Nippy dog at exit line
Lorraine Moxham-Smith from Brandenton, FL emailed me a good question for the blog. As I’m always looking for new contest ideas, I thought I’d open it up to our community to help her out! She asked,
“My sheltie has recently developed a problem. He is so excited and high upon completion of his run, especially in a trial, that he jumps up and sometimes nips. Any suggestions?”
Please share your comments ….
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I use hand signals. When my sheltie is not paying attention, I place two fingers with one hand up to my eye and hold it there until he notices. When I have his attention I just say “easy” in a very calming tone and his response has always be positive.Also I use only one word commands so as not to confuse him (usually its me who is confused !) Hope this helps a little.
“Ignore the bad behavior” and “Acknowledge the Good Behavior”. When your sheltie pops with excite is too late to curb his/her enthusiasm. Watch for the early warning signs of your sheltie beginning to rev out of their usual concentration and react to his/her surroundings vs. on you. Obedience starts in the home. So begin talking to your sheltie in his/her own language such as expressing canine Calming Signals of subtle: drawn out yawning, leisurely stretch out your arms out infront of you and glance coyly at your sheltie from the corner of your eye. You will begin to see that your sheltie will express, “You do understand my language” and begin to react to your request to calm. When your sheltie succeeds to bridge these beggining signs of calming – and can then settle himself – then and only then – acknowledge this good reciprocating “listening behavior” by adding tranquil even strokes and soothing voice. Until he/she reciprocates calm – just ignore the exuberance, do as their litter mate would do during bad behavior towards themselves, they would turn away, walk away in efforts to Ignore the rude behavior (yes, you can walk out of the room or look at the ceiling to wait until you see an initial glimpse for a positive response signal that he/she is attentive to you and providing you with good attention and settling themself down – stopping the low/entry level of excitement). When you can calm your dog without distractions (may take days or weeks), advance and try your calming charma when in your yard and during a moment when there are known distractions that cause your dog subtle excitement levels, and not setting your dog up to fail. Start to succeed with proven low level triggers (where your dog normally is passive when a person walks quietly by at a distance without dogs and not at high alert status instances such as a squirrel scurrying or chattering away tauntingly in the trees) and gradually raise the bar to assure your success is communicating clearly with your sheltie. I hope this helps
At the end of your practice runs try throwing a handful of small treats at your dog. Don’t say anything. Just throw the treats. This will startle and distract him, and should have a calming effect. You obviously would not be able to do this at a trial, but if your dog learns to calm down at the end of a run in practice, this should carry over to a trial. Throwing treats (not to be confused with giving treats as a reward) is the advice my Control Unleashed instructor Kienan Brown gave me to control unwanted barking.
I don’t know if this will help but, I would try to teach an immediate down on command first. Once the dog knows what to do, give the command once and give the dog time to figure out, no down no reward. Do this while in the house, then playing in the yard, everywhere you take him, often during your time together. Start to delay the reward until you get him by the collar or pick him up (whatever you do at a trial) Then, I would start with only a jump or two running as if in a trial demanding the down at the end of performance, in a calm voice, tell him good. Reach down, get the dog by the collar or pick him up, no excitement,very calm, walk the dog or carry him over to the leash (as in a trial) put it on then reward. Work with a hungry dog. If the dog doesn’t go down, no treat, no more play stand there and by this time (if taught properly while training away from the jumps) when given time to figure it out the dog should go down. Keep everything low keyed and work in short training sessions. Work your way up to doing more and more obsticles. Try to go to classes and run throughs where you can work on this. Remember that you are working on this problem while there so don’t get him too exited, probably just do the last couple of jumps. Don’t pick the dog up (if you normally do) until the dog goes down. No ruffing, excited patting, just a calm getting the dog and putting on the leash. Now the hard part……I wouldn’t go to any real trials until I have this under control. It doesn’t take much to undo all you gain through training. One good thing is that Shelties are VERY smart and learn fast (sometimes too fast)
I know a dog that will do this and I have seen many others do it at trials. In the cases that I observed it seems that the dog is asking for directions, or clearer directions. I would suggestion you train a ‘go on’ which gives the dog permission to go to the next obstacle in the straight line. (I, being older also, have taught my dogs to wait at the end of the contacts so that I can catch up and the dog feels it is working as it sits or stands two-on/two-off.) I reccommend this for others who can’t keep up and thus frustrate their dogs by not being there to give them direction. Also, give your directions as soon as possible. Once in the air the dog can begin looking for the next obstacle if they know what it is going to be. So,1. teach the dog to go on without you, 2.teach the dog that waiting for you is part of the game, and 3. give directions early. These hints come to mind without actually seeing the dog.
This has been the subject of discussion on agility lists before. So, I guess it is more common than you might think.
