Out of Control Agility Dog


Q. What would you do if your dog does not listen to you at the trial?

 A. Take a rolled up newspaper and…oh, wait, that was in the olden days. =:) No, the correct answer to that is really simple but some people are going to be very offended. Obedience training. I don’t mean the hard core “heel at the correct millimeter” kind of obedience training, I just mean your dog should mind you when you give it a command. I have seen SO many dogs just ignore their owners on the course and start to do their own thing while the owner gives the “Come Come Come Come Come Get A Biscuit Come Here Come Come” command.

If you teach your dog flawless weaves but not a recall, you’re a bad owner. Period. Agility is for fun and exercise, obedience is for safety — plus it also makes agility more fun. In general, if your dog doesn’t have a good recall it has no business on an agility course.

However, let me immediately contradict myself. Don’t let the lack of a good recall stop you from doing agility — but make sure getting that solid recall is really a priority. If you can work on both at the same time, that’s ideal. If you can only work on one, make it the recall first. (But most people can work on both.)

By Jay Jennings, “Dog Agility for Novices” Q & A Session #5 .  Jay has an occasional agility email list you can subscribe to.

Note from Pam:   The one thing I’d like to note about this video  is how quiet and meek this woman’s voice is.   I can hear it from time to time, but most the time she isn’t saying anything, almost like she is hoping her dog can read her mind!  I sort of get the idea that this dog is a very independant strong-willed dog (not uncommon for this breed to begin with) and does what he wants to do a lot (not just in agility).  So one of the things I’d suggest to her is to be more forceful in her voice, calling out the obstacle names loud and clear, and of course, as Jay shared, get a stronger handle on a recall.

7 Comments on “Out of Control Agility Dog

  1. Does a therapy dog can be a good agility dog? Our dog has been so kind with our elders and been training now to be a therapy dog. But he loves to run, fetch and swim too, I think he’s physically capable of doing well in agility.

    • I think so! My dog was trained to be a therapy dog and he does just fine in agility! Dogs are great with knowing how to behave differently in different settings, so long as you reinforce that behavior with praise.

      Best of luck! Let us know how it goes!

  2. I have a dog that has the focus problem when she is around other dogs and people. She becomes very excited and will do the let me run this thing off. She knows the commands, body language, and will also watch me for directions when doing agility. Her problem is dealing with excitment. If a dog can sense the owners feelings can’t they pick up on all the vibes they get from all the other people around them? Doesn’t it take being able to calm your dog to nip the excited dog in the bud? So how can you calm your dog down? How do you help your dog before a trial to prevent the excitment from overtaking the dog’s concentration? I think the CD only helps the dog become familiar to sounds of a trial not the actual excitment of a trial. I have used it and this is what I have found. But I have an excitable dog not a dog afraid of sounds.

  3. Great tips ZooGal. Would love to see a video of your ‘bomb proofing’ antics. They sound entertaining! But yes, all that goofiness will pay off in a dog that should be able to expect anything, and not be distracted from his main focus – doing the obstacles! But it’s hard to anticipate every distraction. We just got in some new proofing index cards that we’ll be selling shortly. The sales pitch for them is “You think your dog can stay. But what will he do if you swing a dead cat?”. A little crude, but it gets your attention. Every card has a new creative idea for proofing your dog.

    I also saw another product that I’m thinking of adding to our selection. It is a C.D. of trial sounds! I’m curious what you all think of it. Is it something that you’d get? Would you play it outside in your yard?

