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Ringside Behavior

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I posted this in General in May, and got no responses.  I am hoping I can get some input under Agility. It is regarding Piper's amped up behavior while we wait our turn at agility class.   I started my usual go-to remedy for this type of problem - the Look At That game - but once I started that, she focused on getting food and would bark for that.  Granted, the bark was better than the amped-up whining, but still annoying. And if I am not constantly alerting and feeding her, she focuses back on the ring. 

Has anyone else ever dealt with this?  My old dog would bark when someone was working in the ring, but it was not as amped up as she is. 

Would it be better if I removed her from the building while we wait our turn?  Or am I better off trying to work through this??

Below was my original post.  

I'm interested in collecting information on ways you would correct this problem.  Piper (almost 2) will whine and carry on while waiting her turn for the agility ring.  She starts out with minor whining, but once the dog starts running she amps it up.  We do not sit close to the ring, and turning her away does no good because just hearing the dog do contacts or tunnels triggers the behavior. This takes place in an indoor venue. 

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My Oscar tended to get distracted by other dogs around and in the ring.  My response was to ask him to do tricks to get his focus on me, rewarding with high value treats.  This would be things like spin, sit, drop, paw, sit pretty, roll, etc.  Things he knew very well, and I would often ask him to chain several together for a reward.  This had an effect of moving his focus onto his own behaviour and me.

I have also seen other people who have little squares of snuffle mats that they use to distract and calm their dogs around the ring.


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Nip it in the bud NOW!!  There are times you won't be able to be "far away" while waiting your turn at an actual trial.  (Voice of experience here...yep!)

Do some searching (sorry, I can't just now) about teaching CALM behavior.  It it hard - trust me! I know.  But in the long run, you'll be glad you did.  I've known dogs who are quite amped ring-side - but they are quiet.  Maybe just holding a toy in their mouths., maybe doing "tricks" as mentioned above, maybe whatever.  You'll need a "pre-run" routine - so might as well practice it at class.  If your instructor is amenable (and I sure hope so!),  maybe you could attend classes where you and your dog are doing nothing but standing, calmly, we hope, ringside.   Start far enough away that your dog has no reaction.    He'll soon learn that calm gets rewarded!!  

I know you said indoors - that is harder.  Perhaps there's some place just outside or behind a wall or barrier of some kind that you can practice CALM.  

I'm not saying you do, but *some* people think that getting the dog really amped up means he'll run faster. NOPE!  You need connection, control.  

Good luck, and keep us posted!


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Agree with above suggestions. You will probably have to try several strategies to see what works for your dog - and the strategy may differ depending on the circumstances.

As you have probably read many times on these Boards, it is best to start training the behavior in an environment without distractions (i.e. NOT anywhere near where agility is happening), then gradually add in time and distractions.

One strategy I have seen several times is to teach the dog to remain calm in an open crate and/or an elevated platform - which you might be able to transition to a flat rug/towel on the floor. The logic behind this is that by giving the dog boundaries (the elevated platform), the dog is more focused and more controlled and is better able to hold their stay.  For example, I saw a top sheepdog handler who trains multiple dogs at one time. She has half-barrels around the round pen. The dogs are expected to stay on their barrel until their name is called - and yes, this is while other dogs are taking their turns working sheep.

Yes, it probably will take a LOT of work when starting with a dog already over threshold in certain situations. Good Luck.


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Have never used (or heard of) a snuffle mat, but I'm gonna get one.

I had tried doing obedience exercises away from the ring during our down time to stop her behavior, however, it did not take up enough time.  Also, I questioned that while taking her focus off the ring, it was not teaching her to remain quiet.  There is so much down time at class, I like to sit and watch what everyone else is doing - or just talk to everyone else sitting there.  This extremely annoying behavior (to me, and I'm sure, to others) was stopping that.  I have seen people using tug toys at class to keep their dogs occupied, but mine aren't "tuggers" and I'd rather they learn to stay quiet. 

I will be searching "teaching calm".  And I will be researching and getting a snuffle mat. 

I am not the person who likes an amped-up dog.  I am the person who expects her dogs to be under control at all times, so that is why this is driving me out of my mind!! It's funny, her brother is the dog who is very active at home, crazy-fast,  and is the dog you have to watch so he doesn't get obsessive.  Yet he just lays calmly by my side during down time in his class.  She is my couch potato at home, usually calm, yet she is the one who is displaying this behavior. 

Well, I feel like now I have some options, so THANK YOU for the input!  I will let you know what works!! :)

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It’s a very common problem, all 3 of my agility dogs have had some version of this. My first competition dog was a nightmare to start, I worked through some of the exercises in controlled unleashed and it made a huge difference. Eventually we could hang out a few feet from the ring and he could get belly rubs. 
I like my dogs calm and thinking going into the ring, they have enough explosive speed without reving them up, tugging comes at the end. 

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