Does anyone have a dog that has a love/hate relationship with Agility?

Discussion in 'Agility and Dog Sports' started by Golly's Mom, May 27, 2013.

  1. Golly's Mom

    Golly's Mom New Member

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    Hello to all,

    I have a 1 1/2 year old border collie/blue heeler/rat terrier mix. She sometimes seems to love agility, her tail wags and she flies through the course. Sometimes, as soon as we get there, she flattens herself to the ground and runs to the door as soon as I take her lead off.

    A few months ago she had a bad fall off of the high walk, she ended up dangling in the metal trussel and hung by her leg. It cut her in several places. Before that she was pretty into it consistently.

    Now, we have gotten over being afraid of that obsticle and she goes over it no problem.

    It seems she is in her own head. I took her to class last week and she refused to work but she had alot of exersize the day before so we just left. Yesterday she shut down too, and I ended up doing all of the runs on leash, stopping to take it off when she went through the tunnels.

    The trainer said if we left again because she didn't want to work, it would be teaching her to shut down.

    I want her to be happy and enjoy agility like I do. Sometimes she does, and when she does she excels in it, she is so fast and soooo smart!

    Does anyone have any thoughts about her situation? Any idea's? Have you experienced this?

    Elizabeth
     
  2. CaliTerp07

    CaliTerp07 New Member

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    I question your trainer's thoughts...if my dog was so stressed in class I had to put her on leash and drag her through obstacles, then something is very wrong and we need to go back to making this super fun and exciting. Class should be safe and familiar and non-stressful.

    How often are you rewarding? What are you using for rewards? I would up the ante to something incredible (hot dogs, cheese, chicken liver) and reward her just for going out towards the obstacles. Enter class, get treats, leave. Repeat a zillion times until she is super excited to go in. Then treats after every individual obstacle.

    Go back to kindergarten :) My trainer's suggestion is always that you never want your dog to "fail" more than twice. If you ask them to do something (whether an obstacle, a sequence, or just a "stay") and they mess it up twice, you've made it too hard and you need to make their life easier to make them successful.
     
  3. AdrianneIsabel

    AdrianneIsabel Glutton for Crazy

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    This. There are things I expect more from my dog and agility is not one of them, we practice, we make it fun, and we walk away sans reward if they're having an off day.

    This is a game, a hobby, there is no reason to force the dog to participate. Go back, find her motivations and rebuild her confidence. :)
     
  4. Golly's Mom

    Golly's Mom New Member

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    Great! This is exactly the responses I needed :)

    I was thinking that it wasn't fun at all to see her prostrated on the floor. I felt awful dragging her by the leash over the jumps and up the walk. Anytime I took the leash off she ran away to the gate.
    Great idea's about positive association, I wish I would've been thinking instead of taking her through the whole class the way I did.

    Thanks guys! I will start at square one for her, treats (really good ones instead of string cheese) and lots of praise for just showing up. My biggest wish is that we love agility together. More importantly, I just want her to be healthy and happy. I knew in my gut that wasn't the right move for her yesterday...
     
  5. stardogs

    stardogs Behavior Nerd

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    By any chance do you have another option for classes?

    Your instructor's advice to drag her through quite frankly sucks and she's likely formed a bad association with the location, if not the actual obstacles. A new instructor and new environment would be ideal to start over in when going back to the basics.
     
  6. Beanie

    Beanie Clicker Cult Coordinator

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    Agree completely.

    You may also want to have her double-checked by a vet to make sure she isn't in pain somewhere. Many of us with sport dogs here take our dogs to chiropractors. You can look for one here: http://www.avcadoctors.com/search_for_avca_certified_doctor.htm
    If she got physically hung up it's possible she got something pulled out of alignment or hurt a muscle. A lot of working dogs will not show that they are in pain in a traditional way but may start refusing to work, leaving people wondering what's up because the dog doesn't SEEM like it's hurting anywhere.

    With that in mind I question even MORE your trainer's position - if a dog that normally enjoys agility isn't willing to play I always consider pain as a possibility, and forcing a dog who's hurting to do something that hurts... bad for the dog's mojo and potentially bad for the dog's body. I definitely would look for another training possibility if you can find one!

    I also agree about going back to kindergarten and rewarding a LOT! My dogs all have days that sometimes they just aren't as super into something and it's a clue to me that I need to ramp up the rewards, whatever they might be, and make sure that whatever we are doing is still a game first and foremost. All training is a game to me and my dogs - if it doesn't feel like playing anymore (to either of us) I'm doing something wrong and need to re-evaluate!


