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Need help with agility speed

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Hi all,


I need suggestions to help my big guy speed up in agility. He's very accurate and will do what I ask him to but lacks speed. I have tried toys - he is somewhat motivated but mostly tugs/fetches because he knows I want him to. My trainers have assured me that once in a trial setting where there is more space to run, he will start speeding up. Well, we had a practice run in a barn (tht's where all our agility trials are held in winter) and he wasn't very fast! He trots rather than run. He does love to run though, (and very fast I may add) in the off leash park with my BC. He will sprint and sprint and sprint in the park but in agility, he is slow like a toad!

People have also said he's slow because of his size. He's 28 inches and 70lbs. He's a long dog rather than stout ie. he is long and lean. He has to crouch and crawl in tunnels (tunnels slow us down instead of speed us up! :rolleyes: ) and when he weaves, his body is always in contact with at least 3 poles.

I guess my question is : do y'all have any suggestions to improve his speed? New things I can do with toys to motivate him? Or with food? By the way, I should mention that he's a husky cross. But don't let that bias you! He is unusually obedient and co-operative for a husky. Heck, he even does recreational sheep herding. LOL. (Can't let my BC have ALL the fun, can I ??)


Thanks in advance,


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Don't know if I have a lot to offer but I will share a story.


My border collie, Carlie, is comming up on 6 years old this spring and has always been my sheep dog. I decided last year to start her in agility for the fun of it. She trots around the practice ring and occassionally shoots me nasty looks for making her practice something she feels she knows very well. I figured at our first show we wouldn't have a chance at placing but we would run to the best of our ability.


To my surprise she took off from the start line like a bat out of hades! She runs like a crazy dog at shows. In 3 shows she has 2 titles with 3 first place ribbons and 3 second places! Still in practice she pokes around and in a local show and go (practice show) she trotted around as well. I think she knows the difference between practice and show. Makes it difficult to practice as she acts completely different from home to show but we are continuing to try. We have our 4th show next weekend and are very much looking forward to it.


She also has never really liked weaving but in the shows she really drives to the weaves and actually flies through them! At home she wanders through them! Silly girl.


I guess I would say that maybe your dog will act differently at a show, but even if he doesn't I've seen several dogs trot around and still qualify though they don't place. Good luck; run clean, run fast and have fun!



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Having a shih tzu, I have tried most of the options for speeding up a dog.


Here are just a few:


If you pretend to be running (almost in place) the dog thinks that you are going faster and they start to go fast to "catch up with you".


The clicker helped a lot. If I rewarded her for everything and then she new that I was pleased with how she was doing and started to go faster (because she was more confident).


Really pump him up before you go (and don't put him in a stay at the start). Hold him by the collar and say stuff like "are you ready? ready to run? ready to go? you ready? you ready?" in an exited voice. This seems to work REALLY well.



I know from a friend (that has a BC) that she tried to get the dog accurate first, if the dog messed up, a little correction (like putting the dog back on a contact). The dog (being a BC) got nervous that she would screw up so went really slow to make sure that she did it right. They fixed the problem by rewarding the dog for EVERYTHING and just ignoring when the dog messed up, just keep up the praise. Even praise her when she did do something wrong to let her know that it wasn't the end of the world.


This built the dog's confidence and now I think that the dog has at least on MACH title and has done well in AKC nationals multiple times! She has got to be one of the fastest Border Collies out there!


Hope some of that helps!

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Lucerne - how long have you been doing agility with your dog? Often a dogs needs to get really comfortable with what they are doingl, before the speed comes. If you have a dog that wants to be accurate and correct, it can take a long time before the dog can do something without much thought procees going on. Liking to run fast after other dogs or just when they are loose has nothing to do with how they are going to be in agility. There is an awful lot of thinking that has to go on for dogs in agility, - understanding the correct execution of various pieces of equipment, watching the handler's body language, listening to verbal directions, etc. THere's a lot going on for a dog to assess and analyze. If he is food motivated, use food with him. I will start dogs out with a closed container that I keep with me. Ask the dog for one jump and then with a big verbal production, open the top up and let them grab a mouthful. Also, have you targetted him - let him run down a line of four jumps with you and he gets a reward that he likes there.

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Could partly be because of the cross. Are you certain there is nothing bothering the dog physically? If that is out of the question I would also try running starts. If you want a fast moving dog start with them on the line. Some say to lead out but when I'm really looking for speed (ie: Steeplechase) I get right on the line with the dog hands around them getting them all rowled up before I take off. Dogs LOVE to chase. So be the item that they're going to chase. I try to keep quiet when I run but when they're going into tunnels and the chute I really encourage them on with a high pitched "woo woo woo woo" or "Go Go Go Go" something that really founds fun (make sure they're committed though) and take off like a flash yourself so they see your movement when they're coming out. I would break down your training and work on the speed. One Jump quickly than Two and a tunnel and play. Than two jumps, tunnel than back over the same two jumps. Break your training down and try to find the underlying problem. Have you moved forward quickly in training, is there something the dog doesn't understand? And at this point DON'T correct the dog if they go to do something wrong you continue on, at this point the dog can do nothing wrong!! Make sure that your having fun too!

