep sessions very, very short, 1-2 minutes at most, since dogs burn out quickly on targets.

  • Shape the dog to target with his nose or paw, whichever you prefer.  Many handlers prefer the nose since it seems clearer to the dog that they MUST stop.  Reward repetitive touches, or ‘holding’ the touch.  Build value for touching enthusiastically!
  • Practice targeting on stairs, and then fade the target itself, thus leaving your dog with a nose touch to ground behavior. Use any stairs you can, in different settings. Keep sessions short and highly rewarding.
  • Begin practicing the targeting on contact behavior, again beginning with the target so your dog ‘gets it’, and then fading the target, leaving the dog with a nose touch to ground. Keep sessions short and highly rewarding! If at any time your dog’s behavior deteriorates, go back a bit in training, and work your way back up.  Never take a good contact stop for granted.
  • After the dogs are used to contact training, start them on proofing – so they know to stick it no matter WHAT you do!

If you choose to try running contacts, we offer contact zoners to help your dog stay on the contacts to the end and avoid them ever learning to ‘fly off’.

Posted in Dog Training (General) Tagged with:

What is the Best Dog Breed for Dog Agility Pt 2

This is part two of all the replies we got about your “best breed” for dog agility. Yes, we all know there are some breeds that excel in dog agility naturally, but the dog you have is always the best breed for dog agility. In a sport that is all about being the best team you can be, breed has little bearing on what you can do with your dog.

There are superstar agility dogs of every breed, style, sex, and temperament. And there are dogs of every breed that rather not participate. Remember, always run the dog you have. Learn their strengths and weakness as a breed and an individual, then go out and do your best always learning and improving yourself as a handler and you will find you have the best breed for dog agility.

Enjoy these biased and loving stories from dog owners just like you as they share why their dog IS the best breed for dog agility.

tashi says: Hundreds of professional dog owners can’t lie, the Australian shepherd is the best both on and off the course. The speed and intelligence to compete with the border collies and an off-switch, so they can be your favorite couch potato at home.

Peaches says: My Rottweiler Peaches just loves to play agility! She is 26.5 inch tall and athletic built girl. She weighs about 97lbs and just flies over the jumps. Her fav is the A frame and is doing great as she has both her masters and is going for her PACH. She is my first agility dog and I am hooked!! This rottie rocks lol!

Rob says: I have a 27 1/2″ (at the withers)130lb Rottweiler.He has qualified for DOCNA Nationals 4yrs. in a row. He can run with just about any dog, considering most of his “competition” is half his weight.

S. M. Cooley says: The best breed is the only dog I have right now. Best guess is a cross between a basenji and pointer. Fastest and most athletic dog I have ever had and, luckily, since not a purebred basenji, relatively easy to train. She loves treats and pretty much every person and dog she has ever met.

Sherri Broughton says: My American Staffordshire Terrier mix is an amazing agility dog. Although thick and muscular, he’s so incredibly fast. I strive to keep up! Hurray for shelter dogs!!

barbara says: My agility partner is a shih tzu/poodle mix. This little guy has so much drive, heart and desire to please me..so unusual for this cross. He has titled in two venues in less than three years and we are now working on our MACH. For a 10 pound “uncommon” agility dog, he rocks!!!

Lucygooser’s says: My favorite breed is my Rescued Golden Retriever. She is a happy girl when she runs and shows it with her energy and enthusiasm on the course, she loves the sport!

Susan Horak says: I have had BCs for a long time but not just because we do agility. They are the best breed for my active lifestyle. We hike a lot and are constantly doing fun things:) I love to train and BCs intelligence makes training fun and a challenge at the same time. We do many things together; Rally, Nose Work and of course Agility. But he is mainly my loving companion and snuggle bug:)

Amy says: I love competing with my GSD and GSD/Husky mix!! I think they are fantastic!! 😉

Vicky Janicki says: The best agility dog breed is…the one you have right now. The breed that is under utilized in agility is a Pomeranian. I have 2. One is running in Masters and the younger one has his P1 Jumpers. The breed actually wants to be active and agility work brings out their work ethic (after all they are from a German background) and sense of humor. Also they are easier to keep up with than say a Border Collie or a larger breed on the course. And finally they are so darn cute that no matter what happens on the course they will make you smile.

Gigi says: I am a sheltie fan too. I love their cooperative nature! Our Sasha loves to train, and becomes very excited when she sees me get out our gear. Her excitement is infectious and that makes it even more fun for both of us.

Helen says: English Shepherds rock at agility! They are smart herding dogs without the herding obsession and they have perfect manners. They are the original collie. The dog at the top of the article is probably an English Shepherd. They often show up as shelter dogs and come in many colors.