    I know it can be very difficult when you have a trainer telling you to do something you really don't want to do or your gut is telling you is wrong. The trainer says to do it, and as humans we are very engineered to do as we are told, especially by authority figures. It's really hard to stand up to a trainer and be an advocate for your dog. I have been in that position myself! It's really tough, but if you aren't able to find another trainer, it's definitely something you'll have to learn to do. Like I said, I've been there and done something I knew I shouldn't do... and I've also learned how to say no. Difficult for sure and it's not a pleasant position to be in at all.

    Good luck! If you want to use some great treats, I like to use pieces of hot dog. If the slimy factor grosses you out you can nuke them in your microwave until they get harder and dry. But your house will smell like hot dog when you do that, haha!
     
  7. adojrts

    adojrts New Member

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    Change locations and trainers, period. Trainer doesn't have a clue, news flash to the trainer, dog is already stressing and shut down and should not be expected to do ANYTHING in that state of mind. By forcing the dog to perform, it is only building upon the negative state of mind and it will only get worse. Dogs just don't 'get over these things and to suck it up'.

    Also when your dog is excited and doing the equipment, doesn't mean she isn't stressing high (just a different version of shutting down).

    Any trainer that instructs someone to run any piece of equipment on leash raises red flags to me. Makes me question how well you and your dog were trained in the first place.

    After your dog was injured and scared on the Dog Walk (not called the high walk btw), what was done to retrain that piece of equipment safely? Did you go back to plank work and then a lowered dog walk and build the confidence again or was the dog just expected to get on it again?
     
  8. k9krazee

    k9krazee Active Member

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    Agree with the others!

    And that was a massive trauma --- hanging from the dogwalk! I would make sure she is 100% physically okay.

    Then I'd take it slowly in baby steps and regain her confidence and make 10000 new positive associations with agility again.
     
  9. Linds

    Linds Twin 2

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    I just wanted to repost this post because I think it's completely dead on.

    You know your dog best and you've got your gut, follow it. I know just how hard it is when a trainer is telling you to do something and it just doesn't feel right but they as the trainer should know what to do and you feel the need to listen.

    So like Beanie said, if you can't find another class or instructor you need to remember that you are doing this for fun and to build a relationship with your dog. Practice saying no and what you're going to do instead before class so you feel more confident in standing up for yourself and your dog.

    And good luck! It sure sounds like you are on the right path and you two will have lots of fun times together.
     
  10. Golly's Mom

    Golly's Mom New Member

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    Awesome guys :)

    Thank you all for this timely advice. Yes, there is another location that I can go to but it is much farther away, at the humane society. Not that being at the humane society is bad, but I thought I was at a more professional place that specialized in agility.

    After the dog walk incident, I took her to the vet and had an x-ray done. She said after manipulating her legs and all that Golly was okay but would probably be sore for a few days.

    When we went back to class that next week Golly shut down for the first time ever, so we stayed away from the dog walk for a couple of times then they had me put her on it with treats. I had eventually just stopped doing the dog walk because of her stress of it until I got some one on one training with the owner who, within 20 minutes had my girl running across it unfraid once more. We started with it lowered, then raised one end, then got it into full position. Her fear evaporated pretty quickly.

    I have noticed that everytime we pull up to the agility training center she shakes, but somedays she seems to have fun and run the course and be a ham while other times like these last couple she is just not happy at all.
     
  11. CaliTerp07

    CaliTerp07 New Member

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    My Lucy "up stresses". It took me over a year of competing to realize that she wasn't just super full of energy and wanting to run around--her zoomies were stress. In retrospect, I am frustrated I didn't put 2 and 2 together sooner, but oh well. People think of stress as "shut down", and in most dogs it is. The dogs that need coaxed off the start line, encouraged over contacts, and cheered to go at more than a trot are clearly stressed. It can manifest as the opposite too though.

    Up stressing can look like your dog is having fun. Lucy would take obstacles full speed, but she'd also run laps around the outside, leap over fences, and go a bazillion miles an hour. People laughed and said, "Your dog sure is having fun, isn't she?" These were people who had made nationals, telling me that my highly stressed dog was enjoying herself. It made me believe she was. I now don't think she ever really enjoyed the first year of trialing.

    Our stressing is not equipment related or location specific like it sounds like Golly's is. Ours is new spaces, reactive dogs, sheep, tractors, tents--all the things you see at trials that you don't train around. To combat it, we have to up our training in new spaces. Sounds like to combat yours (if that's what it is), you need to re-establish positive association with equipment (and that location, if you continue to train there). I might start with a child's play tunnel or a single jump in my backyard--somewhere safe, non threatening, where you can really make that obstacle amazing.

