any general advice for dog agility or rally-O?

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by patandchickens, Jan 5, 2011.

  1. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    I'm posting this mainly because I'm avoiding housecleaning today LOL but I really would like to know what you think is most important for getting started, or what you wish you had known or done differently, or that kind of thing.

    Looking more for foundation-skills type advice, not "here is the best way to introduce weave poles".

    Russell is doing really well training-wise although he still needs a lot more mileage in busy situations as he tends to get excited/worried/distracted. Using clicker and pretty exclusively positive training methods. We're enrolled in an intermediate obedience (sport prep type) class that starts next week, it will be interesting to see how he handles working amidst other dogs.

    I have no interest in being highly competetive at these things (in terms of "must win ribbons!") but as with horses I would like to get to the point where we can compete, not as a test vs other people but as a personal test of how well we can do in the situation, you know?

    Any and all advice, suggestions or anecdotes will be happily absorbed [​IMG],

    Pat
     
  2. Brindlebtch

    Brindlebtch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2009
    Texas
    For agility, if you start out having a sit, down, stay and recall you will probably be ahead of most of the other beginners. Too often I get people in class who really want to do agility and don't understand that you still have to do some obedience, even if you don't like it.

    If your dog wants to run around the agility ring because he is so excited and wants to meet other dogs, make sure you keep him leashed or on long line. Don't let him find out that you don't have that magic control!

    If you want to compete in obedience, I would do that first, instead of rally. I have see teams go from rally to obedience and they really have to overcome the dog wondering why the handler isn't talking to it. I think it is easier to start without be able to talk to the dog in the ring and then loosening up and chatting to him in rally. Makes it easy!

    just mho
     
  3. Redyre Rotties

    Redyre Rotties Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Attention

    Recall


    If you build these 2 skills as a good foundation, the rest of your training will come easy.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Brindlebtch -- yup, he is really quite solid on those things, it takes more "active management" (and hotdogs rather than just kibble in the treat pouch LOL) to keep his attention with others around than it does in our backyard, but we've at least made a good start on it. I don't see us ever doing real obedience classes; rally-O is about as regimented and serious as I'd ever want to do [​IMG]

    Redyre -- in terms of attention, do I need "staring at me all of the time" kind of thing, or is "paying general attention so he knows if I ask something and will then do it promptly" okay? In particular, when we're working on heeling these days (not loose leash walking but actual heeling -- like, in position and staying right exactly there) should I be working on keeping him lookin' at me, or is just being there doing the right thing OK for my purposes? (i.e. agility and rally-O but *not* actual obedience classes)

    Thanks,

    Pat
     
  5. Redyre Rotties

    Redyre Rotties Chillin' With My Peeps

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    IMO it all depends on where you want to go. If you want to go to the ring, ANY ring, then I would work for intense focus and attention under all sorts of distraction.
     
  6. Windrider

    Windrider Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I've sure got to agree with this statement! [​IMG] As an active member in my training club, I help out with the "baby" agility classes, even though I am enrolled in the most advanced competition one. You can't go wrong with teaching focus, either, like Redyre says. Agility foundation work starts with the same basics as obedience. I can't tell you how many beginner dogs get the out of control "zoomies" once they realize they are being encouraged to run after their handlers around the course (I think nearly everyone with a young dog has experienced this).

    Now, I can also give some suggestions for other, more agility-related foundation skills. First, you have a Lab, not known for their great coordination as youngsters. Work on your pup learning to know where his back feet are - this is not something a dog automatically knows, normally they just assume the back feet are following the front feet. You can help your pup with this by walking through a ladder laid on the ground and also by "perching" exercises. For perching, train your dog to put his front feet on a stool and then have him circle around the stool with his back feet, both directions. Some of the pivoting heeling exercises also help with back feet awareness. These exercises will put your dog ahead of the game for the contact obstacles, which can be "scary" and even dangerous for larger, uncoordinated dogs.

    Since my collie is also a fairly uncoordinated breed, I also started her off with a 2" x 12" x 12 foot board. First put on the ground and "cookies" when interacting with it. Then up on two cinder blocks. Any interaction is treated, until I had her jumping on and off, running across, turning around in place, etc. But nothing formal until she actually saw a real Dog Walk set to the baby height - just fun interactions so she thought it was fun instead of scary being on the board.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Aside from work on heeling in general, and "watch me" type thing (rewarding longer and longer eye contact), any specific suggestions for what to be doing for that?

    (I have been doing some stuff from Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, including the one where you do a quick burst of work with the dog and then dismiss it to go sniff for a minute and then another quick intense burst of work and so forth, and it does seem to be improving his concentration and upping his interest level)

    For perching, train your dog to put his front feet on a stool and then have him circle around the stool with his back feet, both directions.

    Oh, that's a great idea, I can do that in the living room this time of year! We've done a lot of getting onto smallish things, and into progressively smaller boxes, and I can see him starting to get the hang of figuring out what the back end is doing, but going *around* while half on something is great!

    started her off with a 2" x 12" x 12 foot board. First put on the ground and "cookies" when interacting with it. Then up on two cinder blocks. Any interaction is treated, until I had her jumping on and off, running across, turning around in place, etc. But nothing formal until she actually saw a real Dog Walk set to the baby height - just fun interactions so she thought it was fun instead of scary being on the board.

