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4th week in agility - shut down? (Long)


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My opinion (not having been there, of course) is that Jazzy got shook up and wanted to go home. I wouldn't quit agility at all. No need to puzzle endlessly about why she reacted the way she did -- just respect your dog when she asks for a break. We can all be put in situations where a normally enjoyable activity just isn't what we want to do right then, for all kinds of reasons. Much easier to call it off (as your instincts told you) and give it another go later. No one has to be up for everything all the time.


If your instructor refuses to respect your right to do that, that could be a reason to look for a different instructor, but my guess is the situation is not that extreme. The instructor has a lot more dogs to pay attention to than you do and knows a lot less about your dog and what she'd been up to earlier, so I suspect your instructor just got it wrong this time.


I remember writing before about how important it is that Jazzy can trust you to protect her from feeling threatened. If I were you, I would redouble my efforts to understand and anticipate what she will find threatening, and prevent those things from happening. Ideally, you should be taking action long before she even knows they might be on the horizon. If you can do that for Jazzy, it's pretty likely that she'll continue to love agility.


Here is the part of your message that jumped out at me:


"she was fine for a while then this big white poodle almost attached her out of nowhere (we were in line with enough distace)"


Read it yourself. There was not enough distance. You need to figure out what Jazzy thinks is enough distance and let that be your guide. We ignorant humans are so very good at misunderstanding the dog's point of view, and I speak from experience!


Congratulations on the SAR test! That's too cool.

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If you enjoy the agility and Jazzy has enjoyed it previously, I would suggest that you don't give up so quickly. Jazzy was tired and stressed (big, bad poodle) and so were you. I think it's worth a try to continue.


After Celt had been in agility classes for some months, he shut down also. All he wanted was to be out of the ring and on his way home. One of the instructors was convinced he was coming down sick as his change in behavior was so obvious.


We stuck it out and, after several weeks, he bounced back as class became more interesting and exciting for him. Now, he loves it again. I think he was just either bored or stressed in some way.


We people have good and bad days, and good and bad experiences also. Give it a try for a while and see if it was an isolated incident. Remember that, if Jazzy was "turned off" enough this one time, it may take several classes to become interested in agility again. Also, if that poodle is a real issue, Jazzy might not feel comfortable again in a class with the same dog.


Do what will make you happy and what your dog will enjoy together. Congrats on the SAR! What a wonderful accomplishment!

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Just my ten cents from training my first agility dog (not a BC)... dont forget that the dog also reacts to YOU. It sounds like it had been a busy time for both of you. The times that I had my terrier shut down on me could often be traced back to how I was feeling/reacting (tired cause I had hosted a big party the night before and we had all gone to bed late; I had been down with the flu for a few days, etc)... I think my terriers tolerance is low for inconsistent handling/lack of full enthusiasm and focus on my part. As I begin to start my young BC this spring, I expect this will continue to have to be an emphasis for me. Even though you are just starting, it is a TEAM sport... and both or one of you will have off days... and then bounce back. Unless you are unhappy with the instructor, I would give it sometime and/or look for another class. Lysa and Merline

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Lana has had down agility days and up ones. Jazzy was tired and sick and upset. Give her a break, she wanted to go home. But next week she will be ready and raring. Lana loves agility but last week all the dogs were wild. After an hour she went to the door and when I opened it she headed for the car. She had enough and wanted to go home. She loves it, but needs to make a decision about when she has had all she can take. Bring Jazzy back with all the enthusiam you can and start again. Have fun and she will have fun. Stay away from dumb poodle. We have a lab in our class that picks fights too.

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Inu -


Congrats on the SAR test!


I think you guys had a long weekend. BUT, I am VERY surprised to read that in the 4th week of agility you guys are already doing A-frame, etc.


There are many different ways to train agility. One of them is to just set up the obstacle and let the dogs do what they do. Another is work on the foundations before you do ANY equipment.


I started the way you are doing it right now. Just push and shove the dog to do whatever is in front of them. Then, all the instructors went to the Power Paws seminar, came back and told us to forget everything we were taught.


They switched over to a motivational approach. It was about the dogs working WITH us, not for us because we told them to. We worked with toys, clicker, treats. We did this for another 15 weeks, took a break and started again. This time, we introduced a board to teach the contacts.


I've been doing agility for a year now and just last weekend we got to run a course of 9 jumps with 2 tunnels. We worked only on front cross, back cross and reverse flow pivots. We worked on the "go over" here and outs. Even though Buddy is 22" at the shoulder, the jumps were all set at the 2nd lowest height.


After the course, we got to run the A-frame - lowest it can be - using our touch/ 2 on 2 off tecnique. This was the 1st time the dogs were allowed to run from one end to the other. And it was maybe the 4th time he had been on it. Same with the dog walk. The teeter is still set up with the table at one end, so we only have 1/2 the teater going. See? All of this after a year of agility. We have never pushed the dogs to do something. It's always been motivational - toys, clicker, etc.


I think that you should seriously consider looking into a different club. If a dog in our class ever showed hesitation to anything, we always stop and go back to what worked right away. Never would anyone push a dog into a tunnel. It's not about force, it's about desire.


I would not be comfortable in a class like that. The training I've done with Buddy in agility has helped us to bond so much better. He watches me at all times, ready, willing and so focused on the task ahead. He LOVES doing agility and I think it's because he understands what I want, what is expected and what needs to happen.