    I'm not saying Golly is definitely upstressing (she might be, but only you have seen her and know what she normally is like!), but I just want to reiterate that going fast isn't necessarily having fun.
     
  12. CaliTerp07

    CaliTerp07 New Member

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    Oh, and as for the humane society classes--why not go and observe one, without Golly? Talk to the trainer, find out his/her methods, observe the way the other dogs in class are behaving, explain your concerns about Golly and see what the trainer suggests.

    If you get a bad feeling, don't go back, no harm done. You didn't spend money, you didn't give your dog another bad association, and the only thing you lost was an hour of your time. If the person in charge though seems to know their stuff and the dogs in class are having fun, great!

    I have taken classes at 3 different locations now. I keep saying I want to branch out and train in multiple venues to help Lucy's new-place issue. Each time I've tried somewhere new though, the trainer has really turned me off with something she's said, how she handled her dogs, or what her goals for Lucy were. I never went back. I forfeited $180 in lesson fees each time, but I'd rather do that than hurt my dog with bad advice.
     
  13. Golly's Mom

    Golly's Mom New Member

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    Okay, just e-mailed the owners of the facility

    I talked with the hubby and he thinks you guys sound right on target, so I just e-mailed the facility and told them we need to do some positive association and I'm going to pull her from class for awhile. This is an awesome forum, thanks so much for your insights, and your time :) I will go check out the humane society place and see how it speaks to me. If they let me of course. There is a dog park a few miles off that has some agility equipment and Golly loves to use it there. She does it all on her own and races through the tunnel and over the A-frame. As far as her speed and stress, I really think it is her being happy not stressed. She used to be on the leash and just fling herself at the obstacles while we waited our turn. She would be wagging her tail and anticipating. I don't think I could mistake that. I have lost my confidence in my choices after yesterday though so thank you for sharing your experience with this type of thing. CaliTerp07, it sounds like we do have somethings in common though. My girl likes things that are the same and when she see's new objects or things out of order she gets a little upset. So I will have to talk with you when we get through this setback about how you train for that. Here is a pic of my sweet girl in the flowers last summer. [​IMG]
     
  14. Golly's Mom

    Golly's Mom New Member

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    I got a really nice response from the owners of the agility center

    I had e-mailed the agility center and the owners really agreed with what was said here. They feel it was unfortunate that they weren't around for those classes to step in and offer their advice.
    I had thought about doing nose-work with my girl while I am off on a surgery break, it isn't as intense as agility and my hubby would like to step up and train with her.
    We all agree that she needs a break from agility while we plan a strategy on her training. I was told she has a really difficult training style (she is so smart and easy to train on obedience that I didn't realize there would be any difference here) with a dose of cattle dog paranoia about new situations.
    So, I am going to look for a nose work class to help her gain her confidence back and also I hope to talk with anyone who has a dog that doesn't like new situations.
    Golly has never really freaked out on new situations, she just sits back and observes. But, when it was pointed out that the arena had been moved around this last week, that might have contributed to her shut down mode.
     
  15. CaliTerp07

    CaliTerp07 New Member

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    Nosework sounds like a fantastic bridge plan :) Golly is lucky to have someone who loves her so much to work towards what she needs!
     
  16. Golly's Mom

    Golly's Mom New Member

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    Thanks CaliTerp07 :)

    CaliTerp07,

    We also have a 9 month old Aussie mixed with Newfy that looks somewhat like your girl Lucy. Something about the eyes.

    I have fallen in love with the herding breeds. I have always had rescues which were mixed shepperds and a mastiff mix and a newfy mix.

    Now, we have two herding mixes that are funny, smart, super fun and have our hearts. We are lucky to have such good dogs, but thanks for saying Golly is lucky too!

    Elizabeth
     
  17. MafiaPrincess

    MafiaPrincess Obvious trollsare Obvious

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    I've taken up nosework with Smudge. It really is a fantastic sport to work on confidence building. While he wasn't really lacking, he has gained some anyhow. And I have gotten to watch some very terrified of their own shadow dogs slowly become okay with the scary world through working.

    If you can even find a workshop to help you on the right track on your own, I would totally jump on it. As much as I love agility.. This is Smudge's new sport.
     
  18. Golly's Mom

    Golly's Mom New Member

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    Thanks Mafia Princess

    I have found a nosework group with the same people, just different facility. Problem is, the new 101 class doesn't start until July sometime. I would love to get her into something new as early as this weekend.
    She is an amazing girl who needs to work a bit or she gets bored. I don't want to go over a month without something. I'm glad you found good this with nosework classes, it makes me hopeful!
     

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