  4. I can give 2 extra tips on this as well. FOr the stressed out dog I would recommend bomb proofing…this is a term that I use for distraction training because it started with RCMP horses and I used to train horses. You can even get the dog used to the stress level of the owner! FOr that distraction you need to teach the dog that it is all an act! Since I train animals for film I do this all the time as when an actor is angry the dogs can get scared as actors really get into their roles! So you need to too! I usually start with the dog up high (you can use a pause table) and teach them that is their safe zone by making it fun on their, play tug, give treats or calmly pet your dog, whatever suits your dog. THen let the distractions begin…start off small like tapping your foot, to jumping, depending on the level of your dog…get to the point where you can throw a ball or toy and your dog won’t get off…if they ever do get off take the leash and back them back on (yep back, don’t pull them back, get in front of them so they have to make a real effort to get back on so it isn’t fun when they get off). If they got off because of the distraction make sure the next time you lower the amount of distraction so if the bounce of the ball got them off last time, lower it to a ball in your hand moving to your other hand or placing the ball on the ground with no movement. Then move to acting…pretend to be scared, run with erratic movements, pretend to be mad, come up to your dog stomping but when you get to the dog turn all happy and just have some fun playing tug on the table (obviously don’t start with stomping but maybe just a glare, then mumble and fast walking and keep increasing it until you can yell something and stomp and your dog still is ok with you approaching).

    K that was bomb proofing for stress and other factors that might make your dog leave the ring or position

    Next is when you do the recall, train it premac style. So basically in order to get what it wants, it needs to come away from what it wants…so you would start by putting what it wants (high value food item or toy) in someone’s hand and let the dog see it. Do NOT issue the “come” command at this stage but just the dogs name. WHen you say it click for even the slightest movement of the ear listening and then have your helper pay the dog where the ear moved to (where you pay is important)continue until the dog turns his head then body then starts toward you, do not rush the steps!) This will teach your dog to come away from what it wants and will improve the recall in times of need!

  5. Hi Laurie,
    Great points, thank you for sharing. That certainly IS common – dogs that have quick responses to their handlers at home, but the 3 S’s distract them in the ring (sights, sounds, and owner’s stress). I also agree that voice commands can so easily be overdone. I wrote a past post about this, concerning using a dog’s name too much (http://www.agilityfusion.com/2009/04/using-your-dogs-name-in-agility-training/). I think with this particular woman, however, I would like to see her try, only because I discern she is a very meek and gentle woman in personality. It may seem backwards to change the outward first, and expect the inward to change, but it can happen to a certain degree. Providing she maintains balance, not over-shouting or over-using words, but when she does use them, sound a little more like she means it.

    Your advice is well grounded in truth. Having to remember voice commands, body language, AND the order of a course is quite tricky to balance. Focusing on good clear body language is the most important.

    Thank you for your input on the video!

  6. Hmmm… I have a dog who has excellent recall, but in the ring gets stressed out (because I’m stressed out) and will try to avoid running with me or will start sniffing the ground. To yell at her, “Here! Here! Here!” is really pointless. I’m better if I just take off and run by her to get her moving again.

    Now, ring stress did not seem like the problem with Amy. And it very well might be a recall problem. But there is a case to be made for the dog who does well in obedience, but does not have the same control in agility. It is different, and obedience needs to be taught in a similar environment for it to really work in the agility ring (in my opinion.)

    Lastly, there is a training method that has a handler use body language mainly instead of voice. In that method, you don’t call the obstacles, because the dog should be picking up on the body language alone. Their thought is that it is information overload, and really, how many times have you yelled the wrong obstacle name, but your dog took the correct one anyway? Unless you really train an obstacle to voice command, no command should be given (according to this method.) I can’t recall the name, might be Greg Derret??? don’t quote me on that!

    I had one of my instructors tell me to “shut up and let the dog run!” I had been yelling out “over! over! over!” on a jump course, and when I stopped giving all the pre-obstacle commands, my dog ran smoother and faster. So now I use commands sparingly. If I can keep my dog’s flow going using my body language alone, a voice command can make a big impact at a time when her attention is needed.

    I actually didn’t think that Amy did that bad as far as staying with her handler. I have seen much much worse, and have even had my own dog run out of the ring on me! Maybe obedience work is in order, but maybe just more work with positive motivation — like treats or toys after obstacles, helping to keep the dog focused and wanting to work for the handler — is in order.