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I'm feeling kind of stuck with Molly.

 

When she first started agility foundations, she was reactive enough that she started out behind a barrier and did almost none of the actual course material. She joined the class on about week 3 or 4, though we skipped out on some of the exercises I thought would just be too much for her. She was ... reasonably chill and even friendly-interested in the other dogs by the end. The last class we even won a little distance handling competition thing (going around a bucket from increasing distances).

Then we went back and took foundations all over again, with a new group of dogs. She was pretty nuts for a couple of weeks, decent week three, did all the course work this time around, and again won the little handling exercise competition. This time at the end of class we moved on to beginner with the group.


Beginner is just about to end, have a break for a few weeks and go on to intermediate. She still reacts if another dog goes off, she's still wired, but last class she actually playbowed at one dog and had another get lose and run directly into her face without her doing *anything* more than wanting to play with the other dog the rest of class. She'll hold a start-line stay, she runs off leash and has fun doing the agility stuff we're up to.

Sounds pretty great, but the thing is, she's not actually relaxed. She has improved DRAMATICALLY and HUGELY with the reactivity and I expect her to continue but she's not really relaxed. She is definitely more on edge than I pretty much ever see her anywhere else, though it's not necessarily always bad arousal. If another dog goes off, she is at the end of her leash doing the same (there are other reactive dogs in the class). Last week she actually got spooked by my HUSBAND of all people and barked her head off at him when she lost track of him and then noticed him again.

 

The thing is, after this intermediate class, there aren't any more group classes - at least not regular ones. I can try looping her back with a new set of dogs in a year or so, but just stopping cold probably isn't going to help her. Probably. I might be wrong.

 

I just don't know how to transition her between *this* and a trial or even practice/run-through setting, and I absolutely do not want to cause a problem for other people or dogs. There are a *few* trials we can take her to as a spectator and will (or will try - see also: problem for others), but our daily life.... She just doesn't react or get tense, unless something startles her badly, or it's a really brand new place of a sort she's never been - I'm running out of those. The last time she got weird was when we were at a crowded park on memorial day (and it was *packed*).

 

I don't know how to transition her from group classes where she knows the dogs and is mostly okay, to a trial setting where she doesn't know the dogs or people. I don't want to give up on it, I am hoping that the more into agility she gets the less she will care about other stuff, but I don't have a real plan. It's not the end of the world if we can't get there, but I'd like to say I gave it an honest try, and her a fair chance.

 

I just don't have any idea how to bridge the gap.

Edited by CptJack
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Also, she's a year old so I may, conceivably, just need the plan to be sit down, shut up, and see what she's doing when she's 2. I'm just afraid that plan will lead me to a dog who is the opposite of better.

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I guess I'm a little confused on the issue... Is it social issues you're worried about or the agility skills?

 

If it's social skills only at the trials does your trainer actually run their own dogs at competition? If so see if they are willing to have you sit with them and help you out as needed. My trainer usually offers to have her students who want to trial their dogs hang out with her during their first trial (or two if the dog has serious issue). She helps the owner and dog get used to the chaos. Some people/trainers would rather focus on their dog and what they need to do rather then help someone else, but it wouldn't hurt to ask if you are that concerned.

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Sorry, I guess that was a little more stream of consciousness that I intended.


I'm concerned about the social skills. Agility skills don't worry me much - she'll have what she needs to start there, and if she blows it no harm, no foul, no big deal. Unless she freaks out and loses her crap at the judge, ring crew, or other people hanging around at the gate or in the crating area - but, social issue again.


Utimately that's what I don't know how to handle. In day to day life, now, Molly's pretty much okay. She's okay with dogs she's used to. She is not so great in overwhelmingly busy and dog dense settings. She adapts fairly quickly, but I don't really know how to get to that point with her at trial settings where she'll be there 2 days every few months, instead of once a week. I also don't think there's any conceivable way (that I can think of) to 'ramp up' more gradually from 5 other dogs to 40 other dogs.


I can ask for help from my instructor or other club members - more likely other club members, since the instructor is mostly busy running those trials and her dogs. I can take my husband with me, to help manage. I can pick a day and NOT run the competing dog and just focus on Molly and letting her hang out and chill out - but again, it's every few months.

 

I am going to feel like CRAP if she creates an issue or does something like pitch a fit at the judge, and I'm going to feel WORSE if we get excused from the grounds, the trial, and the organization as a whole for being 'aggressive' (which includes, per description, lunging and growling and barking on leash - which is just. Text book overwhelmed or scared Molly - no intent, but loud, reactive dog).


Sooner or later I'm going to have to do it or give up, but I really would like to find SOMETHING that will reduce the odds of either. The answer may well just be in help from other people, though, and that is a good idea. So thank you.


And hey, look, I streamed consciousness AGAIN - sorry.

