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Running his own course

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So Parker has been working agility since we got him at 9 weeks.  Flat work for most of the time;  when starting jumps everything was low -- and we are still low with everything.  I decided from day one that this time we were not gonna rush training and we were gonna take things slow.  I know this is not an unusual problem -- I had it with my old girl when I started her in agility.  They get to a point where they know what the course is -- and they love it -- but they don't have the knowledge to check in for the next obstacle.  He does not get the zoomies and run around the ring as I've seen some dogs do.  During a segment, he starts out and then instead of checking in to see what's next, he starts his own course.  All obstacles/jumps are low, and he takes things systematically, so I don't panic.  After he takes his course, he runs back and sits with a proud look on his face, expecting a treat (which I do not dispense to him) and while I do not correct him verbally, I also do not praise him.   Since I have gone through this before, I know how I fixed this with my old girl.  I am just curious as to how other people have fixed this problem with the thought that maybe someone has a better way.  This has just started in the past two weeks.  He is 1 1/2 yrs. old. 

Thanks in advance.  All input is appreciated. 

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I wonder if you have spent too much time teaching him extension and running sequences with mostly extension jumping required. I have a 6 year old and a 2 year old. With the 6 year old, I started mostly with extension jumping, and it wasn't until I started running sequences/courses that I asked for turning to go to the next obstacle - which, of course, requires that they listen to you BEFORE they decide to jump and rush to the next obstacle they see. It has been a hard row (and it still is) to try to stop that default behavior of jumping in extension. Yes, he will turn, but it usually results in a very wide turn, if not an off course.

In contrast, my 2 year old is more tuned in, and I attribute that, in part, to the fact that her foundation training incorporated earlier introduction of turns, rather than flat out running.

If you think this might be part of the problem, I suggest going back to early foundation training for teaching turns and then incorporating them into very short sequences to build up a behavior that requires him to pay attention to you.

Just my 2 cents.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The big issue that I see from your description is that he is self rewarding by being allowed to continue. I would not allow him to continue beyond the first jump that he takes on his own.

Personally I don't want a dog that checks in between obstacles modern agility has become a fine balance between obstacle focus and independence and being focused on the handler for those complex turns, I don't want a dog that checks in I want a dog that drives ahead, but is listening and keeping an eye on me while flying.

Like Gcv-border my youngster was taught turns from the very start along with verbals, but I have the opposite problem to you with my younger dog if I don't use a verbal command he stops dead, even when you think he is committed and if I am running with him he has been known to go round a jump because I didn't say jump!!! It is interesting adapting my handling to this but it does mean he doesn't go off-course.



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  • 2 weeks later...

...I own both the dog who will stop dead or dodge obstacles if I don't use a verbal early enough and a dog who will, if I don't get the command out fast enough.  


it isn't a training issue in our case, it's a handling one.  The timing each requires is very, very different.  Molly needs to know what the next obstacle is, as soon as she's committed to the one before it.  This means handling lines, not obstacles, and cuing turns almost a full obstacle early.   Kiran's commitment point to the obstacle is MUCH later/somewhat lacking (we're working on this) and so his timing is very different - ie: later than Molly's.   If you'd asked me a year or so ago I would have said she just was taking what was in front of her, but reality is VERY rarely.  Mostly I'm just too damn late in telling her what to do.


those rare times it really is just her going "WHOOHOO GO"  I basically stand there and wait for her to come back, sit her butt down and leave the course or try again.


but 98% of the time it's me.  I'm late.  she's committed much earlier than I realized and by the time I ask for a thing it's just too late.  


Kylie's fine.   Kylie's also who taught me my timing to begin with.

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wow.  amazing that I checked in on this thread today, cause I sure do need it!! 

Back at the beginning, I took gcv's advice and went back to working on turns (which he remembered and does well) and started incorporating them.  We still had the problem sporadically in class.  I imagine that we have done too much extension work, as that it what is done in the class I am in.  When he would go off course, I could call him off and he would come back. 

I am positive it is not a problem with my getting commands out quick enough.  He is not listening for the commands when he does this.  He is focused on what he wants to do.  And after he is done, he comes back an sits proudly in front of me waiting for a treat (and no, he does not get one.)  I agree with Alligande that he is self-rewarding....

I had this problem with my old dog Kylie years ago.  It seems to have happened at the same time.  Once they had a handle on what agility was about -- and she, like Parker, LOVED agility -- they got enough confidence and just really enjoyed "going nuts" on the course. I would attribute it to immaturity.  I was in a different class at that time, and the way we stopped her was to put her on lead and make her stop after each and every obstacle. I'm not sure that is a good way to go about this, but it did work for her.  So I was wondering if there were other ways to deal with the problem. 

So this afternoon, we started out pretty good and he was staying the course pretty well.  Then we got to the dog walk.  Well, it is not my favorite obstacle, he is very fast,  and so I have taken it slow with him.  But this dog loves those contacts.  And after the first go over the dog walk, every time we started a segment, he broke and ran the dog walk (giving me heart failure) and this is the first time I could not call him off until he was ready to come back.  So, I put the lead on and did the obstacle/sit thing...and ended it like that. The instructor pointed out that it was like he was on a "high" running the course.  

I am well aware that many people who train where I do work around this and really don't see it as a problem, as they seem to like the drive and speed.  I, on the other hand, am old and an old-school trainer, and insistent that my dogs listen to me.  Period.  I take this seriously, as it could be dangerous for the dog.  So now we are going back to recalls, too.  I'm not frustrated.  I'm not surprised.  And I'm not discouraged.  I am sure we will get through this.  I am just open to any and all suggestions as to how to deal with it. 

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