Missy Gordon says: I love doing agility with my Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. I love the white blaze that streaks her nose and the smile on her face as she streaks around the agility courses.

Yuvonne Miller says: My Zak is a Golden Retriever and absolutely loved agility. Agility helped us become a team on the course and in the field when we hunt together.

Carolina says: I have worked with a lot of breeds over years and I discovered that the mixed breed dog is the most versatile and intelligent type of dog for sports and work. An athletic, slim-body mixed dog is best suited for Agility. Actually I’m competing with 2 mixed breed females who also do trickdoging shows. Since I had my first mixed breed I fell in love with this type of dogs. After all who else that doesn’t have a mixed breed can say they have the talents of several breeds summed up in one dog? 😉

Diggy Dog says: Standard Poodles are definitely the best dogs! We have two, and they LOVE to play on “The Playground”. They also love to put on a show and show off what they know. The more applause the better they perform. They also tend to love observing. This is their one bad agility antic. Did you know that the top of an A-frame is a great spot to people watch? Our two rascals seem to think so.

LisaH says: My dogs are both border collies. I love their drive and sense of humor! They can play endlessly.

Melissa Fiorenini says: Of course, my wonderful purebred Border Collies! They are the best and my 4 don’t make me prejudice!

Janet Lynn says: My Pembroke Corgi’s are simply awesome at agility. They so look forward to class and then t trials. My older gal has Catch 3 in CPE agility and my new gal is coming along just fine. They enthusiasm and energy they put into these events is amazing. Happy girls and loving every minute!!! Corgi’s ROCK!

rocket says: I have a Eurohound and he is every good at agility. He is a sled dog and needs something to do during the summer so we do agility. I love doing it as much as he dose.

Ali says: Nothing better than a mix! I have a Australian Cattle Dog, Border Collie, other mix who is quickly becoming a rock-star at agility! Only 7 AKC trials under her belt and she is already in Exc JWW! My other mix (who knows what she is) is also a blast to run agility with. She’s not as solid on courses as her younger sister, but we have fun together and that’s what matters. Just about every healthy, happy dog I meet these days makes me think, “I want to try agility with that dog!” I plan on having many different breeds and mixes in the future. Agility really is for every dog!

Cynthia Becker says: I love running courses with my chow chow Kobi! He may not be the absolute fastest but he knows the game and is dead accurate. He has had only one off course in the 5 years we have trialed! Mostly, he loves the applause he gets for a good run….he is a real performer and a big ham!

Karen Dayberry says: I train two AKC greyhounds in agility. They are smart and funny and constantly teach me to not take things too seriously. They not only learn from me, but learn best from each other — the good, the bad and the naughty. People love to watch them run on the course, and across the arena, and around the judge and to the edge of the course at a barking dog and…back to me.

Chris Esposito says: I think the best breed is border collies, however, I have a purebred rat terrier and he is awesome!! He listens and follows directions very well. We have gone from an AKC Novice dog to an AKC Masters Jumpers and Standard in just a few months. He is my forever agility dog. He has the best stamina for the job and on top of that he is a special needs dog. Rocky has diabetes and you would never know it has ever affected his spirit or his drive to thrive in the agility dog sport. I love him to the end of the earth and we will continue to do agility until he can no longer. Rocky has been very easy to train and does the right thing without hesitation. When he and I have made a mistake, I can go back and easily correct it with Rocky. He is a rat terrier gem in the making!!

MBB says: I have a Rat Terrier too. A little over a year ago we started training in Agility together and a few weeks ago he had his first official Double Q! He is a terrific little guy and I will always be grateful for his patience in getting us started in this great sport!

Carolyn Bean says: My all time favorite breed is a sheltie. I have 2 of them. Kricket is small and very much a princess. She has loved someone besides me all her life. She appeased me by doing agility with me but loved my Mom. When my mother passed away and I married she immediately took up with my husband. I love her dearly but she was a challenge in agility, not the normal, driven sheltie. However my second sheltie is all mine. She loves her Daddy too I must admit but her loyalty is with me! She loves playing Frisbee, doing agility and guarding her house from birds and trains, ( she watches for the train to pass our house twice a day!) If only we lived closer to Houston so we could have continued our training. But alas, marriage took us 2 hours from training so we just chill and play these days!

Dazzle says: Miniature Schnauzers is the best dog to have for agility.

Lorie Shaw says: My favorite dog to run agility with is my Sheltie. I love her happy, focused ways. She would rather run Agility than anything else, but can be a couch potato.

TeamTeggo says: We have a “JUG” half Jack Russell and half pug. My favorite feature is her wiggly little butt.

What we love best about these stories is that they are your own. They help others to see that dog agility isn’t about having the best breed, but rather making your dog the best they can be. If you missed Part One you can read it by clicking here.

Posted in Inspirational Tagged with: