Dancing with Distraction
Agility can be very distracting. If you’re in class or competition, you wait in line with other dogs, and if you’re in your yard, there is that darned squirrel. Right there! On top of the A-frame!
Distractions like that put your dog into ‘prey’ drive, whether the ‘prey’ is the squirrel or the dog tail in front of you. What you need to do is put your dog back into ‘pack’ drive, which is when they are looking at you for direction and/or affection or food. There are several ways to put your dog back in pack drive, but my favorites are;
‘Ah-ah!’ This isn’t really a correction in this context, it’s attention-getting.
A command Give your dog a command they like to do and is fairly simple. It’ll bring their attention back to you.
Target! If you’ve trained your dog to ‘touch’ or target, now’s a great time to use it!
Walk away Sometimes the best thing you can do (depending on the level of the distraction and where you are) is walk away. If your dog can’t handle the level of distraction, then take them away from it and work towards getting the dogs’ attention to hone in on you, even with flirting squirrel tails.
Dance If you want your dog to be distracted from what’s attracting him, you must become more attractive. Little attracts dogs more than their human moving unexpectedly and maybe even participating in a zoomie! (this is for class or backyard practice only, please!)
Do you lead out?
Also, never reward the zoomie. You zoomie? Agility funtimes over. Naptime! A minute or two of ‘nap’ (Crate, or down/sitstay) and then release to a game or highly rewarding tricks, and then lets’ try the agility thing a few more times!!!
Speaking of Zoomies–
My buddy gets nervous just at the starts–during the first or second obstacle he’ll take off and do a Zoomie.
How can I start differently to keep his attention at the beginning? Once he’s on –he’s on, but that initial take off is the key. I’ve tried holding him and then both taking off at the same time, as this article mentioned as a choice. It does seem to help, but we still have small Zooms. Any other ideas, or is it just an experience thing?