Why is my Agility Dog Barking
First and foremost you need to understand that barking can mean a lot more than you think. Dogs use barking to communicate frustration, excitement, fear, impatience and even boredom. When it comes to dog agility, the majority of the barking is excitement and frustration. When you learn why your dog is barking you can then go about helping your dog control the emotion behind the barking.
Excited to be in class or at an agility event is completely normal and expected, however, even this low level barking needs a controller as it is near impossible to hear what the instructor is saying when your dog is barking in your ear. For this barking you should work with your dog at home on a speak/quiet cue. You should also bring special toys or high value treats that you can use during class to divert your dog when you need them to be quiet. If these tactics don’t work, you may need to remove your dog from the training area until they settle.
Frantic excited barking that borders hysteria needs to be addressed immediately. This is a warning that your dog has completely lost control and is on the verge of explosion. In this state of mind your dog may even resort to nipping if you don’t pay attention. They don’t mean to hurt you, but those emotions need vented and you may be the receiver. You need to remove your dog from the stimuli and/or put them on a down stay until they settle and regain emotional control.
Another frequent cause of barking on course is your dog’s frustration at your slow or lack of direction. If your team is new to agility and you have a high drive dog such as a Border Collie or Shetland Sheepdog, it will be up to you to up your game. You need to work on your timing and confidence as well as your distance handling skills. These dogs need to know where they are going as soon as they are committed to the current obstacle. This may be faster than you can run making distance handling a must. Planning your runs is a must as well with walking the course 3-4 times making the final walk through an actual dry run. You can’t “wing it” with a dog like this.
As your timing and handling improves so should your dog’s vocalization, but know a dog sometimes needs to voice his opinion despite your ability. Don’t get frustrated or upset, it is a part of your dog’s personality. Curb it where you can with distractions, calming behaviors such as downs and removing them from the stimuli. Concentrate on what you want from your dog rather than on the behavior you want gone and soon you will have a quieter, happier agility dog.