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I understand now. I just didn't want to give misguided advice. It would also help to go to other dog/people hot spots before hand. Such as petstores, pet friendly stores like HomeDepot, or even the park/dog park. Get her used to tons of different surroundings/noises/people ect. You don't have to and possibly shouldn't let people just come up and pet her or dogs greet her. Just tell anyone who asks she is in training and can't greet or be distracted right now. You don't have to jump straight to trials if you're that afraid of being kicked out.

 

Also keep in mind at most trials (at least in my area) the other people and dogs take great care to keep out of each other's way, particularly if you mention your dog gets spooked easily. It won't be like being in public where everyone wants to pet and play with your dog. The ring crew and judge will not encroach on her space (at my trials they even make a conscious effort to NOT do much moving while a dog is running), so if she doesn't have an issue with just being in the same room as other people she may do better than expected.

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Yeah, I've been to a few trials with my other dog and people really are pretty considerate. People wandering through from the public can be a little, um, forward, and there was the one dog who got loose AT the trial (spectator dog) and tore around like an idiot, but overall the level of control of dogs and respectfulness of people is really good.

 

The weirdness for me is that Molly is actually pretty well socialized and in most places (vet is always bad - and I mean bad) she's fine. We go to parks and petstores and hiking, and the lake, and hardware stores and the like and she just doesn't bat an eyelash, but it's like she never generalized those things. At all.

 

She sees our agility instructor in agility class, and she's awesome and her best friend ever because she has cheese - we had a problem stopping her jumping all over the poor woman. She walked onto the agility practice field for a lesson, spooked, barked and growled at her. She sees dogs at the park and it's cool and fine and awesome. She sees dogs and people walking around the petstore and she doesn't care, she just wants a new toy. She sees dogs and/or people showing up at the air field or on a hiking trail (we're usually alone on both) and she FREAKS. I walk her into a flyball (as a spectator) tournament and 900 dogs screaming, she's fine. One dog barks in agility class or neighborhood? Noise. Dog runs into her face? That's cool. Dog comes to agility class late? End. Of. The. World.

 

She's barked and growled at my HUSBAND when he appeared in an agility class. She... lives with my husband and has her whole life. She likes my husband. A lot.


Reading back over all that I kind of suspect she'll be okay if she gets some exposure (and if I can figure out how to make that happen without getting kicked out) or at least okay enough, but I honest to god don't even know what to do with her, sometimes. I used to attribute it to being attacked by an off leash dog as a puppy, but I really don't think it's that anymore (at all) since it's so pervasive.

 

It's like 'new' and/or change is a trigger for her, in spite of the fact that she didn't exactly stay home and do nothing. She's been in group classes since she was 6 months old, and dragged all over the place since she was tiny. She's seen a lot of new.

 

...I might actually just start going to the field the home trials are held in to play, actually. I mean, step up socializing and experience in general, too, but at least maybe if she knows what the field is for and I drag agility equipment I might save myself (and her) some grief. I might also not, but it can't hurt to try.

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I don't have a lot of advice, but am so familiar with the "New = Bad" experience. I would have a familiar friend visit, one my old dog loved, and if she went to the bathroom and then reappeared, it was like a serial killer had entered my home! Ditto on people appearing "suddenly" at the park (from around a bend in the path). If Buddy wasn't expecting something, if it happened without preparation, it was MUCH worse.

 

It also seems to be context. If someone my dog knew appeared in the wrong context, it bothered him A LOT. For example, we walked every morning with the same woman and dog. They were friendly and happy together. One morning, the woman appeared wearing her daughter's raincoat, which apparently smelled like the daughter? Or looked quite different in silhouette? Buddy would NOT ACCEPT her. It was as if a demon had body-swapped his friend, or giving the dog to a stranger who was trying to steal her. So... the change in context could explain the weird reaction to your husband at agility. She was expecting X, and she got Y.

 

Good luck! It's so frustrating... I remember having the same feelings as you. "My dog is making progress, but how do I help him make MORE progress when I can't set him up in the situations that ramp up the stress?"

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What Cass said - expose her to as many different/unexpected things as you can, over time. Gibbs has a milder version of this. He hasn't reacted strongly in a long time, but he wasn't aggressive or loud with his reactions. And with constant exposure to new places/people, etc, the reactions are almost nil.

 

I'm not generally a fan of alternative stuff, but maybe Tellington Touch or similar things might help her be less reactive. TTouch has videos that show you how to do the massage yourself, I think.

 

Good luck! It must be frustrating to have worked so hard and gotten so far, to have it keep popping up.

 

Ruth and SuperGibbs

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I was just about to say I am not sure how many situations/people that I have access to that she hasn't already been weird about and gotten a grip on, but then I realized we're going on vacation in August so if nothing else I'll have that chunk of time to work on new stuff with her.