I have 2 Border Collies and a sheltie who are very excited to do agility. Any of them have at one time or another have gotten revved up enough to nip,spin, bark.
A couple of things you can try depending on your dogs temperament. If they are really into agility and nothing will dampen their enthusiasm, you can try to recreate the same conditions as a trial. When they try to nip at the end of the run you can turn into them give a sharp “No” and “Down.”
If they are a softer dog and this might make them hesitant to run then try to create the “revved up” state away from the equipment. Get them “crazy” with tug toys and just flat out chasing you. If they try to nip, bark, spin just say “NO” and end the game. Try again later and reward like crazy every time they delay that lack of self control.
Also work control type behaviors in the kitchen or yard. Sit Stay. Down stay. Stand stay. Recalls. Send over one jump and call them back to you with a “here”. Lots of positive feedback and rewards.
Hope something from all this helps. Sorry it is so long.
Most of all have fun.
I had a similar problem with my aussie when he was young.I trained him by treating him randomly when he would get through a specific obstacle well.
He could never know when i would treat him otherwise he would jump up expecting it.
I also would run for a short periods … maybe 3 steps & treat him if he didn’t jump & nip & then I kept increasing the distance with the treats.
my husband & I also did one other thing … which was run together with our aussie on a leash. one would have a treat, the other the leash & we would correct & treat at the appropriate times.
I hope this helps
hope this helps
For the dog that is revved up after the run, my suggestion is to train your dog to do something specific after the last obstacle – like get his leash and do a down or sit while you put it on. Then walk out of the arena at a heel or similar and no rewards til breathing slows. This would take lots of work in class and at home, but would give the dog something to do other than go nuts.
For the dog that is so revved up during the run, I’d back up and slow the dog down, only do a few obstacles at a time, treat and get her to do something calm, like a down. When her breathing slows down, she gets to do a few more obstacles. May mean no trials for awhile, but what you describe is not fun for either of you.
Find a toy that really gets your sheltie going, such as a fleece tug or one of those “skinny” toys that look like an animal such as a skunk but have no stuffing. My dogs just love them. When he finishes the run, immediately start playing with him with the toy to burn off all the excess energy. Do a really exciting tug game as you walk him off the course, then use drop it and sit with a treat to put his leash on, then release and tug your way back to your seat. He can’t nip if he has something else to do with his mouth. You can practice this at home, using the drop it and sit, reward, release and play, so he’ll be excited when he sees the toy and knows what to expect. Also, you’ll need to have the toy on you during the run, so tuck it in a pocket or into the back of your pants and hide it under your shirt until needed.
A couple of ideas, teach him to jump into your arms, gives him something to do. If you can get hte leash on, let him tug on the leash as you leave. Thrid idea, teach him a control exercise, that he must sit at the finish line, fold your arms, ignore him until he settles. This needs to be done in training, or a fun matches. first just get him excited, tell him to sit, praise quietly, and give a treat or a favorite toy as a release. Slowly move it to the ring.
I also have the same problem with my dog. In fact, upon completion of a run at her first trial, she jumped up and gave me a good nip on my bottom. Unfortunately, the trial photographer got a great shot of it and the picture sold many copies, even to people who didn’t know us!
I would work on teaching your dog a sit or down after completing the last obstacle and leaving the ring. Just as you would teach him to wait or sit before beginning his run, this would cue him that he needs to settle and focus before moving on. It would give you time to leash him and gain more control, while still allowing him to “celebrate” the run.
I have a friend that had this problem – her dog was getting frustrated/excited, and would jump up and nip. She was told to have Binaca breath spray on hand during practice. If he tried the nipping, spray the Binaca (not in his eyes) to discourage such actions again.
One of my aussies gets over-revved too. When she rushes at me in a leap and nip-kiss mode (aka “someday you’re gonna break my nose”) I try to get a sit or down command out before she goes airborn. If I’m late with the command to do an alternate activity and she’s in the air, she gets a time-out. A collar grab followed by a few seconds of me just standing there pretending she doesn’t exist usually gets across the message that she’s doggy non grata. If she’s really wound up, it’s a silent trip to the crate for a couple minutes of settle down time. She loves her crate, so it isn’t really a negative experience except for not being allowed to interact with me/others and not getting to play agility (horror and double horror!) Now I’ve got to convince her that other people don’t like being rushed/jumped at- a much harder lesson to teach the wild child because we’ll be doing great then inevitably run into someone who says “I don’t mind” as they fuss over her. :>(
Does the Sheltie get this excited at any other time?
I would suggest training a behavior or string of behaviors to be done when the run is over. Something that dog likes to do, knows it pleases his owner and does well.
One person I know has her dog, on command, whip around her into heel position. He is so pleased with himself, but you can tell he is still full of energy.
