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Discussion Starter #1
The two dogs I run with in agility are vastly different. Lily (poodle mix) at ten years of age, is still very fast, has really good distance work, and is graceful and beautifully athletic. When she has a clean run it is a work of art. Misty (Bichon / Shihtzu mix) OTH, is slower, not great at distance work, and not as athletic. Misty also started two years later than Lily.

Who has progressed faster and has more titles? Misty has! It is partly because she is very biddable, but I think it also speaks to my skill as a novice handler. If I falter for a split second with Lily, I lose her because she is so fast. With Misty, I have time to recover, and she’s not two obstacles ahead of me while I’m trying to remember the course. She’s also probably benefitted from the fact that I cut my teeth as a handler with Lily. Poor Lily had to suffer through my ineptness as I learned the sport.

It’s already apparent that with Gracie (11 month mini poo) I’m going to need to step up my game as a handler. She is very fast, and it’s clear that split seconds will matter with her. I’m already thinking that good distance work has to be a foundation of this- I’m not getting any younger and she can run like the wind!

So, it will be interesting competing with the three of them. Lots of adventures ahead.
 

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That is interesting to read. Babykins is extremely fast and I’m a newbie. I’ve had to train distance and also that she has to stick at her contacts until I release because things like the a frame are where I can have a little breather to think, maybe do a front cross etc. By breather, I don’t mean I stop running, it’s where I can catch up to her. I’ve had to work hard on deceleration, I do a lot of back crosses and I have a command to call her to my side if she runs ahead in the wrong direction. She’s really good at weave poles so I can send her to them and she does them while I run to be in position foe the next obstacle. I can’t babysit her with obstacles because I just can’t run to all of them. I definitely slow my dog down to run at my out of shape old lady speed. I need to work on more distance.

I had an injury where for three weeks I barely walked with a cane so my friend who has a slow Bernese Mountain dog kindly ran her for me. We would walk the course and she’d say what she would do and I would say what she needed to do with my dog..... very different. She does all front crosses and spends energy cheerleading her dog. She’s an experienced handler with her third dog. OMG, she had her eyes open, she was exhausted, struggled to keep up etc.

I used to complain that it was harder to learn to run a fast dog and my trainers used to say better to have a fast dog than a slow dog. With time my fast dog and I are figuring things out. I had to learn to give commands quickly,as she committed to one obstacle is when I tell her the next, I have to be extremely extremely careful of my body language. I envied people in my class with slow dogs because as we learned the various crosses, they had time to think and slowly execute them while I struggled to keep up with my dog and had to think fast and act faster.

I see some, not all people with slow dogs tend to be very sloppy. I have two people in my class who literally walk while their small dogs amble around the ring with them. One of these dogs is owned by a woman who is 87 and she usually walks once or twice and a younger friend comes to run her dog the rest of the class. This friend is in her 40s and in good shape and she has her own dog that she started to train. She thought since she could walk the elderly lady’s dog around the course babysitting each obstacle and giving sloppy signals that she wouldn’t have trouble with her own dog...now she’s in the class where they start to run small courses and she’s struggling as her dog zooms from lack of clear direction.

One thing, with a fast dog you won’t have to worry about not finishing on time. With Gracie, you are going to be a fantastic team.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Skylar- thanks for your input, I hope we’re going to be a good team and I’m able to be the handler she needs. I hear you about old lady body too, and with a sedentary job, it’s hard to stay in shape.

I guess you can always manage a fast dog through training, but you can’t make a slow dog faster. I do appreciate Lily’s speed and athleticism and making time is not an issue, unless she goes off course, which happens. I imagine Misty is similar to the Bernese Mountain dog in style, that is very funny that your friend was completely unprepared for poodle energy! I think poodles have a very unique style, they’re fast, and smart, but very different from a border collie or sheltie, it’s a different kind of drive/motivation.

With Gracie I have been training her to stick contacts too. She will be fast and has no fear, and may fly right over the yellow. But I understand a lot of handlers are now doing running contacts to grab those few seconds, and it’s even more common in Europe. I’m not sure we’ll ever be at that level, but I was wondering if I should consider that.
 

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I see lots of running contacts and I think if I had a slow dog I would do it... however I see many people with fast dogs who do running contacts have problems with them not only flying over and not touching the yellow contact zone but their dogs perform in what I consider unsafe behavior where they jump off the side of the dog walk or carry too much air on the A frame because they are not worried about two feet on and two feet off at the bottom which slows them down. I guess since we will never be in the running for fastest completion of the course when there are plenty of young people with border collies competing in my area, I’m more concerned with safety than speed.
 

