In-Ring Rewards

Most Agility organizations don’t allow treats or toys in the ring, or even within ten feet of the ring.  (I believe NADAC is considering amending this rule, but has not changed it as of yet.  They may not change it at all. Do any of you NADAC experts know for certain?) I’m not certain how I feel about that. As I’ve heard pointed out, pockets nearly always have treats in them, and can be forgotten about completely, as evidenced by how many times I’ve washed them in my pockets. I like the way UKAI handles it – you may bring a toy if you want, and it’s a fun run.  Treats can just get all over!

However, for treats, I think that while they can be allowed on course without providing an undue distraction to the dog (so long as they are not rewarded on course) if they are safely contained in a treat bag or ziplock bag. What do you think? Treats, yea or nay?

27 Comments on “In-Ring Rewards

  1. They are called TRAINING treats, not TRIALING treats. Absolutely not on course for trials. Fun runs? Sure, after all they are for training your dog.

  2. Absolutely not! That is why the have “fun runs”, “show and Gos”, run throughs at training facitiies, etc. If you are at a competition your dog should be trained enough to not need treats during the actual run. Agility trials are competitions – not training events.

  3. My understanding, NADAC is NOT cponsidering allowing you to TREAT IN the ring. The discussion is more about the way people use treats just before and after going in the ring, and the risks and issues it can cause for them and others, with food being left, dropped or shoved in dog’s mouths just before entering the ring, or handlers and dogs Dashing willy nilly from the ring to get that food reward. (And the fact that probably most of us have unwittingly had an occassional run with treats in our pockets.) So I believe what is being considered is treats that are SECURELY enclosed and in your pocket no longer being a disqualification. No spilled treats would/should EVER be on the course. Which I have no problem with. But as far as I know it is still just under discussion. I would have no problem with that type fo a rule change.

  4. Treats and toys are for training. Once my dog is running a complete course, she is only rewarded when we finish. If I am TRAINING an new skill or obstacle, I reward more frequently. Dropped treats in the show ring could be a major distraction for many dogs. I love the way that NADAC allows you to train an obstacle that a dog misses,but allowing treats and toys would encourage too much training and cause shows to run much longer. If a stressed dog needs reassurance and isn’t going to Q anyway, why not just take a few obstacles they are comfortable with at their first few shows just for the experience.

  5. An option that might be help – but slow runs down: After the ending obstacle, there is a designated station; when the competing team enters the ring to set up at the start line, the handler hands the leash runner — their leash, a silent toy or a treat bag/baggie. At the end of the run, concurrently, while the dog is being leashed, the handler can use the toy (not throw it) or give the dog a treat. Another option: pocket size toys (hidden in a pocket/not visible) than can be thrown towards the dog’s leash when the run has been completed (I’d like to be able to throw a toy immediately after my dog has done the final obstacle and not have to leave the ring and move through the crowd to where I stashed it).

    As to in the ring, my dog is an easily distracted dog and would search out any dropped treat. She is also food sensitive and can become sick from rich or unfamiliar treats –it would be difficult to monitor what she can grab off the ground. On the other hand, I would love to have treats in the waiting line (closer than 10 ft) which would help our pre-run routine and focus.

    I know that when I run, I have “treat residue” from dried treats/kibble in my pocket — the crumbs can be gotten out without turning the pocket inside out and brushed clean. Possibly a penalty in the making?

  6. i think that if nadac already allows “training in the ring” it wouldn’t make to much of a difference if you could use treats and toys. it would be great for new dogs because it would be the ultimate training experience. also it would be great for dogs that get anxious to get out of their ring for their reward. then they could learn that it is best to always pay attetion.but i could see problems with droped treats and delays.

  7. I think treats in the ring would not be a good idea, as we are not allowed to touch the dog, so how would you give them treats??? This is jugded on time, and this would drastially slow down times. Also the dogs would stop to pick up the left treats from the time before. Not a good idea in my book.

  8. Muffin will be attending her first trial in two weeks. She is young and very easily distracted. The leaves and the other smells in the ring will be hard enough on the first run (generally better on subsequent runs). Dropped treats would be a disaster continuously.

    I remember getting into trouble by my trainers for not treating enough, but I am glad she can do a run from start to finish without treats. I have never tried toys.

    Does anyone know if it is legal to put a baggy in your pocket with something that is not edible in it to fake the dog out (AKC)? I usually show her the bag of treats and let her watch me put them in my pocket before a run, then she pays better attention to me.

  9. With some dogs, the actual trial is stressful to them. It may also be stressful for the person. If practice trials are done with those dogs who may need the experience of a trial with treats and/or noiseless toys these could be done after regular trials so left over treats may not be a problem for others. There are dogs that can do agility in practice but can not concentrate with all the noise and excitement going on at a trial. The same goes with the person. Without training in that type of environment, they are unable to show what they can actually do and trials are situations that they can not function in. In the world of people, this is called stage fright. In the world of dog agility, this is called a dog that needs more training. Some type of measurement should be implemented to inform the owner that the team has the abiltiy to move up to an actual competitive trial.
    But the biggest measurement would be that the achievement of gaining confidence that they can participate in the ring with all the other teams and knowing that they will be doing the best–that they know they can do.

  10. It sounds good to allow rewarding good behavior with treats allowed in the ring on the surface. No matter how careful people are to ‘contain’ treats and keep the treats in bags, treats get dropped. A dropped treat even when it’s removed, is a distraction that prevents the best performance from an agility team. How many of you have experienced a dog that suddenly stops mid-course to try to find something and you have no clue why your dog is distracted? That would happen often if treats were allowed on course.
    I witnessed a good example of the preceding happening when a club was having a trial. Inexplicably every dog would stop inside the tunnel. It was found out latter that a new instructor was allowing students to throw treats inside the tunnel. This would only get worse if allowed on course.
    We’ll never know all the delicious distractions that sidetrack our dogs, but we shouldn’t allow any more. The time for giving treats is training not trialing.