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Northof49 - Kindle is 2.5 yrs and started his first agility classes when he was a little over one. We took a break for a little while and have only started to really work on agility consistently again the past 9 mths or so. (Formal classes once a week, and almost daily practices (not more than 15mins) in our basement.


Thanks for all the suggestions guys. To be honest, I have already tried almost everything that you guys have suggested but I guess I need to stick to it longer for results. I haven't tried loading a target plate 4 jumps away and racing him to it tho. I will try tht as soon as i'm done posting. Usually he gets pretty excited when he sees a target plate anyways and will speed up "somewhat" for it.(I've tried putting a target plate in front of the weaves to give him something to drive towards and it helped. Instead of being EXTREMELY slow at weaving, he is now just slow. )


I'm also pretty sure he understands how to perform the obstacles. But how would you really test for that? Armchair agility? That I haven't tried. But most of our runs are clean. And I don't babysit him either. We work on distance a lot and he is good at that. For example, he can find his weave pole entry at any angle and sucessfully complete weaving with me at a distance and with layering as well. Also he knows when he has made a mistake (eg: like not staying in the 2o/2o position on a contact b4 a release command)without me having to say anything or look funny at him. (With my BC who is just 11 mths, I usually say "OOOPSY" when she makes a boo boo.)


FundyBorder - Kindle just had his annual vet checkup and he's healthy as can be. So yeah, nothing should be bothering him physically. When we are practicing tunnels, I have tried encouraging him with his tug toy at the other end and then playing like crazy. He definitely speeds up (or should I say crawls faster thru the tunnel) but how do I make him do that in a trial setting without the toy?

I guess I'm saying he does speed up when I do what y'all have suggested but he's back to his la-de-da trotting when the food and toy motivation disappears. Me cheering him on alone doesn't seem to do jack anymore. Sigh.


Sorry for the long post guys.


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another thing, dogs love to race. try not to get ahead of him but rather "race" more beside him. When he goes into a tunnel, instead of going out ahead - hang back at the tunnel exit and when he come out "race" him though the next obstacles.


You should also think of the fact that some dogs just don't ever really "go". They love Agility and have a blast but don't ever full out run. Some dogs just don't - make sure you don't push him to hard, its not worth it if the dogs stops having fun.

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First if you want your dog to be fast go back and lower the A-Frame and Dog WalkTrain for speed,

You must find your dogs favorite,reward and use it. have them run the aframe get your dog use to runing as fast as he can than raise the a-frame slowly. teach your dog a go on .


I had a GSD 28.5 inches tall He was not confident he was a velcro dog , then I found that he loved a specific toy so i used that for training.His speed increased dramaticly, I could even do RXs

Weave polls I use channels so i opend them up 2" just enough and rewaded with his TOY.

one day it came to me , every day before i would let him out .I would tell him GET THE SQUIRREL! Well this drove him Nuts he would bark and when I opened the door he would take off like H-ll.

With this saying i increased his speed so that he competed in NADAC + he made time . EX A in AKC and PER>2 in Usdaa

We had Running contacts on A F DW and SEE SAW!

Find your dogs faorite thing and use it do not correct him and have fun.


bob h

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Originally posted by Kinyenne:

[QB]My trainers have assured me that once in a trial setting where there is more space to run, he will start speeding up. Well, we had a practice run in a barn (tht's where all our agility trials are held in winter) and he wasn't very fast!/QB]

The excitement of a trial could jazz him up but I've also seen dogs slow even more or shut down at shows, so I wouldn't hope that's going to solve the problem. I'd want to feel reasonably confident about my dog which would mean he's doing well in practice before I start showing. Is there any way you could attend a seminar with a handler you respect? I've gained so much information and insight about both my handling and my dogs from the seminars I've attended.


My first agility dog was very slow, due to the way I trained him. Going to seminars was what helped me make the significant changes necessary to get him to loosen up and gain speed. For him that included (but was not limited to) my really working on my handling, never ever letting him even suspect there was a mistake, staying with him at the start line, and ditching directional commands (that made him feel pressured). The changes needed in my handling were many, since he knew his job -- just thought he was supposed to do it slowly and carefully. He made some great progress, morphing into a wild man in practice and getting faster in competition. Unfortunately, he became ill and died shortly before his 7th birthday.


However, that was my dog -- a very soft sheltie handicapped by a brand new agility handler. Your dog may have different issues (his height for example) that would need different approaches than my boy. That's where a seminar could be extremely helpful because the instructor would be looking at your dog and your handling, so the feedback would be specific to your team. It's important to find a presenter who is able to work with more than just the super fast, super driven dogs. For example, Cindy Brick in Wisconsin offers 2 workshops -- one for the fast dogs, one for dogs who need to gain speed. I haven't gone to her but I hear good things about her. I've been very lucky in my choices of presenters and gained lots of valuable advice.


