Eye on the Ball
I have a little collie mix, Tetley. She’s great at agility provided I have a ball in my hand. If I leave the ball at the side of the ring, or hide it in my pocket, she slows down or tries to find where I’ve hidden it. With her ball, she goes like greased lightning. Without it, she goes on strike. What can I do?]
A. Tetley is a very, very good trainer. She has taught you to carry her beloved ball whenever the pair of you do any agility. No ball? No agility. Tetley needs to learn that her ball must be earned…
Small Beginnings Start with one fence. Command Tetley to jump. After she jumps the hurdle, not before, she gets her reward. When she can do that, you can build up to two, three, or four fences. She will start thinking ‘What do I have to do to get my ball?”
Battle of Wills The first few times will be difficult. Tetley may rather have her hair dyed pink than lose sight of her ball. She may have a tantrum. Be patient and work through it. Tetley may pout and be unenthusiastic to start with but when she realizes that she will be rewarded with her ball she will start making an effort. In the beginning, keep Tetley interested by rewarding her frequently. Later, you can adjust your expectations. She will have to do more work to justify her getting her ball.
Keep Guessing Continue to use Tetley’s ball in training, but keep her guessing. Is it in your hand? Is it in your pocket? Is it under the A-frame? Does someone else have it? Tetley will really be surprised when you retrieve her ball from the top of the car. Sometimes Tetley can have a game with it after a few jumps, sometimes in the middle of your run, sometimes at the end. You decide where and when.
Other Motivators Experiment with other motivators. Does Tetley like treats, tug toys, a Frisbee? The advantage of having a range of rewards to choose from lies in their differing value to the dog. So if Tetley was stunningly excellent, she gets her cherished ball. If she was simply good, she gets a treat.
Out of Sight Tetley will be learning that thought she can’t see her ball, it will be coming. All she has to do is be eager. The faster she goes, the sooner she gets her ball… from somewhere.
Your Ball Think about your feelings and Tetley’s ball. How do you feel running without it in your hand? Is it a bit of a crutch for you? Do you feel naked and useless without it? Change your attitude to yourself to something more positive.
Stick With It and you will have a dog that is as motivated in the ring as she is in training. She will know that a reward is on its way and will be on her best behavior to hurry it along. …]
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/
Are you new to the Agility Fusion Blog?
If so, welcome! Here you will enjoy daily tips and interesting news on the subject of agility, dog ownership, and life! (click here for this week’s most current blogs). Not only that, but every month we have a contest to win a gift certificate or an obstacle! If you are not a member yet, I suggest you climb to the top of this page and click on the “Register” button. Why? This will not only allow you to participate in the contests, but you will get priority status for blog and contest notifications! How fun is that!