Problems at Trial

Dog is too fast

Spaz dogs come in many shapes and sizes and are certainly not limited by breed. Generally the problem is created by the handler. The more excited we become the more excited they are. We get louder, or we get higher pitched, or we wave our arms around. In turn they reward us with exactly the behavior we've indicated. Excitement. With the easily excited dogs it's important to stay low keyed, and concentrate on the task at hand. Be sure that your body is "showing" the dog where it is you wish to go. What you have to say often makes little difference, if you clearly indicate what you want and stay calm. (Katie Greer)

Try this experiment at training class: Handlers are not allowed to say a word, just used hand signals or clap. You'll be amazed at the difference in the dogs, they really paid attention and calmed down. The handlers also had to concentrate on what signals they were giving. By the end of an evening most dogs will be running in a more controlled fashion with less barking and running out of control. (Jane Heritage)

With some fast dogs, you may have to *stay back* from them. Not taking that step toward the obstacle is hard at first, but the dog will simply move further out. Leaning is everything, and pivoting is crucial. Put your shoulders and hips in the direction you want your fast dog to go. Other dogs are "Body Magnets". In a long line of jumps in a straight line, the dog will begin to veer to the side you're running on because you're over there. You might well need to cross behind a jump or two along the way to draw the dog back to center as you send him on. (Pam Casey)

One thing to remember is that you are seeing over enthusiasm. There is no substitute for enthusiasm in this sport and the last thing you want to do is dampen the dogs enthusiasm, you must learn to channel it. My advice is go back to running short sequences giving lots of praise when the dog runs the sequences correctly and simply stop and get the dog under control if they start getting crazy, then start the sequence over. Try to become aware of what you are doing with your body, do you have good body position or are you consistently facing the wrong obstacle, what are you doing with your arms, are you flailing them around or are you giving good hand signals and holding the hand in position until the dog commits to the obstacle. Many times if you drop your hand too soon the dog will follow the hand and spin back towards you. Keep yourself calm and quiet things down a bit. (Kent Mahan)

Here are some things to do to get control of a speed-demon:

  • Start with a single obstacle and teach him he can not take it unless he hears the command. Keep him on leash to prevent him from taking the obstacle. Then move toward the obstacle at a trot. If he hears the command he is allowed to take the obstacle. If he hears "Ah, Ah" he would be prevented from taking the obstacle. The dog should get to the point where he will do this off leash.
  • Teach the "down" command. Then teach the dog (away from the agility obstacles) to "hit the deck" when you give him the down command.
  • Go back to the obstacles and begin training off leash. Have the dog "down" around the obstacle until you feel you have control around the obstacles. Then use the "down" if he gets out of control. It becomes a "time out". Basically you are telling the dog if you don't play the game the way I say, you will be put in a down and the game is over.

(Robyn Broock)

This is often more of a control issue than a speed issue. Many speedy dogs have control. Keeping an excited dog focused on the work at hand is another problem. When the situation deteriorates into the dog running circles around the handler the dog is no longer focused. It's on an adrenaline rush, and this isn't limited to herding breeds.

Teaching the dog to look ahead for the next obstacle helps. Step back to 3 jumps in a row. Will the dog willingly take all three when asked to? Or does the wild and crazy behavior begin? Obedience away from the agility field can also help. Speed isn't the only factor, team work is what gets a pair through a course successfully. (Katie Greer)

You really can't have "too much speed" in agility. You want speed, and should not do anything that would diminish that enthusism.

You can have problems with carelessness and lack of control, and should address two separate issues. First, the dog needs to learn how to perform the obstacles correctly. In addition, the dog needs to learn to look to you for direction around the course.

Both of these can (and should) happen at top speed, but they need to be taught, and they must be taught separately.

Here are some suggestions.

Teach one obstacle at a time (no sequences).

Decide how you want the obstacle performed and set up your training towards that goal. For example, teach the dogs to stop on the down contact. Enforce that until you are absolutely sure that they understand that is how the obstacle is to be performed, and that it would never occur to them to do it any other way. Then start decreasing the duration of the stop. For jumping, use lots of jumping excercises with variable spacing, approaches, and heights to teach the dog to think about where to put her body for the highest chance of success.

Remember, on course, you have no control over this aspect of performance. Ultimately, it will be the dog's responsibility to perform the obstacles correctly. But you have to teach her how.

Teach the dog to look to you for direction. Try Linda Mecklenburg's technique of starting sequences by calling the dog between obstacles. Set up a simple sequence, send the dog over the first obstacle, and call her back. Then send over the next obstacle and call back again. Once the dog is automatically returning after each obstacle, start sending them to the next obstacle earlier. The eventual goal is that the dog look at you between each obstacle. Linda's Nifty does this remarkably well at very high speed, and is both fast and accurate.
(Kate Eaton)

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