A good resource for training agility is Susan Garrett's new book Shaping Success. It's published by Clean Run. Speaking of which, the magazine is going to be having a article in one of their upcoming issues about running very big dogs.



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Just a few thoughts- I have had dogs similar to yours in our classes (Northern breeds or crosses). They can run like the wind when the mood hits them, but they will not run fast in a controlled agility setting. IMO, part of this is based on their desire to control the activity, while doing just enough to "please you" and receive a reward. They are smart! They figure out quickly that the slower they go, the more cheerleading and rewards they get for the least amount of effort. They are in total control of the activity - and maybe (IMO) some of this is genetically based - after all, sled dogs do not run all out all the time - they are bred to conserve their energy but get the job done with the least calories spent. If this is your dog's issue, I would try a couple of things to increase speed.

1) Keep everything spontaneous and upbeat - no pressure - make it fun, fun, fun all the time - no corrections, no "oopsy", but lots of wide open spaces and only rewarding the bursts of really fast work. DO NOT CHEERLEAD! So you are telling him, you like it fast, and you are not going to coax or coddle him into doing it that way. He will only be rewarded for a fast effort. He will figure this out quickly.

2) I would break your sessions into very short segments, putting him in a crate or on a tie out between exercises - ignoring him until it's his turn, then REV and GO! Do not expect a whole sequence at a time, just a couple obstacles at first, and reward like heck if he does those fast. Then put him away. For this to work, your rate of reinforcement needs to be high - and frequent - but again, no nagging or coddling. Don't be tempted to continue until the slowness starts, instead, always break it off while the speed is there and spontaneously reward.

I see too many people who think "ok he did 4 obstacles fast, now let's see if whe can get a few more"...then the dog slows down and they have lost the opportunity to reward the great stuff, and have to reward the mediocre. Think about that from the dog's standpoint- he's thinking "I started out fast, but that didn't get me much. But when I slowed down, I got lots of encouragement and rewards..hmmm...Mom must like that way -next time i'll just go slow and get the rewards." This becomes a pattern - because dogs repeat what works!

Do not worry about finishing a sequence - stop and reward what you like. Pretty soon, you will be able to extend out the sequences, and still have a fast dog.

3) It sounds like he is worrying about getting his 2On/2Off on the full equipment- and that in itself will slow a dog down. Work your contact criteria seperate from your speed work - I agree that you could lower the equipment and teach him to run through fast - not worrying about the stop- then teach a drive to the contact position as a separate exercise - Using a travel board that you can take around with you and work at home and different locations - separate from the actual contact equipment. Break down your criteria - Again, only rewarding the fast attempts- making it fun and easy for him.

4)It's also possible that he senses your anxiety (about him being slow), so he is offering calming signals (slowing down more) to help you calm down. This can become a vicious cycle - but you can break it by stopping the exercise before he gets slow - staying upbeat, not giving him a reason to worry about you.

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Hi all,


Again, thanks for all the new suggestions. I will most certainly try them out.


Today, I put some of his yummy treats in a plastic container and then raced him to get it over a jump. He did good and I stopped just before he started to get slow again. Yes, I know, I have to keep the sessions very short.(I have 2 dogs, so they take turns practicing while the other watches from their crate. Sometimes I make them stay outside their crate on the sidelines just to practice their "stay" command.)


I will go back to the channel method again for the weave poles as this helped him speed up a little before.


I have attended a couple of agility clinics here but they were more on obstacle performance rather than analyzing/improving your handling techniques. I have also ordered Susan Garrett's book for x'mas (can't wait to get it!) and currently have a mag subscription with Clean Run.


Thanks all!

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My girl is very much like your boy, though she's much smaller and BC like (I think she's an ACD/BC cross) - she's accurate and slow on the course but loves to run w/ my parents' dog and off lead after rabbits and such.


We tried the baiting, marking good performance, lots of toys and treats, etc. and she only speeded up a bit. In our last trial she actually put some speed on, confirming my trainer's thought that she wants to work further away from me. We were on a Gamblers course instead of a Standard layout (Gamblers in USDAA requires the dog to work away from the handler for part of the course - handler is on one side of a mark and the dog does a sequence on the other). We'll be working on distance more now.


Another thing - Maggie has high prey drive (has caught rabbits, voles, etc.) but it isn't triggered by throwing a toy. I just discovered that a cat toy - looks like a fishing pole w/ a line and a toy at the end - works fabulously to speed her up and make her wild. She chewed the fur off the end, but I tied a squeaky mouse to the end of the line and it works fine again. I just have to watch that she doesn't jump too high or turn too fast after it now lol.



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