\

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For full disclosure (that doesn't matter but for the fairness to the class and instructor being sane): I can't count. In my head I count Molly as a year old and she's been in classes for six months so I said she'd been in classes since she was 6 months old. She hasn't. She started agility stuff at 8 months old - well, few days shy. She's actually almost 14 months old, not 12 months. I'm just apparently lazy.

 

Of actual relevance:


She's not aggressive, I don't think at all. She's loud. She sounds angry, but she sounds *exactly the same* when she's playing with our dogs as she does when she's yelling about someone else's. She never, ever, advances on whatever she's barking at or about, on leash or off, if it's spooked her, but she has tried to retreat. It could still get her butt kicked and start something, but she's not aggressive and I can't imagine her being willing to bite unless pushed really, really, hard.

 

But, yeah, I'll keep working on it. Vacation should provide a lot of novelty I just don't have at home.

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Just keep bringing her places and getting her used to things. Hank is pretty good in a lot of situations but still freaks out every now and then. Last night for example one of my agility friends and I were talking near him while he was crated in the back hatch of my car. I went to get him out and he wouldn't come out. So I picked him up and he was spooking all over the place, totally weirded out by my friend he's met many times before. Why? No idea. About 2 minutes later he decided she was ok and actually a friend and was getting belly rubs and playing with her very excited and happily.

 

He has these moments sometimes. Recent one was at a dog park where he decided this elderly lady with a giant mastiff and big sunglasses was totally bizarre. She was fine sitting down but when she stood up he was sure she was evil and would go nuts barking and growling.

 

I don't always GET it with him. There's not really consistent things that freak him. But just making it no big deal, teaching him these 'weird' things are normal, etc, is making the reactions fewer and farther between.

 

The handler just can't make these things a big deal. Constant exposure is good to whatever you can go to.

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Another idea is to take other kinds of classes with her. Rally, trick, nosework, etc. really anything that provides new situations and new dogs and new people

 

I'd also look at some of the Fenzi Academy classes?

http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/29

http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/84

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Another idea is to take other kinds of classes with her. Rally, trick, nosework, etc. really anything that provides new situations and new dogs and new people

 

I'd also look at some of the Fenzi Academy classes?

http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/29

http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/84

Yes. Find a good trainer who can teach you to help her with her reactivity. Fenzi is a great place to start, even if you just audit the classes.

 

 

Stacy is also amazing at teaching how to get focus and drive. I took her online foundation classes which were amazing! And I know reactive dogs who she has helped tremendously in the agility ring.

 

http://www.pawsitiveactiontraining.com/stacywinkler.html

In the end I think it's really about teaching her that you are wayyyy more fun than anything else out there and not so much that other dog's aren't scary. That part will come when she sees you as the reward.

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I have done and will continue to do Fenzi classes. They haven't actually helped much on the reactivity front, to be honest, but they're kind of fun given that my options in the real world are agility and flyball (or puppy manners) and that's IT. Like no exaggeration, those are the things that are available to me in the real world.

 

Molly actually has a TON of focus and drive. She's not relaxed enough to have good focus around other dogs, yet, but that's improved a ton from where we've started as she's relaxed - she's just got really good engagement. She will absolutely tug and play ball and pay attention to me in the presence of other dogs in most settings, at this stage.

We've just kind of plateaued, for now. If the dog isn't a surprise or she expects dogs, fine. If it's a known dog, whatever. If she's already engaged with me, we're gold in most environments UNLESS another dog goes off and starts barking/reacting, at which point she loses her crap. Reading it, it's not really all that bad and she has come a long way. I just don't know how to get from 'not awful' to her actually RELAXING around other dogs and her startle response not being what amounts to 'kill it'.


I'll keep plugging away with what we've got, keep taking her places and doing things (including working and playing tug there) and see where we are in 6 months from now. Sounds like I'm actually doing most things right.

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Thanks!

I should also say that after my freakout I actually asked my trainer to reassure me and she did a good job of making it clear that she couldn't see Molly ever leaving me to go after another dog, didn't seem to really want to hurt another dog, that she was doing well/on a good trajectory and had come a long way and that I managed her well. I unwound about it at that point.

 

Sometimes, I'm more high strung than my dog and I need a little positive reinforcement, too.

 

I think we'll be okay. I just needed a reality check to keep me from convincing my dog was a nightmare and a lost cause that was going to create an issue for someone else.

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Thanks!

 

I should also say that after my freakout I actually asked my trainer to reassure me and she did a good job of making it clear that she couldn't see Molly ever leaving me to go after another dog, didn't seem to really want to hurt another dog, that she was doing well/on a good trajectory and had come a long way and that I managed her well. I unwound about it at that point.

