Jump to content
BC Boards

5th week in agility - QUIT the club


Recommended Posts

I posted here two weekends ago about Jazzy shutting down in agility class. I made sure she was very hungry and had good rest this time. I also made special smelly treat then went to class 30 minutes early tonight. Before the poodle gets in, I wanted to see if the poodle was really the cause of her shutting down. She walked in the ring, REALLY happy and " jazzy ", did everything I asked her happily-the best I had ever seen. 15 minutes later the poodle walked in, her butt was glued to the ground again. So I knew for sure what the cause was. I went to the other side of ring, encouraged her with happy voice & treat, tried to re-direct but nothing released her tension. The poodle's handler saw Jazzy jumping around all happy before she walked in the ring and said "Jazzy is back! she looks all jazzed up and ready tonight!" I caught the fear in her eyes and felt the tension through the lead as soon as they stepped in.


OK so my dog didn't do well with an agressive dog in agility (She usually bounces right back) and I think she didn't take it too well because she was on lead. The poodle was on lead (but jumping everywhere) so when she tries to 'eat' other dogs she literaly stands on her rear legs like a bear and growls/barks. So I think the impact on her was a lot stronger than a dominant dog picking on her. What upsetted me was the comments I received. I stepped outside and talked to the instructor about the situation and she said that I was being silly and that she wouldn't let her dogs act that way. When I asked Jazzy "let's go play!" she lied on her back and refused to move. The instructor said that most Border Collies are manipulative and that behavior right there was a good example. I said to them that I didn't ever want to force her to do anything she is afraid of and put her up. Another lady asked why I coudln't make it fun for her. I told her it is very hard when there is a source of fear right there. I know Jazzy can be difficult but I didn't think she was being manipulative but just trying to tell me that she was simply afraid. I waited till the poodle was gone and tried her again, there she was - my Jazzy-Jazzy was back to normal.


I think I am going to quit - at least until I find another club. This one is the closest and I still have to drive 45 minutes. Again I didn't start to compete and just wanted to see if she enjoys. I think she would have been one of the best students there if the incident didn't happen.


My question to you is are most agility clubs like this? Are there always agressive dogs or do they usually keep them under control? Is it the sensitive dog who has to change?? The poodle was trying to attach most dogs and Jazzy was the only dog that reacted. For those who have soft and sensitive dogs, I hope you can relate. I just felt like xxxx when I was told that I was being silly. In SAR everyone help out to make the training fun and positive.


While I was waiting I overheard that the instructor and the handler of poodle are in the same tracking club. That could be why she was never asked to leave. In my city a lot of obedience/tracking people join this one big club (AKC based)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Inu, that's too bad. But I think you did the right thing. Since the poodle owner obviously wasn't going to do anything about her dog, IMHO there was no point in keeping exposing Jazzy to that situation, which was only going to make her more anxious about other dogs. Even if you'd been serious about competitive agility, I'd say you did the right thing. And you certainly don't want to mess up Jazzy in relation to other dogs in SAR.


The good news out of all this, is that by going early and trying her without the poodle there, you know that it's not the agility itself that's making her shut down, so if you can find another club somewhere within a easonable distance, you know she'll enjoy it. Are there any NADAC clubs in your area - I can't imagine a NADAC club allowing that sort of problem with the poodle to continue.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When you get ready to check out other classes, ask how the instructor handles situations like you experienced. My trainer was very clear about identifing dogs in class that needed "extra space" either because they were a bit agressive or timid of other dogs... they wore bandanas so everyone would remember that this was a dog that just needed a little extra room when doing walk throughs and wouldnt appreciate your dog right up in their face. Good luck. Lysa and Merlin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tess is afraid of everything and everyone. The last class we took was too much for her and the instructor did not seem to have any sympathy for Tess, either. Tess was clearly mortified and the woman just said "Well, pull her up here to meet me..." and that was when I decided that instructor was not for us.


I think you are wise to quit. Jazzy is certainly not manipulative or anything else the instructor was saying. Jazzy was just telling you what was going on and you were listening. You need an instructor who clearly understands that you know your dog better than the instructor ever will.


Allie & Tess

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a slightly different perspective on this.


In pretty much any class I have ever taken, of any kind, there has been one mildly to rather dog aggressive dog in the class. Their owners are usually clueless about handling the dog, of course, but I don't begrudge them the right to take the class also. So it's my responsibility to make my dog focus on me and the equipment and not the aggressing dog.


When I first started doing agility with Tweed two years ago, he was so scared of strangers that he sometimes could not run a course because he would notice the judge, or the scribe, or the timer, and simply refuse to run, or for that matter, move. So what was I going to do? Ask everyone to leave the ring so that my dog could do the course? Nope, not realistic. My dog needed to get over this weirdo issues and learn that his job was to do the course despite the strangers in the ring.


