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I've created an agility monster

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Xena is a little cow. We had a 2 day trial over the weekend and while I sent her the wrong way a couple of times (novice handler, quick dog, bad combination!) the rest of our faults were things she KNOWS how to do correctly, but knows she can get away with in comps – with hind sight I’ve let it sneak up and become a problem.

 

Contacts - instead of the nice 2 on 2 off we had trained she now decides to launch from about 1/2 way down most of the contacts - much quicker that way (fortunately she still respects the see saw). I know I have caused this by letting her run through her contacts, she still understands at training and releases to my cue, not my movement, but in a comp...........

 

Weavers is the other problem - still a little more proofing to be done with entries which I can accept, but she is now at the point where she knows exactly what to do and is weaving well an quickly, but it is too much effort to go through the last weaver and far more exciting to race on to the next obstacle.

 

Any thoughts on how to fix?

 

My boy is another story entirely, but I'll worry about him once we have all his equipment issues sorted! :rolleyes:

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Xena is a little cow. We had a 2 day trial over the weekend and while I sent her the wrong way a couple of times (novice handler, quick dog, bad combination!) the rest of our faults were things she KNOWS how to do correctly, but knows she can get away with in comps – with hind sight I’ve let it sneak up and become a problem.

 

Are you sure she is trying to "get away" with these things? It could be that she makes these mistakes in competition because the picture is a little bit different to her than it is in practice.

 

As she came off the A-Frame, she could have read a cue from you to get off the A-Frame immediately. You wouldn't have meant to give that cue, but we aren't always the same in competition as we are in practice. We often send our dogs signals in competition that we don't realize we are sending.

 

I see it with my Agility students when we play games in class. As we practice sequences, most of them handle their dogs at a certain pace giving specific signals. But when we play games all of a sudden these same people are moving around double time going "GO GO GO!" in screachy voices and then the dogs get confused and run by things that they usually know to take, etc. I'm not saying that you are doing that per se, but that you are likely doing something different that the dog perceives - it could be anything!

 

Everyone does it and I think that competition experience helps us to learn to keep our cues consistent with the cues that we use with our dogs in class. At least that has been my (very limited) experience!

 

If she is doing her contacts and weaves correctly in practice, then I would focus on myself more than the dog at this point. I would practice giving the cues for the equipment on a course without the dog to make sure that I am going to cue my dog correctly when we are on course together.

 

And, of course, when I practice with the dog, I would reinforce correct performance with high value jackpots.

 

Just something to consider.

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Xena is a little cow.

LOL! I have a little cow too!

 

Contacts - instead of the nice 2 on 2 off we had trained she now decides to launch from about 1/2 way down most of the contacts - much quicker that way (fortunately she still respects the see saw). I know I have caused this by letting her run through her contacts, she still understands at training and releases to my cue, not my movement, but in a comp...........

Ah yes ... been there, done that. Wick had a lovely 2o/2o but a few years ago, we started running a really fun class called Steeplechase and they often pay out, so I thought "I'll do a quick release", which morphed into "hey, she runs that frame so nicely" which disintegrated into "wow, could you take off any higher?". :rolleyes: All those months of training were pretty much gone after a few of these performances in the ring. So ... deep breath ... go back to "there is only one acceptable way to perform the frame" and I would not accept less. If she failed to stick her contact, we would do the obstacle again (in venues like AAC and NADAC where you can train in the ring). If we were doing USDAA, I would thank the judge and pick up the little minx and carry her out of the ring. Note: Wick is a very driven dog and demotivating her has never been a concern. I would *never* do this with Bear, as he wasn't nearly as motivated as his sister, and I would worry about him shutting down. Also, he is very heavy!

 

They get ring-wise so fast, and when you add the tension that the handler brings into the ring ... well, all that good practice seems to go poof! Train like you trial, trial like you train, and don't accept any grey areas.

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Tweed knows the difference between class and the ring and will often blow contacts in the ring, because I let him get away with it. But now we go back and do it over and over and over again until he gets it right - once he blows the contact, we have lost our Q *anyway* so the course becomes a training exercise and he learns not to blow contacts in the ring.

