Branding Your Agility Dog is Name Calling
Who out there doesn’t agree that dog agility is the best sport for mind, body, and soul of both man and dog. There are no negatives to playing the game and the pluses are limitless. There are more stories of spectacular transformations of timid, problematic, and even rescue dogs that will leave you in awe. There are stories of people whose lives have been changed for the better by taking the time to run in dog agility as well. What does all that mean? There is no “bad dog label” you can put on you or your dog that will stay when you commit to a partnership that grows like it does with dog agility.
My dog is a couch potato, we are both out of shape and have low energy levels due to the bad weather. Phffft! There are mind games, body awareness games, one jump exercises, hallway weave practices, and the list goes on. The catch here is that you have to be the motivation for both you and your dog. Try to do just one game a day to start, an easy game for the both of you. Then over days add games, difficulty, or length of time playing. Unless you work a 16 hour day, you have 2o minutes to spend doing some physical activity with your dog. Sign up for a dog agility class.
My dog is Mopey-Dopey, he just isn’t interested in anything. That is completely your fault. You are the higher thinker so get busy thinking and trying different motivators for your dog. Try treats like liver, salmon or tuna and keep trying different treats until you find the ones your dog drops everything for. Get different types of toys like tugs, balls, squeekies, batons, stuffed animals, try them all until you find the one that lights up your dog’s eye. Get your dog an excited handler! Learn how your dog likes to play and get playing! Sign up for a dog agility class.
My dog is Zany and out of control, we can’t go anywhere without a leash on. You need to work her recall and attention. Using the above toys and/or treats that your dog loves you will click and treat your dog for giving you their attention and coming when called in a secure location. Add distractions such as other toys/treats laying around while asking for recalls, attention and heal work. Try it off leash and then try it in the front yard or somewhere open where there are different distractions (on leash). Proof, proof, proof your work first on leash then off leash. Sign up for dog agility class.
My dog is a scaredy cat and can’t leave the house without falling apart. This one will take time and tasty treats and/or super toys. Never force your dog into a situation they are afraid of and do your best to keep distractions to a tolerable level for your dog. When you see your dog tense, get them busy doing something easy they know how to do and give loads of treats, play, and/or praise. Keep your dog focused on you by being more interesting than the fearful object or situation. Gradually build intensity of the stresser, but never above your dog’s threshold. If they try to leave you have gone too far too fast. Start in a “safe and secure” location for your dog and only proceed when they are completely comfortable at the current level. Sign up for dog agility class.
My dog is dog crazy, he loves all dogs and goes nuts when he sees one. This could be from poor socialization or inadvertently rewarding over arousal. You should work basic obedience skills like loose leash walking, sitting and recalls. Then take tasty treats or super cool toy and a helper with a dog. As above you need to work on your dog’s attention by being more interesting than the other dog. Start at a distance from the other dog that your dog is interested, but can still be diverted with treat or toy. Get your dog busy with something they can do while the other dog moves closer on a path that will take them past your dog by at least 6 feet. If your dog starts getting too excited about the other dog, they have moved in to fast or you aren’t keeping him busy enough. Once your dog can handle this team in this location, try a new team or a new location. The key is to have control of the environment. Eventually you will take your dog to a more congested area, but not until they learn how to control their impulses in a controlled environment. Then sign up for agility class.
We are being somewhat silly by ending each scenario with dog agility, but the truth of the matter is that you will find everything you need to help you and your dog become a stronger, active, motivated, confident, controlled team with dog agility. That doesn’t mean you wont have challenges in dog agility that you and your dog have to overcome, but it does mean you will get the guidance, support, and recognition you deserve to grow your team into the best team you can be by focusing on what you without the use of “bad dog” labels.