Nowadays, if the judge is standing in the wrong place Tweed will run right over top of them to get to his next obstacle. He is absolutely not concerned about them because I didn't ever give into his fears and weirdness. I just kept running and encouraging him to come along and he had two choices: stay stock still in the ring with NO owner near by, but plenty of strangers, or run the course so he could stay with me.


I don't necessarily advocate forcing your dog to do something he doesn't enjoy, but my feeling is that when you say "I caught the fear in her eyes and felt the tension through the lead as soon as they stepped in" that it was probably as much you as it was your dog. I think you probably communicate too much about your worries about her being afraid to HER, so you are both feeding off of one another.


I think your trainer has some good points about you being manipulated, but I don't think you are being manipulated by your dog; I think you are manipulating yourself. Your dog may be very soft, but that doesn't make her incapable of working through a problem and if you keep removing her from every situation where she is forced to face something uncomfortable for her, how will she ever get over her fears?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good point but, in my class we have a dog that is out of control. Tho the handler has been told to leash the dog except when it is his turn; when it IS his turn and she places him by a jump and lets go, where does he go? Over to attack my dog or someone elses. I almost got bit last week because my dog was afraid of him and planted herself between my legs and he snapped at her thru them. Missed my leg by a mm. He doesnt belong there but is the daughter of the facility owner, so we have no choice. But my dog does nothing and suffers for it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My another question was if I was overreacting and yes I probably was to some people. RDM does have a point about my dog never going to get over this particular fear if I keep removing her from the situation But I would rather fix this 'problem' (being timid) in a different scenario. It took me a looong time and help of others for her to overcome her fear of clickers/laundry but it did work eventually.


I think I am going to trust my instinct this time and look for another club - or find another hobby for her.


All your replies helped. Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



If you choose to find another class, describe this situation to the instructor and ask how they will help you teach your dog to deal with the situation. If you're uncomfortable with their solution(s) keep looking. A good instructor would have seen the fear (and possible manipulation) and been working with you to overcome the fear. Identifying the problem is only the first step; good instructors find solutions tailored to the individual dog/owner.

Of course that just my opinion.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Inu -


While I think you should quit the class for the poor instruction, I think you should stick around to teach Jazzy that the poodle is not the end of world.


If you have paid your fee's, maybe just consider this:


Take Jazzy early, let her have fun. When poodle shows up and she shuts down, take her to the side, (act normal) then take out a ball and play BY YOURSELF. Do this until she starts to show interest in you and the ball. If she's not toy motivated, play with something that she does like. When she shows interest in you - play with her. Treat her. Do this for a few seconds. DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE POODLE. She's cueing off you more than the poodle probably.


Once you get that attention on you. Put her away again. Continue to play by yourslef. Walk away. Go listen to the lesson, let her miss you.


What this will do:


1. Teaches her that YOU will not reward her for shutting down. Which you have done by removing her from the situation. Alowing this enough will teach her to manipulate you.


2. Teaches her that even if she does shut down, that YOU will not shut down. She doesn't decide when she wants to quit. You do.


3. Teaches YOU to take control and calm down. Gets your focus off the evil poodle.


You will not be blessed with helpful folks like at your SAR class everytime you want to try something with Jazzy. If you limit yourself to this, you may find your dog is controlling you more than you realized. I know you only do it for fun. But now you get to train her that YOU will take care of her. That she doesn't need to freak out.


Tell your instructor that this is your plan.


If your instructor gives you crap, you tell her what you want. I KNOW what I would say, but you are not me. :rolleyes:




Link to comment
Share on other sites

I did finish out the class I took from that not-very-good instructor with Tess.


I just told myself that I would not be forcing my dog to do anything and then I didn't. I even got Tess to walk up to the little girl who terrified her (just by existing, the little girl was in fact very nice ) and take a treat from her hand. I considered that a major victory because Tess is hugely suspicious of children.


I just did other things at the practice time instead of trying to force my dog to walk up to people in the "sit for greeting" exercise. For Tess, it was more like an "other people are not all bad" exercise where we sat and watched instead of trying to hide.


The instructor was NOT pleased with me at all but my dog sure was. Here things were finally going at her pace and she was no longer trying to hide under my chair.


I like what Denise suggested; however, I am still not sure that I would return to the class with your evil poodle classmate.


Allie & Tess

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds to me like Jazzy's no idiot. She can clearly see that this other dog is putting on threat displays and is concerned for her own safety. Just because other dogs might not pay attention to visual stimuli to the degree that Jazzy does certainly does not mean that she is wrong in her assessment that this other dog means to do harm. I see nothing wrong with removing her from the area when the Poodle is running, as a short term solution. But you will need to find a long term solution, since Jazzy is a working dog and will be exposed to many other dogs of many different temperaments over her lifetime and working career. She needs to be able to do her job in a variety of conditions without shutting down. If you ever take Jazzy to a SAR conference or class, where there are other dogs from outside your own team, there may be dogs that appear to be aggressive (have prick ears or curled tails, walk on their toes, make prolonged direct eye contact, etc.) that Jazzy will view as threatening and may cause her a great degree of stress and worry (and, believe it or not, there ARE poodles in SAR).