One important thing we were taught is to watch for signs of shut down in agility. Many times people make mistakes and the dogs don't know it. But the handlers will yell at the dogs "get over here! No! Here, HERE, HERE!!!" And the dogs will get stressed - a true sign is that they start to sniff the ground, their heads go down and their tails go down with it. This is a stress signal, one of many that dogs will show when they don't understand what's going on. We've been taught to look for these signs, and even when we screw up on the course, that we must remain positive. The dog didn't screw up - we did...and we should not punish the dog. So, the focus is to always remain positive, take things one step at a time and to keep the sessions fun, up-beat and motivational.


If you are uncomfortable in anything that is happening at that club, I would seriously reconsider. Look for a different approach. I know you are doing it for fun, but if they are allowing folks to push dogs into tunnels or force them into situations they are not comfortable with, I'd be hesitant to continue - you can have fun elsewhere without the added stress on Jazzy.


Sorry so long!



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Thanks Denise.

Believe or not, we started doing A frame, weave poles, dog walk & everything at the first class. The A frame was set about 5 ft in height. I was concerned about the height of jumps but they were set low.


I brought my clicker but the instructor said she personally didn't like them. I was surprise to see those dogs getting pushed in. The same handler was yelling her dog when he finally had it with her. People tell me I spoil her too much but knowing what kind of dog she is, I just don't want to push her the same way. When the poodle went off again on another dog (after i put Jazzy up) the instructor told the handler to use 'harsh correction' if that happened again.


My plan for next Sunday is to go there 30 minutes early before everyone gets there and have fun just two of us. I am sure she will let me know whether she wants to continue or quit.

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Oh Inu...that really sounds horrible. Be really careful with Jazzy, she's a soft dog and the sort of training you are explaining may not be the best for her.


If you only want to have fun with agility and never, ever see yourself being serious with it then I guess you are ok. But never force Jazzy to do anything and be very careful on the contacts so that Jazzy doesn't jump off or fall off. Try to do your best to keep everything positive, fun and about working together.


If you can find a different training facility, I would. I bet, with positive experiences for Jazzy, she will perk up. If the over all "tone" of the class is more about force she can be picking this up and shutting down.


Look at the Clean Run website for some informative articles on training. We are lucky to have Susan Garrett coming out to Hawaii for a seminar in Jan. She looked at by many to be the "mother" of Agility training, having developed many wonderful techniques. Look at the articles by her and get a different approach. See if you can work that in on your own and NEVER scold Jazzy for refusing to do an obstacle. And don't let anyone else scold her.


Good luck...



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Inu, I am amazed to hear how "pushy" your agility class sounds. The club I go to teaches much more along the principles that Denise talks about. A slow, low impact, basics first technique. It is a slow building of one step, then another.


Even so, it sounds like my club moves along more rapidly than Denise's classes are taught, but I believe the easy, slow, one step at a time is the right approach. It teaches correct technique, safety, and partnership. Pushing a dog does none of these things.


I only take agility for the fun of it. I have no intention of competing, and I admit it. But, I want my dogs to enjoy the activity and be safe doing it, and to develop a sense of partnership and accomplishment with them, all while we both have fun.


I have seen some pushy trainers running their dogs and I don't think it's a very pretty sight. I guess I have to agree with Inu, that you might wish to look around for another trainer.


Good luck in working this out and congrats on Jazzy's SAR work!

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I am not expert at agility, having only started learning about a year ago with Tenaya (and now Willow). We aren't ready for competition yet, either. But I agree with some of the other posters that this class sounds like it's starting out in a way that doesn't set you or Jazzy up for success.


Our trainer started in Agility in its early years, when many of the people (and dogs) involved apparently came from obedience trialing. So the people and dogs had basic obedience skills down before starting to train the equipment. She started teaching Agility after a while as a competitor. As time went by and more people came directly into Agility without that Obedience background, she found she really needed to hold a pre-Agility class "Obedience for Agilty", which focuses on teaching handler and dog the basic skills for directing what the dog is doing, both directional (Here, Go, Right, Left, Wrap, Switch) and to do it at some distance from the handler. We also focused on targetting. We didn't even use Agility equipment in that class, other than starting some early Contact training on plain, flat boards and a little bit of Tunnel work.


Then the first Agility class was just introduction to the equipment (mostly smaller-sized), with jumps set low for all--sized dogs-- with lots of focus on handling. We repeated that 2 or 3 times with our dogs before we were ready to "graduate" to a class that sounds like what you're starting out on.


Are there any other Agility classes or clubs nearby that you can check out?


Deanna in OR

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Jazzy's behavior after the poodle went after her sounds a little like something that Tenaya did yesterday at a Rally-O workshop, which led to associating a particular spot with "SCARY!" and an area that she wanted to avoid.


Tenaya was trying out one of the Rally exercises. The barn we were in had some caterpillars on the ground, and one caught her attention and then spooked her for some reason. When she tried repeating the exercise, she shied away from where the caterpillar had been, even though it wasn't there any more. Then a while later, part of the Rally course went over that same spot, and she shied back out of heel position when going over that spot--it took us a few minutes to realize that was the same spot where the caterpillar had been.


Anyway, it perhaps maybe Jazzy was associating the spot in line where the poodle had gone after her, with that experience, and trying to avoid that "bad place". Being tired from her other activities that day might have made her more susceptible.


What are you doing to make Agility seem like the most fun, exciting thing in the world? If all it is right now is one scary new thing after another (and some of the equipment can be pretty scary at first, especially full-sized), I could see how she wouldn't view this in the way you were hoping. Think about how you have been training to make SAR the most fun, exciting thing for Jazzy and think how you can apply that to Agility.


Deanna in OR

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