Proofing Your Agility Dog
Every season change there are distractions lined up waiting for you and your dog. Rather than getting annoyed at those times you just can’t seem to get your dog’s attention, use them to proof you and your dog’s team work. If your dog tunes out on you due to stressors or distractions the two first things you should try are to back off the training intensity for a minute and work on some focus games with high reward rates. Make yourself and what you are asking more rewarding than the outside world.
While you start all training in a low to no distraction atmosphere, you cannot stay there. Even if you never plan on competing the world will encroach on your time together with natural distractions such as wildlife, wet ground, and fresh seasonal smells. Just like kids, dogs can get spring fever. Even your own emotional/stress level can have an impact on your dog’s performance and focus. If your head isn’t in the game, it will be picked up on by your dog who will in turn start to shut down.
If you intend to compete, it is essential that you not only raise distractions and proof your work at home, but also vary your training locations and routines while attending fun matches and low-key trials. All this will help you and your dog build that level of communication and trust that is necessary for more serious and stressful trials. Remember that you need to bring lots of high value rewards when changing or adding distractions to your dog’s routine. In no time, you and your dog will be able to focus and perform under distractions and stress.