My suggestion is if the dog does this in practice, the handler should cross her arms (so the dog cannot nip them) and turn away from the dog for at least 30 seconds (so the dog knows the handler is unhappy). When the owner turns back to the dog, there should be no emotion involved, but the dog should be asked for a behavior and if done, rewarded. Shelties are smart and should catch on quickly. The hard part is for the handler to be unemotional about it. Emotion seems to feed the excitment of the dog.
I a client with a highly excited dog, and we have taught the dog to go to the stand or leash runner and get her leash with the command “Done!” as she crosses the final jump. Just be careful that she is clear of the jump before issuing the command.
So now she grabs the leash and brings it to her mom for a tug! as they leave the ring but she has to sit and get the leash clipped on before she gets to tug. The behavior was clicker trained so it took a bit of time, but well worth it and as she was already clicker trained it went rather quickly. The only problem she has had is when the leash runner is slow, but she has learned to warn the runner before they start to have the leash ready.
I think you should especially train this high flyer to sit at the end of all practices to get his treat. Work on making him wait a few seconds at first and build up to maybe 10-20 seconds so he de-fuses a little bit. Over time, he will know to sit and wait nicely at the end of his run instead of jumping and being all excited. This technique also works well for dogs that are so effusively excited when meeting people that they knock them over.
You could begin training your sheltie with a short leash attachment to his collar, so you can more easily grab him and make him sit. Don’t make sitting a punishment…keep up with the praise and encouragement and treats for him taking it down a notch for you. Our Shelties were always fast learners, and I am sure yours will catch on quickly. The high energy is really to be desired, I think, as it certainly helps with speed!! He just needs to learn to channel that energy to the course and not use you as a playtoy when done. (Especially the nipping).
Please keep the group informed of your progress! Would like to hear what eventually works for you and your dog.
Does your dog like toys? Is here a way you can carry a small type of dog toy that you can offer him at the end of the run that he will take? Something that you can tuck in a pocket or slip right into the front of your pants near the belt loops that won’t get into your way while running the course? I have found with my border collie (whom is a rescue), when she gets so excited, she will target my hand area, so I now carry a terry cloth (rag) the she can bite into and hold on when she is so excited. She looks forward to this “tugging” and now targets the cloth instead of my fingers and hands. It also keeps her focused on me.
I’m not a professional trainer but what I would try to do if it was my dog would be to squeal or make a loud sound, a scream when the dog bite. I probably would not want to do it in a competition but maybe in training at a club or at home. I’ve seen it done before and it seem to work pretty well.
This is hard partly because it’s probably a problem that was allowed to develop over time. Luckily my agility dog is calmer than that, I’m the one that gets excited at the end of the run! (I don’t nip however) In these two cases it would be very important that the handler remains as calm as possible. During practice time they might try using the “here” or “come” command as the dog is completing the last obstacle and then demand a “sit” before praising the dog. I’m guessing there is no easy solution to the problem, it will take lots of practice and patience.
She could try turning around and ignoring him but he jumps up on her and nips. Then rewarding him when he is calm and has all 4 paws are on the ground.
As a family pet trainer, I usually tell my clients to down-play the praise and exuberance and replace the jumping up and nipping with a fast down. As an agility trainer, I would suggest channeling that energy into a game of tug or fetch (your dog cannot nip you if he is 10 ft away retrieving a toy or has a mouth locked onto a tug.) As a daycare operator, I teach the young labs and herding breeds to get a toy and keep it in their mouth. Toy in mouth = No nipping.
Hope this helps.
Bailey,my lab does this as well as the rest of his siblings. They are all high drive and a blast to run. We all have holes in our clothers. LOL.
What works for us is to cue “sit” as 70 pounds of Lab comes charging up at the end of a run. Leash goes on before celebrating.
Keep a beef-basted rawhide chew in your back pocket and whip it out immediately at the end of your sheltie’s run – he is more likely to nip at that than you!
I would just like to comment that I have the same problem with my Welsh Terrier. She even got me good enough to break the skin once. She is just so revved up that she can’t control herself. Sometimes I think it is my fault because I am not quick enough with my commands and she gets frustrated because she doesn’t know what to do next.
She is an extremely fast dog and I am no spring chicken. Guess I should have done this, with a dog of her speed, about thirty years ago.
I think it is in relationship to giving treats. I also have a sheltie who tried doing the same thing. I now only give him a treat at the very end of his course.He seems to be much calmer & seems to focus better.I hope this helps.
Anticipating how excited your shelty will be after the run, develop an after the run routine. Many handlers have start line routines, a touch or a spin before they take off. Play with your dog as soon as you finish and get them on lead. Play tug with the leash. Have the dogs favorite toy waiting at the finish line. They get the reward if he does not nip and jump up. You can establish this routine in class or practice.