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Old 02-20-2013, 11:21 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Agility - what do you wish you'd known with your first agility dog?

Richter had his first Puppy Agility class Monday night. We both had a great time, and we're looking forward to doing agility. It got me thinking, though, that there are so many people here that are really accomplished at the sport. What do you wish you'd known when you first started out? I'm completely new to the sport so anything you can share is much appreciated! Richter isn't a super drivy dog, but he has a lot of enthusiasm and had as much fun as I had, I think.

He also started Nosework last night, and we'll eventually give Rally or Obedience a try, I think.
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Old 02-20-2013, 12:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Agility - what do you wish you'd known with your first agility dog?

Not accomplished at all but I'm going to answer anyways, lol.

Calamity took the class "for fun" and with her eyesight issues I thought she would be super tentative, but she wasn't. However the tunnel was the hardest for her. We spent so much time trying to get her thru the tunnel because she mastered everything else.
It wasn't until the initial instructor couldn't make it for one of the classes so another ::coughamy:: came and showed a different way to encourage her thru, it worked like a charm!

Who would have thunked that us crawling into the tunnel wasn't near as enticing as just throwing a treat into it?

But the main instructor didn't want treats thrown into the tunnel, lol, little did she know that's why all the dogs improved when she returned! We all just did it when she wasn't looking. Before long they just ran thru it without treats being thrown in, they just needed that boost.

Man would Calamity then dart thru that tunnel and be so proud and spin and spin because she did it!

So for us it was knowing there was different ways to succeed, it's just a matter of openness to other options. Instead this instructor, since it was "for fun", would just encourage us to bypass it if the dog wouldn't do it her way! The other way was even more fun for Calamity because she accomplished it and it wasn't scary to her.

Have fun!! I bet he loves it and I know you do, especially not having to worry about him "reacting". Yea!


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Old 02-20-2013, 12:27 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Teach foundation first. The obstacles are the easier part. The hard part is getting your dog from a to b to c to d to e

At every point in training I do 3 things:
run with
call over
send

Then I am ready for the next level of training.

Teach ending contact behavior before getting on contact.
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Old 02-20-2013, 12:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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- Having solid contacts... Better 2o2o
-To go with that, back-chain the correct behavior
- (He's still too young for this) But "working the clock" sooner on the weave
-Do contacts on the lowest level first, then move it up (my area doesn't teach a foundation class, I wish they would)... I think that would have helped with Jonesy stalling at the top of the AF and his uneasiness with the DW.


Those are my 4 I can think of off the top of my head I am sure there are more
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I agree with Adara and JM - teach the foundation handling stuff while he is a puppy, he can go through hurdles with no poles up to learn this stuff and don't worry about the rest of the gear until you need to!

Build speed and enthusiasm early, the rest will come with time! Speed and enthusiasm can be incredibly difficult to get back from an older dog.

Pick a contact training system and stick with it, keep your criteria clear and know that you will probably have to throw a few trials in pursuit of reliable contacts. Pick a method you think will suit your handling, training ability and most importantly your dog! No point teaching running contacts if you're slow, a lazy trainer, your dog has a large natural stride pattern and crumpled at the thought of failure... Too many things working against you!

On that note, teach your dog to work through failure, shutting down when things get a little bit hard makes training agility a bit tedious.

Train weave entries a lot! Stop worrying about the full 12 poles, thats easy, train more entries! (that one is mostly for me right now)
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Move your feet.
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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posting here so i remember to check back and read any other comments that might be added.
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:17 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the_discowhore View Post