I would recommend taking a break from agility and focusing on her fear of other dogs for a while. If you put all of the time and energy that you put into agility into working on training exercises to help Jazzy learn to deal with other dogs that make her uncomfortable, making that your sole priority (other than SAR) for a significant period of time, then I don't see why you shouldn't at some point be able to take Jazzy to any agility class you want.


Part of this is teaching Jazzy coping strategies, and part of it is developing your confidence in yourself as Jazzy's leader. If you are not confident, Jazzy will not be confident that you are in charge and can protect her....and by "protect", I don't neccessarily mean physically fighting another dog, but rather, that you have the confidence to make the right decisions (when to approach, when to retreat, etc.), so that when you give her direction, she is confident that she is safe in attending to your requests. By continuing to put her in situations that push her past her threshold (shutting down means that she is past her threshold), you are not building the kind of confidence she needs to have in you (not to mention that when a dog is beyond their threshold, they are not capable of functioning normally).


I really highly recommend Dr. Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. I have used this with Lucy, who is also a SAR dog and who is also sensitive to visual stimuli such as other dogs posturing. Also, she was run down while on leash by an aggressive German Shepherd, so she had some previous experience to back up her suspicions.


Using this protocol, I was able to take her to a group class at Petsmart and get her Canine Good Citizen certificate. Before I was able to do that, I had to lay a lot of groundwork training in less stimulating environments. She will even do nose touches with friendly dogs she doesn't know while on leash, when in the past, she would not have been comfortable with that.


This is not an endorsement of Petsmart training. The only reason I took her to the group class was to help her overcome her aversion (she ***HATED*** Petsmart; it was far too stimulating an environment), which she did, thanks to systematic desensitization techniques, and for the CGC certificate (required for dogs on our team).


Here is a link to the protocol, in case you'd like to use it.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a great thread! So many good thoughts.


The theme that stands out to me is that there is a lot you can do to help Jazzy have a different outcome when she encounters dogs that are either aggressive or that cause her concern:


1. You can sharpen up your skills at reading dog language (both Jazzy?s and the other dog?s) and take earlier steps to avoid many aggressive encounters before they become aggressive and many fearful encounters before Jazzy becomes fearful.


2. You can work on Jazzy?s focus so she gets better at tuning out distractions (good ones or bad ones). There is a great new book out called In FOCUS by Deb Jones and Judy Keller that is packed with ideas for how to do this, available from Clean Run:




However, in my experience you really need to see a good, focused agility team (dog and handler) to understand how to do it well. I would suggest watching top competitors interact with their dogs right before they go into the ring at trials, or ask if you can observe masters agility classes to see how it?s supposed to look. I did that, and overnight our agility practices changed so dramatically that I was in shock for days.


3. You and Jazzy could probably benefit from getting familiar with Turid Rugaas?s work on what she calls ?calming signals?. Rugaas has produced both a book and a video by that name ? the video is probably the more useful of the two, but the book is cheap. Here is an article to get you started:




4. You can teach Jazzy to ask you for help when she?s afraid, rather than just freaking out or shutting down. I?m sorry I can?t come up with a good link for this right now, but I know I?ve seen some and I?ll be sure to post them when I come back across them.


In the meantime, it really seems counterproductive for you and Jazzy to attend this style of agility class right now. I understand not wanting to drive to a faraway class. I probably hate driving more than anyone on this board, but it?s a moot point for me because there is no agility class within driving distance anyway ? I?m on an island. What I did instead was take an agility class offered over the internet, of all things, and I can?t believe what an outstanding foundation for agility it laid for my dog and me. If nothing else, you will learn a tremendous amount about positive reinforcement training and learning theory from this class, and you will be in a much better position to decide in future whether you want to work with any given trainer. You and Jazzy will also quite likely become agility addicts that no poodle can deter. Check it out:




Finally, in answer to your question about whether you will always have to put up with aggressive dogs that are not under control if you continue with agility, NO! Aggression at a trial results in disqualification under the rules of most, if not all, agility organizations. The same is true for dogs that are out of the handler?s control. For the most part, you will find that the aggressive and uncontrolled dogs drop out as you advance in agility, mainly because their handlers learn how to control them and realize that it is their job to do so. So when I advocate that you take a more active role now in protecting Jazzy from having to put up with rude dogs, it?s really a short-term solution. In the long term, I think you will find that most of the rude dogs simply disappear from your life. Partly it?s the company you keep, and partly it?s that Jazzy herself will learn over time to use calming signals to defuse many situations she?s not able to cope with now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really appreciate those who replied. I read them all at least twice and now have a plan.


I will go back there next class but just to socialize - maybe even just outside the ring while others are running. Till the next class, I will work on her focus, re-work on her obedience and socialize more. Back to basic but can't go anywhere without solid basic.


Thanks again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...