Lining Up

Q. My problem is not on course, but lining up. My rescue dog Felix turns into a demented monster and no one will stand next to me near the ring.  I don’t blame them! Can you help?

A. Lining up is an important part of agility.  Dogs should be able to wait patiently and quietly for their turn whether they be at their local training club or at an agility trial.  It’s not always easy.  The sight of another dog working is very exciting and dogs that are sensitive to movement can be aroused to fever-pitch, expressing their frustration through barking.

A groom Ask a friend to hold Felix away from the ring while you line up. If he is a momma’s boy he will be looking for you rather than watching other dogs run.  But remember that as soon as you have hold of the lead, Felix will turn his attention back to what’s happening in the ring.

A head halter A head halter will give you more control in the line, if the organization you are attending trial at allows it – check the rules first! – It will help you battle the more sever symptoms of Felix’s fidgeting, while you work on attention exercises at home.

Attention exercises Teach Felix to pay attention and watch you, not the other dogs.  Start in your living room where there are few distractions.  Each time Felix looks at you, click and offer a treat.  Use a high value food reward like diced cheese.  A few seconds attention wil do and training sessions should be short and intense.  Once Felix gets the idea, he won’t be able to take his eyes off tyou.  Progress slowly.  Will Felix look at you when he is sitting on your left, on your right and in front of you?  Eventually you will be able to perform these attention exercises in a noisy line at an agility show.  They don’t take up much room and won’t be disruptive.  They will allow you to enter the ring with Felix by your side, relaxed and under control.

Sights and Sounds Be aware that it is not only in the line that Felix can hear and see agility.  If he can watch round after round from the back of your care or the staging area, he’ll be truly frantic before you can even attach his lead.  He’s lost it and so have you.   Cover his crate, or otherwise obstruct his view.

The experienced handler will practice lining up with their young dogs as part of their agility program.  Although their dogs may be too young to compete, they will walk their youngsters around the showground and practice a few obedience basics.  They know that the earlier they train their dogs to pay attention and ignore exciting distractions in their environment, the easier it will be for them later.  Felix already knows that hurdles mean agility and he demands to be let loose on them, so your task will be harder.

Help Felix relax in the line and you will have a dog that listens to your commands and watches for your body signals. A clean run will be much closer!

Used with permission.
From Questions and Answers on Dog Agility Training, by Mary Ann Nester, T.F.H. Publications
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3 Comments on “Lining Up

  1. In response to Pat and her ECS stopping on the teeter:

    You may have accidently taught her this action by trying to slow her down to assure hitting the contact. To change this behavior, start with a hungry dog, I would place a piece of great food on the floor about 4-6 inches from where the bottom of the teeter would hit. Take her by the collar and let her see the food. Then take her to the begining of the teeter and tell her to get it. At first I would hold her collar till you are sure she is committed to going up the teeter then let go. Soon she will be racing to the end of the teeter to get the food. This works well with all the contact equipment. Be sure to watch your body language, make sure you are facing the direction you are traveling, don’t turn your head and shoulders towards the dog as you watch her. Turning towards your dog is a cue to slow down. Hope this helps

  2. My pug has this problem to, and the easiest way I’ve found to help is to leave her in her crate and stand in line without her until the dog right before us is in the ring. Then I go get her, and by the time we’re back it’s pretty much our turn in the ring. This only works if they don’t need warm-up exercises first, though. I have treats in my hand and wait to feed her the last one until we’re practically walking in the ring, this helps with attention, and I also do Obedience/Rally practice to keep her attention. Every dog is different, though. 🙂

  3. I have two questions. 1. the only obstacle that I am having a problem with is my ECS coming down the teeter. She hesitates at the top and needs to be coaked down. How can I get her to just keep going?

    2. Would more than basic obedience be bad for us when we are doing agility? Some say being that you train the dog on the left side, they could have a harder time learning the right side of you.