Can Other Handlers Run Your Agility Dog?
I, the handler of huge dogs the size of small horses, was now holding the leash of an ittybitty sheltie. She looked up at me in utter horror- what was I going to do to her?
I asked her to sit, and she did. Curious, I then asked her to heel, and she did! I downed her, recalled her, and finally asked for her paw, all of which was done with the remarkable gracious reserve Shelties’ are known for. (There were also treats involved. She loves her treats!)
When Elise returned, I handed the leash back to her, and commented on how well-behaved Phoebe was. She was a pleasure to work with.
Now let me tell you about Nova.
Someone asked to handle my dog for a turn around the parking lot in an obedience class, many years ago. I said yes. (foolishly) My dog, who had been sitting moderately well beside me, took off as soon as I handed the leash to her. I felt bad for the other girl as Nova literally hauled her all over the parking lot until I managed to catch up and take the leash back. She sat back down. Nova has always been very careful not to drag me. I’m her human, and it’s a conscious effort on her part, despite all the leash-leaning she’s known for.
I needed to train her to be a well-behaved dog for another handler. It took a lot of time and effort, but she will now at least heel and sit for another handler, provided I at least hand them the leash. If not, the bets are off. She wants to find me, and the poor handler is coming along! (We need to work on this more, obviously.)
Some dogs are the complete opposite! They behave so much better for another handler it makes the owner grind their teeth and want to cry! Or, better yet, give their dog away. Think about why that might be, though- is the other handler clearer to your dog than you are? Are they just shiny-new and unpredictable? do they have better treats? When I hand my dog to the trainer, he instantly sobers and starts behaving. Something I do or don’t do lets him know he can goof off with me, but not the trainer. Or her cheese sticks are better than liver snaps. I occasionally think it’s just the ‘newness’ and my dog is just waiting to figure out what they can get away with!
Training your dog to work with another handler is a daunting task, because you have to let the other handler work with the dog instead of hovering. While your dog might not be able to do agility with another handler, they should be able to at least walk nicely with them. You never know when you may need them to do that, for your or their safety. And if you can train your dog to do agility with someone else (like a husband or best friend) you can probably rely on them to get your dog going if you’re laid up! That’s a huge benefit. Also, think how much fun it could be to see your dog run a course with a friend! I wouldn’t want to do that often, but it might be fun once or twice.