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
Visit Mary Ann at http://www.aslanagility.com/
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