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I think poodles have a very unique style, they’re fast, and smart, but very different from a border collie or sheltie, it’s a different kind of drive/motivation.

With Gracie I have been training her to stick contacts too. She will be fast and has no fear, and may fly right over the yellow. But I understand a lot of handlers are now doing running contacts to grab those few seconds, and it’s even more common in Europe. I’m not sure we’ll ever be at that level, but I was wondering if I should consider that.
I would love to hear you expound a bit on the poodle agility style. I used to run an aussie in agility and he had a typical herding dog mentality/approach to teamwork. He was fast, accurate and could be steered at a distance by voice commands. I had a preperformance obedience routine that was like turning on a car, he would be focused and ready to go. Another person in my agility club competed very successfully with an oversized papillon, but I noticed that she had to use completely different techniques focusing on play and affection.

I think running contacts is an interesting approach to contact zones. From what I've read it can by physically easier on a dog to do a running contact coming off of the A-frame. It's hard on their shoulders to stop at the bottom and dogs use their bodies differently (not necessarily in a good way) when they are planning to stop there. This may affect larger dogs a lot more than a mini poodle (or toy), I'm not clear on that. A smaller dog has a shorter stride and more opportunities to get a paw in the yellow.

Anyway, I have been thinking of getting a flat board for the back yard as part of my foundational training for Violet- with an eye on eventual running contacts. Has anyone on PF trained for this? It sounds easiest to do when starting with a puppy, and starting with a flat board long before a puppy is old enough for agility equipment. Stay tuned, I need to get her home and house-trained first!
 

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Newport, you are right that it’s harder on their shoulders, more so for a larger heavier dog.

One of my trainers has papillons and they are as fast as miniature poodles and very agile. She has a horrible time with her dog leaping over contacts and not touching them, especially the teeter. She had to put a hoop over the end of the teeter and reward him only if he goes through the hoop to encourage staying on the teeter to exit safely. I swear these little dogs can fly over distances.

I’ve never had a border collie. I do competition obedience and rally and I know people can tell that when I run my dog. I definitely use play, food tons of patience and affection. I tossed toys to get speed in weave poles etc. you can’t be harsh with a poodle, they are sensitive.
 

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Leaping over contact zones is a common interesting problem. I suspect two on/two off training stress and the physical stress of stopping at the bottom of the A-frame work together in many dogs in a way that increases leaping. Kind of like "I'll jump over that unpleasant part." And general sloppiness.

It will be interesting to see how the flat board/running contacts along with foundational puppy training will pan out when it comes to hitting the contacts reliably as an adult in competition settings.
 

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Same, same, Carolinek and Skylar. I went from handling a beagle-mix who is super fun and I can easily keep up with, to a spoo that appears to have been born for agility. We put in a lot of time for him to learn the basics (take the jump in front of you unless otherwise directed) and are starting to be in sync more often. It is still a struggle for me mentally to understand where I need to support him and where I can handle from far away after setting a line. My trainers also would like to have this kind of problem . . . a highly driven agility dog. My main instructor has a lab that needs a cheerleader around the course.

Tough love on the start line worked for me. I had to walk away from a trial run when he jumped the line . . . “Too bad, let’s go to your kennel, we’ll try again.” He could easily have Qed, but at a cost of rewarding bad behavior. The next trial that day he held his start line stay, and also for the next day’s trial. This was at my home club, but when we trialed at another location that was new to us, he still held the stay.

I’ve been working on impulse control since I brought him home, everywhere, not just in the training ring. I had some great mentors in foundation skills that can be taught in the living room long before the dog sees any agility equipment. Wrapping around cones, spinning with front feet on an inverted food dish. Susan Garrett has a list of things you can do with a puppy before starting agility training. I’m taking obedience classes to improve attention in agility.

https://susangarrettdogagility.com/?s=Puppy+hundred

Newport, stopped contacts can be taught on any flat surface, without a fancy agility travel board painted blue and yellow. I’m taking a canine fitness class now where we’re using about a dozen different objects for this, everything from the expensive canine products to a phone book held together with duct tape. (I’ve repurposed the board that I used for conformation training—it is a sheet of rigid foam insulation covered with carpet.)

