What to do When Your Agility Dog gets Scared in Training

dog agility rocker boardWe had a viewer ask us a great training question about dogs losing confidence with one bad scare in training. For Wwgoodson it really was one of the worst things that could have happened to their 7 month old Boston Terrier puppy. Here is their full story:

“I started my second Boston Terrier puppy. He is 7 months old. He was doing all the baby obstacles with gusto the first few weeks. One night he accidentally stepped on a motion board just as a bigger dog was getting on it and it threw him off. He has been terrified of motion ever since. He is now transferring his fear to the dog walk. Any advice?”

This is a tough issue to deal with especially at this tender age. When a dog gets scared bad enough, that fear can translate to other areas of their life just as it did with this puppy. All is not lost if you take your time, slowly rebuilding the puppy’s confidence no matter what the scare was. In this case we have the following suggestions:

For the dog walk we suggest you train end behavior with a plank on the ground if possible. Or lower the dog walk, keeping in mind some will start to bounce when lowered so be sure to steady it so it does not move under your dog. If not, you can just use the ramp of the dog walk, having your dog jump as far up on the plank as they can/will safely and work on end behavior from there. Be sure to have lots of yummy treats and keep the training session upbeat and short. Make the end of the plank a really nice place for your dog to be. When you start trying the full dog walk, you can bait every  few steps so the dog is more interested in eating treats than being on the dog walk.

Another option is a contact trainer or Mini A-frame.  Having a contact obstacle in a smaller, more manageable size may help your dog overcome their fear, especially if they are a small to medium breed. Full sized equipment can get very daunting to a dog who has lost their confidence.

As far as movement goes, we suggest you use a buja board or rocker board, ‘dampened’ with towels – shove towels or something under the edges to make movement minimal. If possible make it firm to start depending on how badly scared your dog was. Shape interaction with the buja or rocker board and slowly increase the motion as he becomes more comfortable with the motion.

Regaining confidence after a scare on dog agility equipment is tough, but in the end, it’s worth it for your dog. Take it slow and keep sessions short and upbeat. You will have your dog’s confidence back and running hard before you know it.