  11. Your finished product should be running next to you at the trial. I wouldn’t like to see treats at trials…that’s what Practices and Show N Go’s are for. The trial chairs are having a hard enough time trying to finish at a reasonable hour & Toys / Treats would take more time to deal with….Leave the treats outside the ring at Trials!

  12. Well, I remember an AKC run as a novice with a novice dog….I entered the ring, recalled I had a couple of treats in my pocket, walked over to ringside and handed them over, and was immeditely disqualified by the judge. I begged her to let me run, I was just being honest, but she said “no way”. I needed the one run to finish a title and had walked and walked and walked and felt very confident. It was so depressing. So much for honesty. I was told I should have just done nothing and run…. SO, don’t ask me, I’m prejudiced!! lol

  13. I don’t think toys or food should be allowed in the ring at a competition. I think they would be more of a distraction for both the handler and dog. If it’s a competition, the behaviors should be reliable before someone enters the ring. If you want to use toys or food in the ring, go to a show and go to practice. It’s too easy for food and toys to be dropped in the ring accidentally.

  14. I have only competed AKC, where nothing is allowed in the ring but you can have treats near the ring. My dog is very food driven and is not terribly interested in toys, except as a way to get me to give him a treat! I have always given him a treat before entering the ring and then after exiting. In practice, he gets a treat before beginning and after finishing but rarely while running. (When he first started I would reward more often after particular obstacles.) He is not a big fan of agility but he’s very obedient, so even though he loves goodies, he NEVER stops to try to pick up a dropped treat while working. Other dogs, however, would be terribly distracted, so I believe it is best to keep treats and toys out of the competiton ring. It makes things fair for everyone. I don’t see anything wrong with having them near the ring but inside is a bad idea.

  15. Treats and toys are for training, they definitely should NOT be allowed at trials. I am lucky to have a dog that is really focused on me and not at all easily distracted, but many dogs are not this way. It would not be fair to the easily distracted dogs.

  16. I think this is a terrible idea. If treats are dropped someone else’s dog is going to stop mid course to pick them up – unfair. Treats are TRAINING treats, and just that. The dog should be trained beyond needing treats in the ring once you decide to compete. This is like giving a kid the answers to the quiz!!! I don’t believe in toys in the competition ring either. If you have not trained thoroughly enough that you still need these things then in fairness to all other competitors, train until you are able to compete without bribes.

  17. I think it would be nice to have a trail setting for young new dogs and to reward in the begginer ring only, upper levels should be solid enough to not need treats in the ring

  18. I’m not in favor of it because I think it would be a real distraction to the dogs who run after those using treats. Would not bother my Border Collies, but my Golden would spend most of her time trying to find anything that might have dropped on the running surface. I can think of a lot of dogs that it would bother. I think it is a really bad idea !

  19. Treats are messy and distracting if spilled so I agree with those before me that they should not be allowed in the ring. I do think they should be allowed up to the gate though. I have a dog reactive dog, and being allowed treats while in line before the gate would make my life much easier since treats keep her in line very well. I don’t think toys need to be in the ring either, training and getting your dog pumped up are for fun runs or just outside the ring. I could see having a toy on hand for playing as soon as the run is done, but not during.

  20. I think treats should be allowed in zip lock bag in your pocket, or just a pocket as long as they’re certain none would not fall out!! Just a quicker and easier access to the treats once you are out of the ring. This also shouldn’t bother or distract a trained dog, even beginners, as long as they wait till outside the ring. Toys, on the other hand, can be awkward to hide.

  21. I like fun runs BUT if food is permitted those runs should be at the end of the regular trial weekend and cleaned up afterwards. If the fun runs are to be held before or during the regular trial classes then silent toys only can be permitted. Squeakies are too distracting to many dogs. While my dog would not even consider stopping her run for a nearby squeaky there are many dogs that would. Silent toys OK but NOT food.

  22. I have a chow hound for an agility dog. If treats are allowed in the ring and some people drop even one or two on the ground, my dog will put all his focus/energy into finding the one or two pieces or crumbs and very little focus on me or the course. So….no, I don’t think treats are a good idea. I think toys are fine, if your dog is ok with them and is not easily distracted by them.

  23. What ever happened to training? Food and toys are to focus, direct, and reward. The goal should be to have a reliably trained dog in the real world, for work and for play. If you have to have food or toys in order to direct the dog he is not thoroughly trained and therefore not ready to compete.

  24. I believe a practice/fun type run could be done and be very beneficial to help dogs that need more confidence before a trial with treats or toys. But this can only be done if the floor is cleaned thoroughly before the actual trial begins. There are a lot of dogs that we have worked hard to stop looking at every spot on the floor as if it might be food. I would hate to have to deal with food on the floor and the dog self rewarding for forging. Of course if they did this after a trial is over then the floor is not a problem but most people are in a hurry to leave and cleaning artificial turf from food is not easy if it can be done at all. So to put it together I would like to see toys allowed. If someone stops to play with their dog using a toy it will take more time and they would most likely not even qualify due to a time fault so why worry about making it a run that doesn’t qualify just because they have a toy with them. I would restrict the toys that can be used to only silent ones so it would not distract other dogs. The dogs and handlers would enjoy it more and help relieve stress which is a big problem for a lot of handlers.