As for the poodle agility style, my spoo can do agility all by himself, thank you very much! The handler just gets in the way. I was ready to give up the idea of competing earlier this year because I was frustrated by ‘lack of progress.’ I backed off of training, tried to relax (so NOT my personality!), and tried to be more gentle than authoritative about bad behaviors. At the start line, instead of a firm ‘stay,’ I started a routine where I took a few moments to pet him, rub his chest, and then a firm but quiet ‘stay.’ Lots of petting as well during breaks on the course in class. If he took off I would call him once, then go to him if he didn’t respond; he usually complies (there is another ring of agility training that is distracting to him, especially with certain dogs). In some instances I will take him outside the ring for a brief time out . . . that is the worst punishment, not allowing him to run. And I’m calm about it, matter of fact instead of scolding.

I don’t know if this helped or if we reached a critical mass of training but, after some waffling, I entered our local trial in July. He earned a few Qs and then his first title at the next trial away from home. Now I’m excited about the potential that I can see at last, and that my more experienced instructors could see in my dog from the start.

BTW, my dog turns 4 years old next month. I didn’t expect it to take this long to be competitive.
 

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Anyway, I have been thinking of getting a flat board for the back yard as part of my foundational training for Violet- with an eye on eventual running contacts. Has anyone on PF trained for this? It sounds easiest to do when starting with a puppy, and starting with a flat board long before a puppy is old enough for agility equipment.
You can teach your puppy to back up and feel the edge of the board and step her back feet up onto it. This tells her she has back feet and how to control them. Once she is good at that, you teach her to walk along the board and stop at the end with her back feet staying on the board. Once she is solid at that you teach her to stop in that position while you keep walking forward. Then you teach her to run along the board and stop with her back feet staying on it. Then she runs along the board and stops while you keep running forward. In all cases she is not allowed to move off of the board until she is released. You can treat while she is still on the board and then release her to run forward with you.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I see lots of running contacts and I think if I had a slow dog I would do it... however I see many people with fast dogs who do running contacts have problems with them not only flying over and not touching the yellow contact zone but their dogs perform in what I consider unsafe behavior where they jump off the side of the dog walk or carry too much air on the A frame because they are not worried about two feet on and two feet off at the bottom which slows them down. I guess since we will never be in the running for fastest completion of the course when there are plenty of young people with border collies competing in my area, I’m more concerned with safety than speed.
Absolutely, safety is way more important! Gracie could easily be airborne coming down an obstacle, good to teach some self control early on.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
I would love to hear you expound a bit on the poodle agility style. I used to run an aussie in agility and he had a typical herding dog mentality/approach to teamwork. He was fast, accurate and could be steered at a distance by voice commands. I had a preperformance obedience routine that was like turning on a car, he would be focused and ready to go. Another person in my agility club competed very successfully with an oversized papillon, but I noticed that she had to use completely different techniques focusing on play and affection.

I think running contacts is an interesting approach to contact zones. From what I've read it can by physically easier on a dog to do a running contact coming off of the A-frame. It's hard on their shoulders to stop at the bottom and dogs use their bodies differently (not necessarily in a good way) when they are planning to stop there. This may affect larger dogs a lot more than a mini poodle (or toy), I'm not clear on that. A smaller dog has a shorter stride and more opportunities to get a paw in the yellow.

Anyway, I have been thinking of getting a flat board for the back yard as part of my foundational training for Violet- with an eye on eventual running contacts. Has anyone on PF trained for this? It sounds easiest to do when starting with a puppy, and starting with a flat board long before a puppy is old enough for agility equipment. Stay tuned, I need to get her home and house-trained first!
There definitely appears to be a poodle style, not only in agility but pretty much everything else too. They’re very different from other dogs I’ve had. You have to keep things fun and entertaining.

There has been discussion here about whether poodleS like to drill skills. My experience with Lily has been that the minute something is not fun anymore she disengages. For example, Misty will practice weaves in the yard over and over again. Lily will happily do a couple reps, then she has had enough. So of course, Misty’s weaves are much better than Lily’s!

Not sure what Gracie will do, she’s still in the puppy phase, everything is new and she loves all of it..and will do anything for a cookie!

It makes sense that stooping at the bottom of a contact will be tough on the shoulders. I actually talked with one of the trainers about running contacts this week, and her perspective is that you’re better off teaching the stop because you can always release them early. That made sense to me.
 
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Discussion Starter #12
Same, same, Carolinek and Skylar. I went from handling a beagle-mix who is super fun and I can easily keep up with, to a spoo that appears to have been born for agility. We put in a lot of time for him to learn the basics (take the jump in front of you unless otherwise directed) and are starting to be in sync more often. It is still a struggle for me mentally to understand where I need to support him and where I can handle from far away after setting a line. My trainers also would like to have this kind of problem . . . a highly driven agility dog. My main instructor has a lab that needs a cheerleader around the course.

