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Hi All,


I don't post here much but I thought you guys might have some advice for me. I have a BC pup (well she's 16 mos old now so maybe a teenager now :D ) out of herding lines. She is awesome, very responsive, sharp as a tack and eager to learn & please me....EXCEPT when it comes to agility.


At agility class, when it is not her turn, she is insane- screaming, yelling, flailing around like a fish out of water on the end of the leash. She acts as though she's never had a spit of obedience training. She is hard...I have tried increasing our distance & distracting her, rewarding for attention to me (food or a ball). I have tried a riding crop & a bark collar...using punishment makes me feel terrible :rolleyes: and it doesn't even work. She is the polar opposite of my older BC (who was a rescue). On stock she is so responsive that she'll drop if I sniffle where my rescue girl is the hard dog there.


So far my instructors don't have a lot of advice...2 have already hinted that their neighbors may complain. I will start private lessons next week which may help in the short term but I need some help to get her ready to be at a trial & not drive everyone insane.


Any thoughts?

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Suggestion 1) Move back further from the agility class. If she's still going beserk, then she's too close and is being triggered. She'll continue until she gets enough distance.


Suggestion 2)If this isn't possible, then remove her. Put her in the car and go home, every time she starts to act up. No scolding, no acknowledgement. Get home and go on about your everyday life.


Both of these approaches do take some time. If you're removing her, then it will probably take at least 3 times for her to make the connection.

If you're able to just increase the distance at the lesson site, then you'll need to close the gap very, very slowly, over a period of weeks if not months.


I'd also suggest you work on teaching her self control in other areas of your lives as well. If it's just dogs doing agility that sets her off, then see if you can find a dog park where you can get enough distance from the dogs running around to work on her focusing on you. If it's just dogs in general, then go to a pet store or feed store and do the same thing.


Teach her to wait quietly for everything - toys, going outside, pets, meals, etc. No demand barking whatsoever. If you've trained her to bark at the door to be let out to potty, you may want to change that to some other signal.


Good luck, with consistency and patience, you can deal with this.


Good luck!


Ruth n the Border Trio

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If it were me I would probably take a break from agility for a few months and come back to it later.


My agility dog was distractable at agility class at the beginning but we worked very hard on focus/watch me exercises -- literally all the time, it is part of his behavioral rehab because he has "issues" -- so he became very fluent in calming down. Sounds like you've already tried this and it hasn't worked well, but I guess you can always keep trying, or trying harder. Be sure you are teaching her to relax, not just to look at you -- dogs are transparent, so if you only reward when she looks relaxed, you are rewarding relaxation. Believe it or not, you can put this on cue. Practice EVERYWHERE and get everything rock solid before going back to class so she has no chance to practice the bad behavior while you are installing the good behavior -- every opportunity she gets to be a freak just reinforces the freakiness.


For my dog, when he is overexcited the best and most effective thing to do is to take him away from whatever he is excited about. If he got cranked at agility class, I'd just turn around and lead him out the door and make him sit in the boring parking lot until he was calm again, then reward him and go back in.


Age does take care of some of this, luckily.

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I have a dog that was the same way. What I did was when I was around agility outdoors (like at a trial) I'd get as close to the ring as I could without him being overstimulated. For awhile this was pretty much out of sight of the ring. He got a reward (treat or tug) for quietly paying attention to me or doing some sort of behavior (a trick or even a sit or down). Then I'd move closer and again reward. As I got closer to the ring I was going only a few feet at a time before stopping. When I got to where he began to lunge/spin/bark at the dogs doing agility we'd move back to where he wasn't paying any attention to the other dogs and start over again. At places where we were indoors I'd stay near the door and as soon as the lunging/etc. started we went outside. I'd give him about a minute and then go back in. Same as outside I'd reward for good behavior and try to work my way closer to the "action". I'd go to agility classes or run thrus and just spend my time going in and out the door. I didn't punish him for the bad behavior, just quietly turn and leave the building or when outside the area near the ring. Another thing I did was take him with me to class or training with my other dog. He went in a crate ringside and as soon as he started he'd get totally covered up. When he was quiet the cover came off then as soon as he was out of hand it would go back over him.


I started all of this with him when he was about 6 months old and it took about 6 months before I could go to a class with him and have him on leash with me. He's 18 months old now and the only time he's reactive to other dogs doing agility is when it's a high drive border collie or aussie. I'm ready for him now when a dog like that goes in the ring and I get his attention and tug or have him do tricks and most of the time he never even looks at the dog in the ring.


The key was a lot of consistency and patience!

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Does the dog have a reliable down?