 

Sometimes, I'm more high strung than my dog and I need a little positive reinforcement, too.

 

I think we'll be okay. I just needed a reality check to keep me from convincing my dog was a nightmare and a lost cause that was going to create an issue for someone else.

Yes^^^ From your posts, Molly has come a huge distance, but I think that you were expecting too much, too soon. I know it can be hard since Molly is so good most of the time. Torque didn't really start to relax in a competitive agility environment until about 3-4 years old. To this day ( and he is almost 8 years old), if he gets within 20-30 feet of an agility ring at a competition, he thinks that he needs to be in there and will lunge towards the ring.

 

To tell the truth, because Torque was my first border collie (and I had not yet discovered the advice on these boards - not until he was about a year old), I wasn't too bothered by his frenetic activity. I managed it pretty well. Looking back, he has come a long way.

 

Now that I have my second border collie, I expect more (better) from him - and will probably be more 'disappointed' when he doesn't hit some benchmarks (and I had no benchmarks with dog #1).

 

I am wondering if you expect more from Molly because you are such an experienced dog owner, and she is a little 'outside the box'.

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I am wondering if you expect more from Molly because you are such an experienced dog owner, and she is a little 'outside the box'.

 

Probably, almost entirely - at least if you combine it with Molly being my first border collie - if not entirely.

 

Molly's smart. She wants to work with me. She learns well and learns fast. She's got great drive. She wants to please, badly. She knew more *behaviors* and had better basic house manners by the time she was 4 months old than my GSD-X had at 2. Her off leash skills have always been excellent - and I mean always.

 

She was always a 'serious', physically coordinated, and fairly independent puppy. Those traits are the opposite of what I associate with baby animals.

 

I have to consciously remind myself frequently that she is FOURTEEN MONTHS OLD - now. As in she's barely even considered an adult. She's also a different sort of dog, in general. Kylie has some similar psychology, but as in everything else Molly is a lot more intense than Kylie - and Kylie responds more by avoidance and shutting down (or did - she's come a huge distance, too, and is actually almost unrecognizable) while Molly rushes forward and yells.

 

So for me, I have to step back, take a breath, and sometimes I apparently need to be kicked in the knees and outright told to knock it off. Because what's there? What's there is a really good young dog with really good foundations and not a ton of life experience who gets afraid sometimes, and over excited sometimes, but works really hard at it and totally doesn't want to hurt anything or anyone and really DOES want to be good. What I SEE is an aggressive and nearly out of control dog.

 

Not all the time or anything, but when she's reacting or flailing all over? Yeah.

 

Really, hugely, enormously unfair to her. I usually catch myself. Clearly, not always. Fortunately, Andrea's really good at telling me to knock my crap off - in nice ways.

 

Basically tl;dr: Handler Error, not Dog Problem.

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Also/related:

I have serious 'trust the dog' issues and am kind of a control freak, just in general. Not a harsh one, but an anxious one.

 

One of the reasons I do agility is that it forces me to cut the (literal) leash and trust them and my training. Right now classes even are great for me because they make me take her off leash - trust her to hold the stay, trust her to work with me instead of tearing off toward the other dogs, or just not to do anything *bad* and come back to me when called.

 

And you know, frankly? She's pretty good about that, even if not quite as focused and deliberate as she might be at home. Every time she succeeds, both of us get a little confidence boost and things get a little bit easier. ...I guess I'm socializing me?

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Is it possible to post a short video of the issues you feel you are having? Each one of us has read the same words but if we all had to "draw" a picture of the content, the images more than likely will differ some what. By posting a video it may be that some one will notice that "ah ha" thing that may truly help. Just an idea

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I'll see what I can do. It'll probably be a bit - we've got one more class, then vacation, then class again in about a month, but If I can figure out how to make my camera take video that's in focus I'm sure I can get something. It'd be useful for filming the other dog's agility runs, too.

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Pbbbt. I'm pretty good about 90% of the time, but yeah. Every once in a while I have a Moment. I'm working on it. This moment also happened to get documented.

 

In related news (sort of) I am unexpectedly getting to go to our last class, and there's a 'send to obstacle' competition. I am PSYCHED for this thing.

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So, as a sort of update:

Class tonight was fine. She held sit-stays, she worked off leash, she tied for the win of our little send to an obstacle competition and won a toy. She politely sniffed one dog, threw a couple of playbows to the pitxheeler she seems to like most, and when the chi meandered away and to her, I was able to pick her up and hold her without her having a care in the world.


She's REALLY used to these dogs (I think we're on month four with them? 14 weeks of classes, 3 weeks of a break), but it was still a really pleasant class and good time. It's also nice that I can now work with her reactivity (which is definitely fear) via various methods and agility things *separately*. I'm sure she'll be a bit of a nut when we go back at the end of next month, but we'll make it.

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