Turning Into a Canine Delinquent
Q. I have a problem with Hudson, my Springer Spaniel. He’s great in training but at shows he runs by jumps, loops past tunnels and, if we are competing outdoors, he takes off over the fields. It’s no surprise when we are eliminated. My well behaved Springer turns into a delinquent. It’s like he’s a different dog.
A. It’s not Hudson that’s changed but his surroundings. And Hudson is indeed a different dog when he lacks confidence or is confused. His training venue is familiar and welcoming. There is his smiling instructor and fellow students. There are lots of treats and toys in the ring and you are relaxed. In contrast, an agility show has many new smells and sights. There are lines of nervous and noisy competitors. There are no treats or toys in the rings. And you are stressed and anxious! No wonder Hudson acts like a different dog. You are not alone!
Sit by the side of the ring at a show and watch. Yes, some dogs are born agility start, but others looked completely untrained. They run up to the judge or do a lap of honor before heading for the hills. Just like Hudson.
Relax Competition is stressful. The more you dread going into the ring, the more likely your Spaniel is going to find an excuse to leave.
Have fun Don’t aim for perfection. Ignore mistakes. Teach Hudson the agility ring is not where he gets into trouble, but the best place in the world to have fun.
Togetherness Try to leave the ring together. If Hudson leaves the ring and you chase after him, he will think that you, too, have found a good reason to say good-bye to the judge.
Check-in Teach Hudson to check in with you at training. Stuff your pockets with treats or a portion of his diner. Call him to you after the first obstacle. Third obstacle, maybe the fourth and so on and give him a treat for giving you attention. He will acquire the habit of looking back to you- just in case you are going to ask him to check-in.
Different places, changing faces Give Hudson a chance to get used to different distractions. Train him in new locations and introduce him to new people. You should be the constant he can count on.
Thoroughness Make sure you have thoroughly taught the agility obstacles. If Hudson is a teeny bit unsure how to make a seesaw tip in training, that flaw in his training may overwhelm him at a show. He would rather run by it than try and attempt to mount it. And your disappointment will just make it worse next time
I believe that once the competition environment becomes familiar to him, Hudson will gain confidence and start enjoying himself (provided you, too, relax and have some fun) . You don’t want running out of the ring to become Hudson’s way of coping with the unfamiliar or something stressful. Work now to show him what he’ll be missing if he leaves the agility party early.
Used with permission.
From Questions and Answers on Dog Agility Training, by Mary Ann Nester, T.F.H. Publications
Visit Mary Ann at http://www.aslanagility.com/
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