 

It's the same reason I do not put a dog back in the poles where he bounced out, but rather go back to the beginning and do the whole set over and over again until he gets the whole sequence - I want my dog to know to do ALL THE POLES and not just the 10 or so he feels like doing lately.

 

*shakes fist in Tweed's direction*

 

RDM

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Ling also quickly became "trial wise" on contacts, figuring out that I'd let her get away with blowing them at a trial. For me, the start of the contact problem and going back and doing them over, was that obstacles are self rewarding for Ling... she was thrilled to blow her contact on the A frame, over and over and over and over. What could be more fun? So my trainer and I figured out that pulling her from the course if she blew a contact was the only way to get her to do 2o2o like I KNEW she knew how to do. So that worked in practice, but she very quickly learned I was loathe to pull her off course in the middle of a trial run. Once I did leave the ring with her a few times like we did in practice, that pretty much fixed trial contacts too. But it's HARD to pull your dog off a trial course. At least for me, it took a lot of resolve and patience, and some money blown on runs we never finished!

 

Oddly, this was a very hard concept for me to put into practice

Train like you trial, trial like you train, and don't accept any grey areas

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Ling also quickly became "trial wise" on contacts, figuring out that I'd let her get away with blowing them at a trial. For me, the start of the contact problem and going back and doing them over, was that obstacles are self rewarding for Ling... she was thrilled to blow her contact on the A frame, over and over and over and over. What could be more fun? So my trainer and I figured out that pulling her from the course if she blew a contact was the only way to get her to do 2o2o like I KNEW she knew how to do. So that worked in practice, but she very quickly learned I was loathe to pull her off course in the middle of a trial run. Once I did leave the ring with her a few times like we did in practice, that pretty much fixed trial contacts too. But it's HARD to pull your dog off a trial course. At least for me, it took a lot of resolve and patience, and some money blown on runs we never finished!

 

Oddly, this was a very hard concept for me to put into practice

Sadly I think this is the road we are going to have to travel down. I can't pick the difference between Xena's state of mind in a trial or at training - totally high drive and exactly as you say the behaviour is self rewarding. At training I push her further than in a comp and she performs well.

 

As with you my this would break my dog, but with X she just figures I've made a mistake and will tell me off.

 

I've videoed trials and training and my handling doesn't seem to differ - I'm sure she's worked out that there are no treats to be had and it's quicker to get to the next obstacle if you don't have to work that pesky 2o/2o thing.

 

Fortunately she's still only a very young dog at just over 2 so we have plenty of time to work it through.

 

Thanks for the input one and all.

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Once I did leave the ring with her a few times like we did in practice, that pretty much fixed trial contacts too. But it's HARD to pull your dog off a trial course. At least for me, it took a lot of resolve and patience, and some money blown on runs we never finished!

 

How does your dog know the difference between leaving the course for missing a contact (as punishment) and simply being finished (not a punishment) with the run?

 

They can't read the numbers. They don't know that there is "supposed" to be more. How do they know they aren't just finished?

 

In practice, we go out on course and do sequences, and then we go sit down outside the ring. My dogs are very used to that protocol. How would leaving the course communicate to a dog that he or she was "wrong" about something?

 

I'm not being difficult here - I really wonder about this. My Rally instructor used to tell me to "end the fun" by taking him out of the ring to go back to our seats when Speedy didn't do what I wanted. I did so to humor her, but doing so never changed his behavior (systematic training took care of that). We "end the fun" all the time when we are simply done with whatever we are supposed to do in the ring. It's part of what we do.

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How does your dog know the difference between leaving the course for missing a contact (as punishment) and simply being finished (not a punishment) with the run?

Well, speaking for myself, Wick knows the difference because when we are finished a course, I love up on her, tug with her, tell her she's a good dog (regardless of what the scribe sheet says). Even in a zero-point Snooker run, we run out of the ring and play. If I am removing her from the ring for not holding her contact, I down her, and then pick her up without saying a word. I carry her a reasonable distance from the ring, then I put her leash on and back to the crate/pen we go. I think it's quite a different experience for her that has nothing to do with reading the numbers on course.