First, down means down. It doesn't mean bark, whine, wiggle, or anything but thinking about the down. If you have this type of down you can try this exercise:

Get a few private lessons where the instructor has another dog to run the course. Bring your dog out of the car, potty break or whatever you do and approach the field. A few feet from the field make the dog down. Stay next to her and make her stay down for 2-3 minutres. While she's down there are NO other dogs on the field. After the successful down do a brief run and take her back to the car or somewhere else away from the field. Wait a few minutes (2-3) and repeat the above sequence. Ideally you should be able to do this exercise 10-15 times in a 30-45 minute long sesssion. Once the dog can complete the down before her run. At home and other places enforce the down with lots of distractions. You want her to understand that down means only to down. You must correct any other behavior she displays while downing.

Once you've done this for two or three weeks (lessons) add ONE other dog. Walk to the field and ask for the down. This time step on the leash close to her head but without tension. The second dog enters the field and does one jump (which should stimulate your dog enough). Remind her she is on a down and correct if necessary. She does not get up until she has completed the proper down. If she remains down while the other dog does one jump, that dog exits the field and your dog gets to run. She is being rewarded for the down by running the course. Repeat the one jump distraction until she isn't going nuts and add a dog walk or more jumps. Do not add the weaves, teeter, or A-frame until much later. If she forgets her down you can ask for a focus on your face while she's on the down. Since a dog can't bark, scream, wiggle, etc while it's on a down she must behave or get corrected for breaking the down. Then, when she has been good she is rewarded by running the course. Work up to her downing while one dog runs an entire pattern. Any whinning or misbehavior should be corrected. My choice of correction is a sharp rap over the nose or under the jaw and a "NO! Down!" for verbal offenses. A rap over the shoulder for attempts to move coupled with me standing on the leash so close to the neck that the dog can't move it's head.

This is the method we use to control protection dogs when they must do obedience during their bitework routine. They are in high drive which we want (so is your dog) but we must also teach the dog to raise and lower (control) it's drives as necessary. Once you teach the dog this control yo ucan have some great runs and have control. Just knocking her around will teach her to supress her drive if it teaches anything at all. That leads to flat runs which you don't want. I hope this makes sense.

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Thanks Guys!


A couple of things I didn't mention....we have been on "hiatus" from training since the end of June. This year's hurricane season has wrought (wreeked???) havoc on most agility classes. Almost no one has indoor training so the equipment that was not repeatedly put up has been damaged and training areas have been destroyed by downed trees & flooding. I took this (and the heat earlier this summer) as an opportunity to take a break from agility.


Also, I have tried a gentle leader (caused bloody sores on her nose), the sense-ation harness (no effect) as well as just a flat buckle collar (chokes herself 'til she is almost passed out). I have tried the stand on the leash while pup is in the down- you'd be amazed how much noise a writhing yelping BC can make- even with my foot on the GL ring :eek: I have also tried crating ringside with her covered (it is normally very hot here in FL so I am always concerned about overheating) allowing her to watch while quiet and covering when she barks. So far this hasn't worked either.


This dog is normally so responsive to every command- she'll take a quiet "lie down" from 50 yards on stock. I just can't figure why agility gets her so out of control. I am in no hurry with her agility training so if she needs (more) time to mature then that is fine too.


I am considering using a pinch collar ....or taking my stock stick into the agility ring- LOL!

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If you plan to use a prong what do you plan to do with it? I'm not saying it isn't the answer, but I'm curious what you can do with a prong in this situation to gain control and not damage your relationship with the dog.

Before anyone accuses me of being "all positive" I'm not. I would appreciate it if you would share your plan to control this behavior by using a prong.

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Whatever you decide to try just remember that you need to stick with it because there's no quick fix. I brought my 18 month old very reactive dog with me to an agility trial today and I had him standing ringside with me. It took at least 10 runs and about 15 minutes before he could relax and lay down quietly without whining and totally focusing on the ring (and occasionally trying to lunge at the ring). I've been working on this problem for over a year now. Why the difference with your dog on sheep v. while around agility? I've got the same problem and I believe that it's because the movement of the other dogs doing agility really stimulates their prey drive in a different way than sheep do and I also think a lot of it depends on the amount of eye that they have.

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Yep ? got one of those jumping fools too. On thinking about it, it seems to be noises as well as the motion that stimulates the dogs. The sound of the tunnel, the handlers calling the obstacles, can do it, although when you add the sights, it gets worse. The movements of the sheep are very different, and you don?t get the same sounds. And, once the dog gets it that working sheep is work, rather than play, they take it much more seriously. (Mind you, my one dog that works sheep is only mildly crazy around agility ? but then she?s been doing it a bit longer than my crazy boy.)


I?ve been working on the distance thing (where it matters ? trials) and on relaxation and/or maintaining down ? foot on lead and lots of rewards for (momentary) quiet lying down or sitting. I think we?re starting to see a bit of progress. Certainly, the longer the class goes on, the better he gets ? both outside and on the equipment. I?m sure he came with an ?off? switch ? it?s just that sometimes it goes missing!


