Problem Solving

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Problem Solving - Biting
This is a very common problem, especially with young agility dogs.  Once they've learned to jump and they've got used to the other equipment the excitement builds up very quickly.  When a dog gets really wound up they can start to nip and bite.  It's nothing to do with aggression but it isn't half painful when you're at the other end of the teeth.

One way to stop it is to stop the game as soon as the dog bites.  Dogs do things for reward and if you carry on with the jumping they are being constantly rewarded.   Squeal and stop immediately and walk away.  If you have jumps at home practice this in the garden.  As soon as the dog bites stop the game and go and do some gardening.  Once the dog has calmed down you can start again, but as soon as the dog bites stop the game You must be consistent and not let up.  Don't let the dog get away with it even once.  If the dog bites at training class stop the game and walk away.  Take your dog away from the other dogs until he's calmed down a bit and then bring him back into the class. 

It doesn't take long for a dog to learn that the rewards come when he doesn't bite.  You are teaching a dog to work for you and and this is all part of his learning experience.  Ultimately he'll be a much happier dog because you are happy with him when he doesn't bite.

Wait at the start
A good wait at the start is a really useful thing to teach an excitable agility dog.  It means that they have to stop and take notice of you and can't just go haring off in all directions as soon as you let go of the collar.

With some dogs it seems like an impossible mountain to climb.  The dog is so wound up it's all you can do to hang onto them never mind get them to sit and wait in the ring. 

One solution is to teach a really good wait at home, preferably not near any agility equipment.  Once you've done this you can put up a jump and ask the dog to wait while you go as far as the jump wing and then stop.  Count to five and then call him over it.  If the dog moves, even if it's only into a half stand, go back and ask him to sit.  Be consistent.  Don't let him get away with moving out of the sit even once.  Keep your eye on him as you step away.  When you're ready give him a verbal command to go, and give lots of praise.  Get him used to you moving your arms and hands so that in time he'll ignore your body language and listen only for the go. 

Practice this at home and once you've started continue the training at classes and in the ring.  It's so important to be consistent.  There is never going to be time when your dog moves before you've said so and once he's started this training he has to get used to this idea.  It doesn't take very long before he associates moving with you putting him back on the spot, and "Go" with being allowed to race off over the jumps.    I've put together a video clip of Sasha at a UKA show.  Before each of her runs she tries it on by raising herself out of the sit or creeping forward.  Each time I make her go back to her starting position and wait for the "Go."  She only tries it on once before each run and then gives up.  It's better to stay than to move. 


I hope these tips have been useful.  If you're consistent and patient you will train your dog to wait at the start. 

I need to add this update as there are some dogs that run better without the wait.  If you have a fast dog you won't be able to keep up without a wait but you can run a dog successfully by running from behind.  For dogs that tend to get anxious, the constant nagging necessary to get the perfect wait can cause them to become stressed.  In this case you might be better off teaching your dog to work at a distance and running the start from behind.  I've tried this with Sasha and we're currently working on going on ahead so it seems more appropriate at the moment.  Whether we ever go back to wait at the start remains to be seen.  I've included a video clip to show how we're getting on.  It doesn't always go this smoothly!

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