Ducking the Issue
My sheepdog Diva is nearly two years old. I started training Diva when she was ten months and gradually brought the jumps up from the ground to full height. All was well until we started competing. She would rather do a piece of contact equipment than jump hurdles. She loves doing contacts and runs under most of the jumps to get there. Should I train with the double bars? She doesn’t have a problem with the lower height jumps so I can’t see that there’s much to gain from bringing the height down again.
When a dog starts competing, she starts making mistakes and exposes all the holes in a training program. Your contact training must have been thorough, but lots of fun. Diva loves the contacts and she can’t wait to get there. Did you invest as much time and thought into your jumping exercises? I’m not surprised she runs under the poles to get to an A-frame on the other side.
Don’t let going under the poles become a habit If your dog insists on running underneath, make it difficult for her to do so by using extra poles on each jump. Diva will start looking up to see how high she should jump and you can slowly fade the extra poles.
Use a Jump command Back up your body signals with a verbal command. You should not only be facing the jump but giving the verbal command “Jump”. You want Diva to check the jump’s height, so point with your hand above the pole – not below it. When Diva gets the idea, body language may be all you need.
Reward Diva for going over If Diva goes under a fence, don’t let her proceed to the next piece of equipment on the course. Recall her, set her up at the fence and re-command. For a dog that is struggling with agility, starting over again may be demotivating, but if your dog is running by fences with gusto you won’t dampen her enthusiasm. Reward her for getting it right with lots of verbal praise and allowing her to go on to the next obstacle.
A-Frame reward Set up a loop of jumps that carries your dog past the A-frame. Start with them at mini height, as you know she can do this, and reward her for completing the sequience with a free trip up the A-frame.. Raise the bars a few inches and do the same again. If she is sailing over them, she wins another trip over the A-frame. Raise the bars till they are at full height. If at any time Diva goes under, mark the refusal to jump with a “wrong” or “Shame on you” and try again. No Jump. No A-frame.
Teach Diva that hurdles are fun and rewarding too! Running under poles is a common fault with inexperienced agility dogs. Balance contacts in your training program with jumping exercises and I’m sure it won’t be long until Diva is going clear on the course.
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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