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Highly distracted at agility class - 13-month-old BC girl

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Hello. This is my first post.


My girl's name is Annie and she is 13 months and 20 days old. She is not yet spayed. She comes from sheep and cow herding lines as well as some agility lines. She is an extremely busy, high energy pup. She could be said to be a little "bratty." She is a bit noise sensitive and wary of strangers though not to the point of being fearful or reactive like my Standard Poodle is (whole another story).


She has unwavering FOCUS on me if, and only if, I have water or a soccer ball, both of which are not so practical when training agility, though I had run a sequence with a cup of water in my hand! I am trying to wean myself off from using these in agility training and use other practical rewards instead. She lost tug/toy drive during her teething period and we are building it back up slowly. Although she tugs sometimes at home, tugging is not her No. 1 reward (yet). She is not much food-motivated either (unlike my Golden is). She was a kind of BC pups that didn't care much about food. She actually spit out her food reward while we were training some behaviors. The only food rewards I can reliably use these days are Carnivore Cookies and sometimes cheese.


We have been taking a foundation agility class since she was 4 months old, starting from non-equipment exercises such as wobble board, cavaletti, cone works, shadow handling, etc. Now we are moving forward to a mini-sequences with a couple of jumps, tunnel, and a low teeter. We don't yet run the full length of dog walk or A-frame (both are still low), just practice the end behavior.


The biggest problem I am having is her super-disctractedness at the class. As soon as she comes out of her crate, her eyes and mind catch whatever she notices and she doesn't have any focus on me. Part of the reasons why she gets so distracted is probably because she is one of those dogs who are very "environmental." When I get her focus back and set her up at the start of a sequence, if there is a series of straight jumps, she takes off and runs around the practice yard ignoring me, visiting classmates, or going to a toy bucket to check out toys. The trainer and I decided to keep her on a line and do a sequence with bars on the ground. Also we do just one or two obstacles and reward her for the success (sometimes with tug, sometimes with food).


Things I am doing now or planning to do are:

1. Revisiting Crate Games

2. Shadow handling

3. Focus/attention game on the road at various locations

4. Practice tons of toy/food/personal play (I'm auditing Denise Fenzi's play course)

5. Tugging whenever we are home (make her a tug maniac)

6. Taking tugging on the road (not yet successful)

7. Recaller games

8. Taking Crate Games on the road

9. Trick her into liking jumps by doing a lot of one/two jump work at home


My questions are: 1) Shall this too pass? 2) If so, when? (I know. Every dog is different. Though it would be nice to have some encouragement!) 3) Any other ideas that might help calm her nerves down and pay more attention to our "play/work"?


Thanks for any input in advance.

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My girl's name is Annie and she is 13 months and 20 days old.



It sounds like you are putting too high expectations on her and on yourself. She's an adolescent exploring the world and most of what you describe isn't exactly challenging for her - not enough to encourage sustained focus which she may not be capable of yet anyway.


It sounds like you may have been working on winding her up from the age of 4 months when she needs the opposite. An excited youngster can't concentrate and from your description motivation isn't going to be a problem.


I tell people before they start our classes that the essentials are that the dog will come when called and that it will wait when told, and even then it may fall apart for the first few sessions when faced with the excitement of a class of strange dogs.


You have been doing agility foundation work but may have missed out on the basic foundation of building a relationship between the two of you. I would back off from the planning and reading and just be with your dog and work of the basics that are needed for life and the rest will follow. Don't over think everything you do.

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Oko, thanks. I do have both Control Unleashed books, but I haven't really read through the whole puppy book systematically. I'll do that over this holiday vacation.


(By the way, the profile photo looks like my poodle boy. I have an apricot.)


The book is quite a long read, but all the instructions for the games are at the end of the book! And yes, he's my nephew apricot poodle dog, poodles and border collies are an excellent combination. :)

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