Course it doesn?t help that we do Flyball too. I know that I?ve made a rod for my own back with that ? but what the heck ? the dogs love it.

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Hi HK,


Not sure what you mean by "damage your relationship with the dog". I have used a pinch collar on a rare occasion- actually for ONE specific problem with my older dog. I do not give leash corrections using a pinch but I allow the dog to self correct. I don't see that as any worse than hitting or rapping the dog on the face or shoulder. In fact, I wondered if that is exactly what you meant with your suggestion. It seems like one might have trouble with the dogs becoming hand shy if the handler is actually hitting them with a hand?? ...especially on the face or head.


My plan with the pinch is using it while on the sidelines & if she flops like a fish out of water she will get her own correction- not one from me. I will offer kind words & even food rewards for calm behavior, tricks & attentiveness to me.


This dog has never worn one so I still don't know what her reaction will be. First I have to

dig it out of the box and dust it off I can report to the group on our progress if I find it & can get to a class tonight.


Don't worry I wouldn't accuse you of being all positive. Actually I am a fan of *almost* all positive training (especially for fun games like agility & obedience) and really feel bad when I've resorted to overt violence to solve a problem. Which, IMO, does real damage to the relationship.



Thanks for the tips & hope this clarifies my thoughts.



Originally posted by HKM's Mom:

If you plan to use a prong what do you plan to do with it? I'm not saying it isn't the answer, but I'm curious what you can do with a prong in this situation to gain control and not damage your relationship with the dog.

Before anyone accuses me of being "all positive" I'm not. I would appreciate it if you would share your plan to control this behavior by using a prong.

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Originally posted by Northof49:


And exactly what were you doing with the riding crop - using it on yourself I hope.

Thanks North,


I'm glad you wasted the bandwith to sling arrows.


I will not defend the use of a riding crop. I already said that it made me feel bad and then in a later post I mentioned my guilt at resorting to overt violence when more humane methods don't work. It just shows how naieve I have been in the past...listening to trainers who don't understand the relationship I have/want with my dogs. I've done a lot of reading (& soul searching) along with exposing myself here on these boards to ask for advice.


Your comments are in no way helpful...and IMO, expose your cowardice. You could've written privately. I guess a public bash does boost the ego though



Cin...ooops...that's SunDogs

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Originally posted by Tassie:

Yep ? got one of those jumping fools too. On thinking about it, it seems to be noises as well as the motion that stimulates the dogs. The sound of the tunnel, the handlers calling the obstacles, can do it, although when you add the sights, it gets worse. The movements of the sheep are very different, and you don?t get the same sounds.



You are absolutely right! It is the sounds. Now that you mention it she can get amp'd up just at the sound of agility. That is why taking the visual away has not worked. She was the worst at one class with several especially needy dogs where handlers were cheering and yelling the whole way 'round the course. Herding is peacful & quiet (mostly) but if I give her a "shhh, shhh" she turns up the speed & overreacts there too.


Thank you so much for helping to ID the problem. I think I may try recording a training session to try some nosie desensitization too!


Forget flyball!!! Even my mellow, low key girl gets wired there...I don't dare take Spritey anywhere near Flyball :eek:


Thanks again!!

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Well it absolutely stuns me that someone in this day and age would even consider using a riding crop/whip.


I deal with dogs like yours all the time that lack impulse control and need to learn to control their emotional reponse to various forms of environmental stimuli all the time. Actually this type of training is taking up most of my training time these days. A large part of my puppy training classes are geared to teaching impulse control to puppies from an early age.

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I wasn't attacking your choice of using a prong I was just curious how you planned to use it to correct the behavior. Pronging a dog around with verbal corrections at this stage (IMO) isn't fair. If she can't control herself the prong won't help her w/o risking damage to the relationship. To avoid her associating the prong w/ you you could let her self correct but how many times will she self correct before she "gets it" if a head halter has left marks and done nothing to curb her behavior? If she stops flopping like a fish but barks, screams, etc how does the prong self correct? Does this make sense? This is why I was curious what the prong could/would do for you at this stage.


Reread my post about the rap over the nose or under the jaw. The correction is done AFTER the dog understands the exercise completely........com-plete-ly. Done correctly this takes one or two corrections at best. My dogs are not hand shy in the least but they do understand that down means down and sit means sit.


Again, at this stage your dog doesn't understand her OB exercises at the agility field. If she did you'd have control over her. THIS is why I didn't see the prong as an answer. If she understood the exercise a prong might be an option for her but she doesn't understand.


Regardless of what you choose to do make sure you maintain the relationship with your dog. That should be more important than anything else.

Good luck

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