Contact Obstacles and Chutes
Marlene Remington asked My Muffin started competing in April and is doing fairly well (we even complete our AKC JWW Novice title). We are having problems with contact obstacles that are different from the obstacles we practice on at our club field. Our chute has a blue barrel with a blue chute — the venue where we are having trouble has a closed chute where the barrel is nearly clear and the chute is yellow. She absolutely will not go into it — when have been in four events with this chute and can’t seem to get past it. I am tempted to pick her up and push her through it (I know I will get disqualified) just to stop this fear. Help!
That is a problem. It’s a sticky situation, too, because practicing on the trial equipment is not allowed. However, maybe you can get in contact with someone at the venue and rent their ring/equipment at a later date, take a few hours, and work on shaping your dog to complete the obstacle. Treat it like Muffin doesn’t know how to do a chute at all. Sometimes an obstacle can look so different in design and in a new place that a dog isn’t sure what to do with it. Don’t shove her through, even though that is tempting! You don’t want her to associate being pushed with an obstacle, especially one she sees often in competitions.
For the contacts on the club field, ask if you can move them around with other members. That way your dog is learning the obstacle not the position of the obstacle. Also keep in mind that if your obstacles are sand-treated and the competition obstacles are rubber coated or vice versa, it can lead to some variation in performance of the obstacle. If you have both kinds of obstacles in your area, you may want to train your dog to perform on both surfaces equally.
Lastly, is it possible that your dog may not be quite ready to compete? I know she’s doing fine, but from the sounds of things there may be one or two obstacles she’s just not ready for or doesn’t fully understand. It may be worthwhile to take a step back in training and review the chute and contacts, with massive rewards and partying.
I hope this helps! Good luck to you and Muffin (cute name, by the way! 😀 ) and happy hurdling!