 

This is what works for us. However, you have to be ready to enforce your criteria regardless of how important the event is (takes big ones to do this at a Regionals or Nationals), or how far you've driven to get to the trial (after a ten-hour drive, are you willing to walk off the course?).

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Mine are the same as Wick. Correct performance equals play and reward. The highest "insult" I can offer is to escort them back to their crate without reward and with a disappointed attitude. "So sorry, your choice was definately wrong and I'm aware that you know exactly what you did".

 

I've even had Izzy start screech-barking at me for this, balk at going back to the crate, then bolt back to the obstacle to do it perfectly as if to say "SEE, I can too do it right". :rolleyes:

 

At that (with great effort on my part not to laugh at her) I just call her to heel and blandly say "it's too bad you didn't do that to begin with".

 

You have to know your dog's reasons for doing what they do. If the correction is right, you won't have to do it often, and sometimes once is enough.

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The big party at the end of a well run course is probably a lot of what's missing when I take her off the course for missing a contact, like Kristi and Lenajo both said.

 

But, I think, most of the time when we've got a whole course set up in practice or at a trial, and we go out and miss a contact within the first few obstacles (common for us), and I take her off the course to her crate with no "good girl" or love and hugs, she has also seen all the other obstacles out on the course that normally she would get a chance to do. We don't do too many short drills with lots of extra obstacles just sitting out there unused, so I do think Ling knows the difference between running a full 15-17 obstacle course and doing five obstacles then going in her crate. JMHO And it worked, so that's what's important to me.

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There's a discussion in this month's Clean Run on taking them off the course. I've done it twice - once for a blown SLS, and another time when she went totally feral, and sucked over to a DW that I couldn't possibly have signalled - she did a rear cross flip to get to it - this was after we'd already been messing up.

 

I'm sure they know the difference - as the others have said. We don't pick dogs up here, but we do walk them off in no uncertain manner. This is different from a situation where a run has gone to hell in a handbasket because of poor handling, and you decide it's not going to get any better and decide to leave - then, after excusing myself to the judge, I will run the dog off - beacuse after all it was largely my fault. We had the same situation in last year's Nationals, where because of alrge numbers, it was DQ leave the course - but we were encouraged to take several jumps on the way out of the ring, as long as we were heading directly to the exit - just in order not to demotivate the dog or 'punish' for what was essentially the handler's problem.

 

And at least in the version of agility I do, we're not allowed to train in the ring - but luckily, we can restart the weavers if the dog pops (still only 1 5 point penalty - but time as well of course. I personally prefer to have the dog think that weavers is one single obstacle, so I will restart her. (And do a lot of work in training on always having her get to the end, whatever is around and whatever I'm doing - still a work in progress.

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How does your dog know the difference between leaving the course for missing a contact (as punishment) and simply being finished (not a punishment) with the run?

 

I haven't pulled Xena off a course yet, but know that when I do she will know what it going on and why she is leaving the course after she has to do it a couple of times.

 

When we are working in the back yard she can get preoccupied with possums and forget she is meant to be working. I take her straight inside for 10 minutes or so and then bring her back out. If she chases after them again we go back inside without a word. I never have to do it more than twice. This is with a totally obsessive dog, but one that will get the message pretty quickly.

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OK, looks like I might have been wrong.....(I hate that).......Tonight we had a really good look at her contact behaviour and it seems that we have all missed something. As she comes off the dog walk or over the top of the dog walk she is looking AT ME - TOTALLY FOCUSSED ON ME - to the point where she is ignoring what she should be doing. It seems the reason she gets the contacts right isn't so much that she knows what to do, rather that I've been able to put myself in the 'right' position on the courses we have been running.

 

Now to go about solving this focus issue.......At least we have a starting point now.

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Oh that's a good insight to have - now you know you need to be working on totally independent obstacle performance (don't we all :rolleyes: ).

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