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What would you do? I've got the baby dog blues :(


MaryP
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I apologize in advance for the length of this.

 

I could use some advice, especially if you've had this problem before. My youngest dog, Ollie (2 1/2), entered his first agility trial in July. He'd been in classes for over a year and was doing very well. The trial was indoors. On his first standard run, he did awesome. He did 2o2o contacts, got his weaves on the first try, and earned a Q and a second place. The next day, he didn't want to do his contacts. It started with the teeter. He got on, but as soon as the teeter hit the ground, he jumped off sideways. Then, he didn't want to do the dog walk. I think he started up the a-frame, but then bailed. The third day, he wanted nothing to do with any of the contact obstacles.

 

At his first agility class after we returned home, he was a little leery about the contact obstacles. But, he got over it quickly and was back to his old self. At his second trial, he again refused to do any contacts. After we returned home, he got right back on the contact obstacles in class like nothing was wrong. At his third trial (an outdoor one, so more similar to his classes), he still refused to get on any contact equipment. He will occasionally go over an a-frame, but will bail halfway down. In class, he loves contacts, though he still can get nervous on a teeter. After talking with one of my trainers, she suggested that I not do any more trials with him for about 6 months. This past weekend was Ollie's last trial (it was too late to pull him by the time we had made the decision not to trial anymore. It was the same old story. He did an a-frame in Gamblers, but bailed on the way down, and would not do any other contact obstacles. I ended up just scratching him from his standard run on the second day.

 

I have two dilemmas. The first one is: "How do I help him get over his contact phobia at trials?" The second one is, "Should I still let him do jumpers courses, since he loves them and does well? Or, should I not do any classes in any trials during that 6-month hiatus?"

 

A little background: Ollie takes classes at two different places, and I try to take him to fun runs when I can. And, yes, I do plan to enter him in some CPE trials (we only have about 3 a year, though). We don't have NADAC anywhere within reasonable driving distance.

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I only have an answer to your second question- It sounds like Ollie is stressed in trial situations (which I am sure you already know), so he is bailing on the obstacles that he is least comfortable with. Based on your description of what is happening, I would continue to trial him in classes without contact obstacles so he can become more comfortable with the trial situation. Hopefully his stress level will reduce to a point where he will perform the contacts in the future. On the other hand, if you were not to trial him for 6 months, that might be good for him too.

 

One question I have is: how is he at the fun runs? Contacts or no?

 

I will be interested to hear ideas on how to fix Ollie's contact issues at a trial.

 

Jovi

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He has only done one fun run since that first trial. There aren't a lot of fun runs and they've tended to fall on days where we were already doing a trial. Anyway, at the fun run he did, which was shortly after that first trial, he was not willing to get on a contact initially. I used some food to lure him on, and he did the obstacle, though with some hesitation. In his second run at the fun run, he got right on the obstacles without a problem, and without the lure of food. It was just like he needed to be reassured on his first try that there was nothing to be afraid of, then he was fine. Unfortunately, I can't do that at a trial, though.

 

It was funny, my friend was telling me how, back in the day, they used to have "obstacle familiarization" at trials where handlers could take their dogs, on leash, over the contact obstacles before the actual class. I thought, "Dang, if only I could do that, I bet our problem would go away."

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At this trying to pinpoint the problem.point you don't know if he is spooked specifically at the contacts or whether he is unhappy about the whole trial situation.

 

I would try him with Jumping classes only to see how he goes. I think it would be premature to sacrifice 6 months ring experience without

 

Can you train anywhere else to generalise his performance on different contacts in other environments?

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He is fine with jumpers classes. He has Q'd and placed at trials in jumpers classes. Contacts at trials stress him out, though. When he gets stressed out, he will jump and bite at me. He will do this in a jumpers class, if I have a poorly timed handling maneuver, or if he messes up his weave poles and I take him back to start them again. When I try to send him to a contact obstacle, he will either run past it, stop short and jump sideways, or start to attempt it, but jump sideways away from it. This is always followed by him jumping and biting at me.

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I think, if it were my dog, I might give him a short break from trialing. Make obstacles super duper fun in class (which I'm sure you're already doing), and try to get him to fun runs, or even just practice on anyone's equipment within a reasonable drive (rent field time?).