Tough love on the start line worked for me. I had to walk away from a trial run when he jumped the line . . . “Too bad, let’s go to your kennel, we’ll try again.” He could easily have Qed, but at a cost of rewarding bad behavior. The next trial that day he held his start line stay, and also for the next day’s trial. This was at my home club, but when we trialed at another location that was new to us, he still held the stay.

I’ve been working on impulse control since I brought him home, everywhere, not just in the training ring. I had some great mentors in foundation skills that can be taught in the living room long before the dog sees any agility equipment. Wrapping around cones, spinning with front feet on an inverted food dish. Susan Garrett has a list of things you can do with a puppy before starting agility training. I’m taking obedience classes to improve attention in agility.

https://susangarrettdogagility.com/?s=Puppy+hundred

Newport, stopped contacts can be taught on any flat surface, without a fancy agility travel board painted blue and yellow. I’m taking a canine fitness class now where we’re using about a dozen different objects for this, everything from the expensive canine products to a phone book held together with duct tape. (I’ve repurposed the board that I used for conformation training—it is a sheet of rigid foam insulation covered with carpet.)

As for the poodle agility style, my spoo can do agility all by himself, thank you very much! The handler just gets in the way. I was ready to give up the idea of competing earlier this year because I was frustrated by ‘lack of progress.’ I backed off of training, tried to relax (so NOT my personality!), and tried to be more gentle than authoritative about bad behaviors. At the start line, instead of a firm ‘stay,’ I started a routine where I took a few moments to pet him, rub his chest, and then a firm but quiet ‘stay.’ Lots of petting as well during breaks on the course in class. If he took off I would call him once, then go to him if he didn’t respond; he usually complies (there is another ring of agility training that is distracting to him, especially with certain dogs). In some instances I will take him outside the ring for a brief time out . . . that is the worst punishment, not allowing him to run. And I’m calm about it, matter of fact instead of scolding.

I don’t know if this helped or if we reached a critical mass of training but, after some waffling, I entered our local trial in July. He earned a few Qs and then his first title at the next trial away from home. Now I’m excited about the potential that I can see at last, and that my more experienced instructors could see in my dog from the start.

BTW, my dog turns 4 years old next month. I didn’t expect it to take this long to be competitive.
I probably should have done tough love with the start line stay, but I didn’t think we would ever compete, so I let a lot of things go. Part of it was I did t know the importance of it.
 

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I'm really intrigued by running contacts and have looked into all sorts of methods for teaching them. It seems to me that you have to have a *LOT* of serious training chops to get them perfected, and I decided I didn't have it in me! I taught Sugarfoot a stopped contact through the Susan Garrett online "Say Yes to Contact Success" program, which involved teaching a nose touch at the bottom and emphasized proper weight shift and all sorts of body awareness stuff. I'm doing similarly with Spice, but I haven't been as intense with his training. Both I and my new puppy are a little more laid back these days!

At this stage in Sugarfoot's career (he's a MACH 4), I almost always quick release the A-frame, every once in a while making him stop just to keep the training alive.

My husband has Corgis and has let them develop "natural" running contacts...but now he's dealing with a youngster who impatiently leaps off them, so he's having to go back to a "method" of some sort!

And yes, if you have a dog who loves Agility, enforcing start lines with "No stay, no play" is probably going to be a good idea. With my first Agility dog, an Italian greyhound, I slowly got more and more sloppy about letting her just take off, until at the end of her career I basically didn't have a start line stay any more, and it can really impact your available strategies. I only had to walk Sugarfoot off once or twice, lost entry fees well spent to purchase steady stays the rest of his career.

Oh, and as far as speed, yeah, it's better to just develop a handling style for the speedy dog than to try to slow him down. Sugarfoot's training paradigm is basically, "Run as fast as you can to the next thing you see." My job is to manipulate his path so that the next thing he sees is the object he's supposed to take. It doesn't *always* work out that way, but he's a pleasure to run!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Quossum, I think keeping the option of a quick release is a good idea for us, with a traditional stop. I wouldn’t categorize myself as having a lot of “agility chops”- unless you count dealing with Lily’s drama on the course!

Gracie, the puppy,is developing a nice stop with the contacts, I wouldn’t say we always have two on two off, bu she doesn’t go flying off. Flying in general is part of Gracie’s playbook, so that is progress. She is fearless and fast, I will need to be a very good handler to do her justice!
 
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