What to do With a Dog Agility Speedster

Fast agility dogsA while back we played a video with a whippet and handler team that just couldn’t seem to stay connected around the two courses on the video. Without having the handler’s feedback it is hard to make solid judgements on the run, however, we did ask for your ideas and many of them are great ways to get into the fast dog’s head. We are going to share those answers in hopes it will help others dealing with a fast, energetic dog.

Lisa S says:

I run a whippet. I’m on my third one. 1) They hate to be wrong and running around looks like a stress relief for this one not being sure what to do. 2) Mine hate drill exercises and only want to play. We train in 5 minute segments in which I require super focus or we quit.

Training my young whippet to weave on 2x2s took forever (in spite of what the experts say), but they learn independent weave pole performance from the beginning. After about a year, the light bulb really went on and he suddenly acted like he really understood the weave poles. (Fast dogs) want some space from the handler and may need a cue a whole obstacle ahead of time. My own whippet really starts rubbernecking and head checking if I don’t tell him where he is going.

(You) could really benefit (a fast dog) by teaching two things. First, “go on” to a thrown or dead toy or a target plate with food, so the dog can go in a straight line at least two obstacles ahead of (the handler). Second, lateral distance so the handler can regularly work 6-10 feet to the side of the dog. It will give better vision of where the dog is going and when commands need to be given as the dog is committed to the current obstacle.

Finally, because my dog does not have much stamina to run a lot of courses in training, we do a lot of skill work, such as “switch-wrap” on a verbal command, or “jump-wrap” so that I have an arsenal of verbal tools to tell the dog where to go in the trial. It also develops both front and rear cross turning cues and skills for both handler and dog. You can do it in the house with one jump if the weather is bad.

Whippets are really good at taking off and self-rewarding. My whippets may love me, but they don’t work for the love of me; they want to know what they are going to be paid to know if it is going to be worthwhile. It will really help to find something that is worth this dog’s while to pay attention for two minutes, or 5 minutes.

Kim says:

Point the path for your dog, pre-que your ques and get your ques out one obstacle early. Be prepared to drive your dog from behind if you can’t keep up with his pace…that generally means more rear crosses than front crosses. Your dog is never the one that is wrong, constantly correcting him on course for your mistakes or late handling is a great way to confuse, frustrate and demotivate him. If your give a wrong or late command, and you send your dog off course, go with it, don’t correct it. You want your dog to think that you are brilliant and always know what you are doing so they never question your commands on course. Lastly, pay attention to your handling so you learn what to not do next time…and practice, practice, practice!

Nita says:

What about using that hand like a magic marker to draw the path for the dog so it knows where it’s going all the time. It has a clear path to follow at all times instead of having to wait for the flick.

Shelley P. says:

I have a Border Collie who at practice can be blazing fast! We just started trialing and she’s still getting used to the environment, she’s a bit nervous with everything going on around her. Her speed isn’t quite up there yet like at practice, but even with her not going her fastest, she still managed to get a first place finish in Steeplechase at her first trial! I’m in no way nearly quick enough to keep up, but have been working on distance control and gestures to direct her using my body.

Keep in mind I’m a complete newbie at this, but just from learning with my girl and advice from our trainer I can make a few observations. You could use a start-line stay to position yourself facing the dog, than release, turn, and direct towards the second jump.

Personally I use 2on/2off contacts to get my dog to wait. This gives me added control and a chance to catch up to send her to the next obstacle. Of course this is personal preference, but it really helps us with accuracy.

The other important thing in our training, is to work on giving the commands earlier. As soon as she is taking the next obstacle, I’m already telling her what is after that. This allows her a chance to look ahead and make a decision early before she takes an off-course. So far it has worked great for us, and we can’t wait for our second trial at the end of the month!

John says:

Having a fast German Shepherd Dog, I’ve learned to give my cues much faster and to be decisive. And I use calming techniques, mine has no need to be wound up before a run, and in fact I usually turn our backs to the course when we are in the chute.

Another idea, since the dog loves to run and jump so much, I’ve not done this, but have seen it, would be to pick the dog up and remove him from the course on the first error and major run around. That might improve his idea that he has to play by the handlers rules to play.

Lucky Dog says:

What fast dog! That is amazing. The dog seems to love what he is doing

I see the handler giving lots of big hand gestures, which excite the Whippet. Also, I would try perhaps not letting the be on course unless he is calm…or rather, somewhat under control!