 

After a short break, I'd bring him to trials to try to continue acclimating him to the environment. Take him as close to the rings as possible and play or treat him. Then after a couple of trials like that, enter him in Jumpers only for a while. Hopefully by then, he will be getting used to the trial scene and maybe in 6 months or so, try Standard again?

 

Just some ideas, not based on any real experience. I know it's frustrating, because you know what he's capable of doing. Hopefully Ollie just needs some more time for his baby brain. :)

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Was the contacts the same as the one you train on?

 

He could of seriously just gotten spooked by the teeter in the trial if he thought it was the dogwalk. Different teeters and contacts have different feels for them. And that would in my limited experience would make him more leary of the other contacts.

 

I can't tell you how many dogs had issues with the teeter when it when from wooden to the light metal ones. How does the teeter break?

 

Cressa my girl who has done well at nationals levels we still can run into teeter issues. Once in class she refused the teeter since it "looked" weird. (The sandbag wasn't placed properly.) We are currently working on her improving her teeters to cut down on how bad the bounce back and noice.

 

The biggest thing I had to do was what was right for her each dog is different. One thing I did was in competition I didnt push the teeter. Yup we NQ but we would leave on a good note till we got her past the teeter issue(she wasn't wishy washy though she wouldn't do the teeter in class either when she got spooked and she would worry over other dogs doing it too). We didn't push any of her contacts when she was stressing either.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am not an agility person but have taken some classes so take what I say with a grain of salt... I am a flyball person.

 

Could you accidentally be pulling/pulled Ollie off the equipment with your body movements? And then it just spiraled out of control?

 

Could you be stressed at trials which made Ollie more nervous?

 

If you can find some places that have equipment but aren't your normal places, I would think about taking Ollie there so you can work him in different locations.

 

As someone said, it could be the equipment is "different" compared to what he is used to practicing on at class.

 

If there are local trials, I would think about going just for the socializing/environment but not actually trial except for possibly jumpers but if he messes up I would continue like nothing happened and take the NQ.

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Do you train on rubber matted contacts? If not (or even if you do), maybe its the texture that is throwing him off?

 

Meg did not like the texture during her first trial. She'd not been on matted contact equipment before. She took the first A-frame with her usual enthusiasm, but missed the contact (not like her) then jumped off the up-side of the dog walk. I had to basically force her onto the dog walk and walk with her most of the way that first time. She would likely have continued to refuse it had I not put my hands on her and guided her on. She was a still a bit hesitant her second and third time over, but she did it. No problems now. Last weekend at a NADAC trial I couldn't keep her off the contact equipment (silly girl took the dog walk three times during our first Regular run).

 

In any case, I would try to find someplace else where you can work on different contact equipment. Maybe ask one of the trial locations if they rent out the facilities. (The closest place from me only charges $5 for an hour and a half open agility practice with one dog.) I'd start him off slow like its his first time on the contact equipment until its clear he's comfortable. Keep it fun, low stress.

 

If he refuses again at a trial, you'll know its probably more than just the new/different equipment that is causing the issue. Then I'd probably take a break from trialing and work on getting him comfortable in various situations.

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Ollie currently trains on rubberized contacts. But, prior to them being rubberized, they were aluminum at one place, and wood at the other. The first time he got on rubberized contacts, he was like, "Whoa, what is this." But, I think it was just because it wasn't what he was expecting. Once he tried them the first time, though, he was fine with them. Now, almost everywhere we go, there are rubberized contacts.

 

I have been trying to take Ollie different places. At any new place, he will balk at the contacts the first time until I "help" him, either by putting my hand in his collar, or by using food, or both. The only exception is the A-frame. He is less concerned about the A-frame. What I've also noticed is once he has been someplace new, he will often refuse the contacts at class the first time he goes after being someplace new. He did this at his first class after the USDAA trial, and he did it again at classes this week after we had done a fun run at a new place that he hadn't been to before. Once he does the contacts once, though, he's fine and he'll do them with no issues from there on out. In fact, once he does them, and realizes there's nothing to be concerned about, he prefers contacts over other things (like tunnels). It's so sad, too, because at his classes, he is a superstar. He's fast, responsive, and a pleasure to handle. I hope some day he'll be able to get over his anxiety about contacts and be able to go to trials again with us.

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