brw- since we started a new thread...... What were you going to comment on about agility testing nerve?
I believe agility does test the nerve of a dog. A good agility dog has good nerve. Dogs can be semi-successful in agility with not so great nerve, but they will not be your HIT dogs or your MACH dogs or anything like that.
My interpretation/understanding of good nerve is a dog who doesn't worry, or stress, or have fear about the challenges in front of it. A dog with good nerve is a dog that is calm and certain while performing. They know what they're there to do and they're going to do it. In their minds, it's an open and shut case. Some dogs have it, some dogs don't.
I get the feeling some people believe that aggression or protection instinct equals nerve. But nerve is proven in more ways than just whether or not a dog will stand it's ground against a threat.
Agility does not test a dog's protection instinct by any means. But it does test a dog's nerve. Agility dogs are set up at the start line of a course they haven't ran before. There is no standard course design for Novice A that the dogs get routinized in performing and that they know what to expect. The handler has walked the course perhaps a couple times before their class starts but the dog doesn't see it at all before they're sat at the start line.
You ask your off leash dog to ignore all it's surroundings - all the strange dogs and people, the new building or field they may never have been in before, new equipment they haven't been on (different clubs have different brands and kinds of equipment - some teeters drop fast and some are like molasses, some dog walks shake like they'll collapse, some A-frames are metal and BANG when the dog climbs them), the judge they've never met standing in the middle of the ring staring at them, the stewards they don't know sitting inside the ring on chairs watching for equipment to fix, the people just outside the start line tugging with their dogs and getting them amped up, the smells of treats ringside people are giving out to their dogs, doors opening and closing, large fans blowing in the summer, or the venue being so cold in the winter that you see your breath inside...all of it. You sit your dog at the line and ask them to ignore everything but you while completely unrestrained.
Then you release and take off at a dead run expecting your dog, while all worked up and driving hard, not to leave you. They have to remain focused and attentive to your every slight cue - voice, shoulders, forward motion, eyes (they do watch your eyes and if you're looking the wrong place - they'll go there).
Not only all that, but they have to remember second upon second how to execute every piece of equipment you're guiding them to at a run. They have to anticipate how to maneuver everything in close quarters at a run, without doing something erratic that may injure their self.
I can't speak for everyone else and their dogs, but when I sit Fiona down at the start line and ask her to ignore the entire world around her, that's asking a lot
of her. To communicate to her, "I don't want you to engage ANYONE OR ANYTHING around you because you have a job to do." when she's surrounded by hundreds of other people and dogs...and she's off leash...the fact that she can do that in her curious, watchful, suspicious, alert little head is nothing short of amazing to me. And then I ask her to run in high gear ignoring all of that and running over equipment that may be wobbly and noisy and drops beneath her feet...and on and on and on.
A dog with weak nerve can not handle that kind of environment; some shut down, some are highly reactive, some put in a little effort but visibly have a lot of anxiety and stress, some will go through the motions but if something unexpected happens they back off the equipment or refuse obstacles. The dogs who show up knowing they have a job to do with full intentions of doing it in-spite of any curveballs the day may throw them - that's a dog with good nerve. They are resilient, confident, and have a calm and certain determination.
It may not be the display of nerve the working crowd enjoys and prefers to see, but it is still a display of the dog's nerve. (In my humble opinion. LOL)
ETA...Also, I'm not suggesting that any good agility dog will also be a good protection sport dog. But I don't think it's always due to nerve problems. I believe differences in drive and temperament can affect a dog so that even one with good nerve may not necessarily be a good protection sport dog.