May I say it will get better? My spoo is 3 1/2, and we’ve had many moments where I thought we’d never ‘get’ agility. All along the way my trainer told me that other handlers would love to have that amount of drive and energy, whereas my experience is with my sweet, fairly slow, beagley girl. Once you reach a critical mass of knowledge and experience, it will be beautiful. But there will always be hiccups, even with the most experienced handler/dog teams.
This past weekend was a local agility trial that I nearly didn’t enter out of fear of very public failure. On the first run of FAST, my dog didn’t hold his start line stay. He took 3 jumps in succession before returning to me. We completed the course as planned, accruing enough points for a Q and well below the time limit . . . he has legs!
This was NOT a good thing. Later in the day the club was hosting an ACT trial and my instructor gently suggested that I use it as a teachable moment. During the first run my dog again didn’t hold his start line stay. Why not? He’d been rewarded the last time he did this by getting to continue playing on the course with me, and then cheered afterward. This time, however, I called him back and gently led him from the ring and to his crate with a neutral ‘too bad’. A few minutes later we practiced start line stays at the practice jump. During the second ACT run his start line stay was rock solid. Even better news is that he held his start line stay during the next day’s FAST run as well. That was more important to me than the Q.
This experience gave me the confidence to enter another trial with the mindset to use the time in the ring as I need to. There is no way to replicate the excitement of trial conditions except at a trial. Note that there are handlers and dogs at every experience level that have these moments. One dog that did really well in its first run, escaped the ring in its second run.
I’m also instituting solid recalls throughout the day, as the result of a recent agility seminar. My spoo has developed the habit of not responding to the first recall in the back yard. So why not ignore me on the agility course when he is hyper excited? Now if he doesn’t recall on the first try, no matter where, I walk toward him, and if he doesn’t get it, I touch his neck and lead him back. He ‘knows’ what’s expected but now I’m enforcing those expectations.
To Click’s point, maybe another trainer would help. My first dog was trained at my local club with all volunteer trainers (many of whom are wonderful). My spoo is training at an agility-only facility, with an instructor who is more wholistic; if we need to work on attention, we do that in the context of agility. Although they are group classes, the instruction is individualized, something not offered at the club.
Hang in there! I’m starting to see the advantage of these drivey dogs. Less running for us handlers!