Speed up Your Agility Dog
Whether you are just trying to get a Qualifying time or you want to be at the top of the pack we have some tips to help you shave precious time off your runs. It could be that you need a little more speed on your dog or you need to learn how to plan your runs a little more efficiently without losing speed or correctness.
Before you can make your team “faster” you need to have a baseline. As the quote goes, “If you can measure it, you can own it. If you can own it, you can improve upon it.” Record your dog’s time through the weaves, running sequences, contact performances and even an entire course. When you have a baseline you will know when your dog has improved.
- Try finding a higher value motivator for your dog. Take your dog shopping and see which toy grabs their attention. Then only use that toy during practices where you are building speed/drive. If your dog is food motivated you will have to do some experimentation with different treats until you find a treat or recipe that drives your dog crazy. Again, only use it when you are working on speed/motivation.
- Keep your training sessions short and to the point. Learn to read your dog’s body language and at the first signs of fatigue or disinterest, call it a day. Try to end the next day’s lesson before your dog reaches their limit so they finish “on fire” for the game. Also, don’t try to work on every aspect in every lesson. Pick one or two lessons to improve on and leave it at that.
- Balance your training sessions. There is so much to work on and an endless supply of lessons you can use. Just be sure you don’t fall into a pattern of only working on your favorite exercises. You need to stretch your team and try new handling techniques. If you don’t, you will never stumble on the one that gives your team the edge.
- Try different distances when working your dog. Some slow down if you physically get to far ahead of them running a course and others will slow and become frustrated if you try to keep them slowed to your pace. If you have a dog that wants to work at a distance, you need to learn how to do that so your team can continue to grow. Sometimes it is just a matter of getting your cues to your dog soon enough. You should be moving and cuing the next obstacle as soon as your dog is committed to the current one.
- Video tape your practices and runs. It is amazing the things you see when you can sit from the sidelines and watch you and your dog perform. It really can be the best teacher. Taping runs allows you to view different handling sequences and see which ones work best for your team.
- There is some debate on the start line. Believe it or not some dogs just do better without a start line stay. They need to be wound up and let go! Some don’t like to be looked at once left at the line, try not staring them down as you get into position.
- Downs, Sits, Stands. Know your venue, know the positions your dog will be required to do at the table or pause box and work on getting them quick and solid. One wrong move can leave you seconds over standard time.
- Most importantly – Have fun, and be creative with your training! Your dog is a mirror image of you and they pick up on your energy and lack of it. When dog agility becomes a job, everyone loses drive. The more fun your team has the harder they will work for the reward.