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Hi! We (myself and Bran, a 14 month old Border Collie) have just started Agility training! Well, we started two months ago.

He loves the jumps, tunnels, and even weaves, and has picked up how to follow my hands already.

However, we have a couple of issues that I am looking for advice on.

 

Firstly - his wait at the start. At home and on lead his wait's are perfect. We have practiced over and over again, no problem. But we get to the front of the queue in class and I take his lead off and tell him to wait, and zoom, he's off. He usually goes over the first couple of jumps before either coming back to me or running off to see what the dog in the next class over is doing. Once he comes back, he is more likely to wait (not every time though) and if he does he does the course perfect! But, obviously, if we can't wait then its pretty hard to get anywhere with agility!

 

Second issue - half way through class he starts lying down and looking like he's tired and/or bored. Is this an age thing, a training thing, or an owner's behaviour thing? His first two puppy classes he loved, but the third course (at 6 moths old) we did had so much waiting around that this behaviour started, and it hasn't stopped.

 

Third - this is an issue not related to agility as per say. But his behaviour has got naughty. When he is off lead at the dog park he jumps on people. Not on me, and not at home. But off lead its anyone's game. I think he is getting too excited - but how do I control that when we are out and about with other dogs? He has also stopped listening to the odd command that he knows and has always followed (for instance, 'leave' when we see a muddy pond. Until two weeks ago he listened, but the last couple of times it's been right in!)

 

Maybe there is a common thread here that I am missing, and most likely my training/energy/behaviour needs adjusting. Ideas? Please???

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About the wait at the start - he just doesn't know it well enough. He can do it with little distractions, but you have to practice and practice with more distractions outside of agility till he really understands the command in all situations. It's normal, he will get there if you keep up training it in many different situations. He's still very young and it's not easy to stay when he knows he's going to do something he loves. I would also work a lot on self control games that help him understand how to not give in to instinct, like waiting in a sit when you throw a ball and only go fetch when you release him. When I play frisbee with Tess, I will put her in a down stay when I think she needs a rest and practice throws by myself. At first she found it hard to stay in the down with frisbees flying away, but she quickly understood it.

 

About being bored in the middle of the class, that's normal too. Tess did it at that age. She loves to work and likes things fast, and would get bored with waiting for her turn or repetitions of things she knew well. My attitude was kind of, Yeah, life is tuff, isn't it? Learning to be patient builds the character, girlie!

She still does this little whine and a couple of impatient barks sometimes when the line is long and she just wants to do that obstacle NOW. She's almost 2 yo now so I make it clear I expect her to behave like the polite little dog she can be.

Once the trainer asked me to lead the class for a bit while he went to talk to someone, so I put her in a downstay while I went to watch over the others doing obstacles. She did hold the down stay, but she was completely incredulous, like, So, they get to do cool stuff and I have to just stay here??? In short, lots of impulse control training and your dog will get there.

 

Third, about not obeying commands he seemed to know previously, also normal. At 14 months old he's going through the "really obnoxious teen stage" where all our previous work seems to have been forgoten. When Tess was going through that, I simply wouldn't allow her to be able to rehearse bad behaviours. When she was off leash and people aproached, I called her and leashed her before she had the impulse to run over to them. Then I would keep her attention on me till we had passed the person. Just keep on teaching him how you want him to behave in specific situatuions and prevent him being able to do as he pleases, and in some months maturity will kick in and he will emerge at the other end of the tunnel knowing all the stuff he seems not to be paying any attention to now. It's just his age. As long as you keep his training up, it will all fall into place eventually. In my experience anyway.

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Another thought on the second issue, for the longest time my Penny would start to "check out" about an hour or so into class. Maybe 90 min of a two hour class, on a good day. She would get very mentally tired and not very interested in taking her turn near the end of class. Which looks a lot like being bored lol. Our classes sound the same as yours, with there being a lot of waiting while everyone takes a turn on the course.

 

This has really improved as she matures. We started training agility when she was a year old, and now at 2 it hardly ever happens. Agility training and all the stimulus of the other dogs working around her, and working on being calm, can be quite mentally tiring.

 

I also found with her it works a lot better if I focus more on keeping her moving through the course, instead of trying to get her to do it perfectly. She loses interest during training if I try to insist she not skip that jump, for example, but if I keep her moving through it and continue on it actually builds her interest and drive and she becomes more consistent and likely to nail it the next time.

 

It may not be the same for your dog, and other agility trainers may disagree, but this is what works for Penny and was what our trainer had encouraged. :)

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I have an unconventional method to enforce a wait or stay. I use it for my older dog who has the attention span of a gnat. If your dog breaks a start line stay immediately stop get your dog and ask to skip your turn if you are last or trade with someone. My trainer crates dogs when it is not their turn, but if yours doesn't see if you can bring your own. Use it as a time out (not a punishment, so don't scold the dog just casually crate him.), so he learns if he can't behave he doesn't get to play on the equipment. It usually only takes once or twice before the dog realizes if they take off the fun ends.

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I used CU Mat Work to build Bandit's start line behavior, and even though it isn't fully fluent, it is very clear that he understands the concept and he can do it at the level of his training.

 

Once he could hold the down on the mat while I led out (just past one jump at first), I changed the down to a sit. Then tried it without the sit and he understood.

 

If you aren't familiar with the Control Unleashed program, you might want to get yourself a copy of the Puppy Program (appropriate for dogs of any age). It will help you endlessly with an Agility Border Collie!!

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Breaking the wait is very understandable in an exciting environment. Have you been rewarding the wait? It is very important to build loads of value in it, many dogs start their agility career with a good wait but loose it over time as people don't reward it. I would also suggest taking "stay" on the road practise in parks, at the backdoor, getting out of the car and always use the same release word.

 

Do you crate during class? If not your dog is most likely getting tired from all the stimulation going on around. I always used to crate between runs in a group class situation and I now try and get my beginner students to crate or put the dogs back in the car.

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A dog doesn't know how long a class should be, it only knows when it has had enough. Don't wait till that point - stop before he gets to it. 14 months is very young for sustained concentration.

 

You can't beat little and often with a young dog. Dogs of the same age as yours at our club would be in class for no more than an hour and even then most will have had enough before the end.

 

I understand that if you have paid a lot for a class you will want to get your moneys worth but you don't want to push him too hard and flatten his enthusiasm.

 

Most people don't crate between runs here and it's fine so I can't comment on whether that might help. We just wait in line for our turn which is good practice for the day they compete.

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