    We've done a reasonable amount of that, but I am a weenie about doing much more because (not, basically, knowing what I'm doing here [​IMG]) I am concerned about accidentally instilling a habit of jumping off the end, which he tends to want to do when the ground is so near (even if I have the board propped like a very flattish ramp). I am tempted to try to shape being on the board further out towards the end, but am afraid that would end up just being lots and lots of practice at bailing off [​IMG] What do you think? My hope is to sign up for an actual 'beginning agility' class this spring. If I can work it out at home I'd really rather do so but am just concerned about doing it wrong so many times that it becomes a bad habit.

    Maybe (thinking about this again, as I sit here typing that out) I need to go back and get him more solid about staying on the board all the way along when it is flat on the ground with more *distractions* (not just in perfect conditions), and *then* try raising the end again? Hm, that might work?

    Thanks!,

    Pat​
     
  8. pbjmaker

    pbjmaker Overrun With Chickens

    May 9, 2008
    Central Iowa
    I don't know much about agility - just admire it and want to work my Tucker that direction, but I do know there is a yellow line on the end of the ramp thing (A-frame?) and they just have to get past that before they "bail" for it to count.

    Someone correct me if I'm wrong here...

    ETA: Ok I went and looked at some equipment websites and the whole end of it is yellow and their paws have to touch the yellow part before they jump down.

    Also - what is this "Control Unleashed"? Is it a book? We do training classes (Our next on starts the end of January) but I would love to get not only my dog to walk well off leash (where it is appropriate) but it might be a good read for my parents and their new rescue dog because they won't be walking the dog much but want to be able to retrieve her, etc. (They live on 25 acres)

    She has ate one leash and got her collar off yesterday, but did come right to my mom when she called her - she is too smart for them I'm afraid...
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2011
  9. Windrider

    Windrider Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:If you have Control Unleashed, then seriously, there is nothing else I can add about teaching focus. That is a great resource of ideas and one I use all the time, too!

    Quote:That sounds great, too! I haven't tried that but then I already have a collie who manages to cram herself into a tiny Sheltie-sized dog bed. Watch out or your lab may try to take over a cat bed (if you have cats)!

    Quote:There are two very different views on this very issue. I think which you choose to follow is mostly a breed thing. In one camp are trainers who, like you said, don't want to let the dog know that it is EVER okay to bail off the plank (because, like pbj says, they've got to hit that contact zone at the end). The dog should know that it must do the ENTIRE dog walk (teeter, etc) all the way to the end, not turing around, and not bailing off halfway through.

    However, I have a collie. Collies are over-thinkers and worriers when it comes to the contact obstacles and, as a breed, tend to have difficulties with the Dog Walk in particular. On the collie training list I'm on, many of the top MACH collie trainers are actually teaching the dog HOW to bail off the Dog Walk! Their reasoning is that the dog will be far more comfortable performing that obstacle at full speed if the dog knows it can control a fall and land without getting hurt if it absolutely can't stay on it (due to getting on at a bad angle, slipping, etc). I will try this method with my new pup, after I saw my friend's Masters ranked collie have bad fall that tore a tendon and ended that dog's performance career. So trainers in this camp will have the dog get on and off the plank at any point, turn around in place, etc, at different heights, so the dog learns it can fall off without it being a "crash." Once the dog starts formal Dog Walk training, they learn quickly that the treat bonanza occurs only if they do the whole thing, so these trainers don't see it as an issue that the dog knows it CAN jump off if it wants to.

    In any case, you want to do a lot of "bottom work" i.e. set up your plank as the bottom of the ramp and have the dog learn to drive forward to a target at the bottom, keeping his head low and looking forward, not at you. You can do a 2 on 2 off or a running contact, but either way, they drive down the board all the way to the end and the target (I use a coffee can lid with a treat on it). This skill will serve him well on all three contacts.
     
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Pbjmaker -- yes, the contact zone rule is why I'm leery of giving Russie the idea that it's fine to bail anywhere he wants. That and the safety issue as Windrider says.

    _Control Unleashed_ is a book, also there are companion DVDs, it is a system (bunch of exercises) for helping dogs be focused and calm and attentive to what you're asking. It is intended mainly for people whose dogs are inattentive due to worry, either in real life or doing agility (or I suppose other dog sports). It is a really good adjunct to a good sound comprehensive positive-training system but is definitely an *adjunct*, it does not cover normal training things like sit, stay, loose-leash walking, etc. So while it is really great and certainly worth reading I am not sure it would address the sort of thing you're interested in as well as some other types of resources. You might look at some good all-round from-the-beginning positive training style books, such as The Dog Whisperer by <somebodyorother> Owen (or Owens?).

    For offleash issues: for me at least (novice to dog training, though long-time horse person), the big 3 things that might be useful to your parents are:
    1) do not ask the dog to come to you unless you are pretty darn certain it WILL come, because every time it doesn't it weakens the training. Like what they say about courtrooms, a good prosecuting attorney never asks a question unless he KNOWS what the answer will be? Don't ask the dog to come unless you KNOW it will work (if it isn't working at least 90% of the time you're trying from too far or with too many distractions, you have to work up to those things gradually);

    2) because it is such a vital skill, always ALWAYS have a worthy treat to reward the dog with when you do call him [except, obviously, in emergency situations where you might need to call him regardless]; and

    3) if you guess wrong about #1 and the dog does not respond, get his attention [NOT by saying 'come'!] and run playfully (fast!) in the opposite direction. If you have done reasonable groundwork so that the dog regards you as the source of Good Things and Fun, he will not be able to resist following to see where you're skippin' off to. It feels very odd at first [to me at least] but darned if it doesn't WORK.

    JME not that I really know much about dogs [​IMG],

    Pat
     

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