Train weave entries a lot! Stop worrying about the full 12 poles, thats easy, train more entries! (that one is mostly for me right now)
See this is interesting. My trainers old and new say always train 12 poles period. Don't even train for 6 train 12 and always work entries as you start. At each point in your training routine, do clockwork entries AND add 1-2 obstacles before to teach collection (that's the part of the memo I missed!).
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:21 PM   #9 (permalink)
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2x2 weaves starts with just 2 poles so you get great entries from the start (as long as you do it properly and don't.try rush to 12 poles!). Elsie is almost up to 12 poles but I need to go back and work more entries, she still has difficulty entering from the left when the angle is too extreme (enters 2nd pole). In 2x2 its impossible to do 12 poles without going through the stages of 2, 4 and 6 poles... No wire guides or WAMs to help
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:26 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the_discowhore View Post
2x2 weaves starts with just 2 poles so you get great entries from the start (as long as you do it properly and don't.try rush to 12 poles!). Elsie is almost up to 12 poles but I need to go back and work more entries, she still has difficulty entering from the left when the angle is too extreme (enters 2nd pole). In 2x2 its impossible to do 12 poles without going through the stages of 2, 4 and 6 poles... No wire guides or WAMs to help
Good lord smack me up side the head over and over!!!! I was thinking once the dog knew 12! Man it's been a bad week. Hangs head in shame And THANK YOU for the great explanation!
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:36 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Agility - what do you wish you'd known with your first agility dog?

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posting here so i remember to check back and read any other comments that might be added.
LMAO


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Old 02-20-2013, 02:04 PM   #12 (permalink)
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A biddable and enthusiastic dog makes for a great first agility dog- not so over the top to present additional challenges, but not so low key as to require the handler to spend extra work on focus and motivation.

So what I have I learned between my first dog and now...

Don't be afraid to step away, take a break or take things slowly. With a breed that matures so slowly at times you can do yourself (and the dog) a disservice if they are not mentally ready for the complexity of the training.

Keep your training in balance as much as possible. Over (or under) emphasizing one skill/obstacle compared to another usually bites you in the butt.

I don't do weaves until the dog is ready (old enough) to close up the poles (channel method). Once I start I want them closed (or very close) in a short period of time. I find there are less bad habits and a better understanding, than say a dog who spent 6-12 weeks running through the poles without much thought.

Make everything a game.

The wobble/buja board is awesome. I want all of my dogs to "own" the board; not just do it, but love it.

Timing is everything, learning when, where and why to cross or signal a turn.

Get to know where your feet are It seems silly but when you are running around a course and turning in circles and moving in different directions it helps to have a little body awareness (we teach it to our dogs, why not ourselves?).

Acceleration and deceleration (from the handler) are great cues for the dog, especially with our large dogs who can not turn and accelerate in an instant like some other dogs.

Try and get an automatic down on the table- it helps reduce the chances of sliding off when approaching the table at fast speed.
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:48 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Different dogs progress at different speeds and different teams mature at different rates together. It was hard, at first, being in classes surrounded by over-achieving BC's and Aussies and Shelties that weren't even a year old, flying through the classes, and then spinning, barking (LOL - can't help myself b/c I swear they never shut up!), and just biding their time in the advanced level classes for their day to finally trial...but Dobes are not BC's or Aussies or Shelties...

Fiona and I have been training for almost 3 years (3 years!! LOL) and we're just now competing; she has been S-L-O-W to mature in the head, she is incredibly independent and not very biddable. And she is my first agility dog...hence, here we are 3 years later! Hell, she is the first dog I've ever formally trained at all! BIG difference between her and the 10-month old Aussie we watched run excellent courses flawlessly last night.

It took a good long while for me to really get that we didn't stray from some intended or "correct" path, it's just the path we are on has been a long one but not one ounce less rewarding for it. I wish I'd really grasped that from the beginning. Would have saved myself a lot of energy in questioning and second-guessing.

"Life is a journey, not a destination." This applies to dog training as well.
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Old 02-20-2013, 06:30 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I'm right with Meadowcat. Sebastian is a rough collie, he is 9 months old. We are going to our 3rd beginning class. What I can see so far is that I am going to need body awareness training big time for me. I wish they offered that too, seriously. I'm sure my instructor will work with me but I worry that I may hold my dog back because of lack of my coordination and body awareness.

I think I found very good people and trainers in this agility club who know what they are doing. I have trained a lot but never ever in agility and boy is it a whole new world in fact I am having to throw out a lot of stuff I do. Also how important are the words? Fold instead of down since his down is different for example? Target instead of touch because he is already trained to "touch" my hands when I tell him for another class. I feel in a way I have screwed up because of the other training I have done with him. You can laugh but I am so new to this and I think Sebastian could get titled. Certainly in novice later. I took it for fun with my dog and after two classes I'm already thinking, "man he is the best in class and man I think I could title him, wow". What is surprising me is how much I am liking it already. I finally have a somewhat biddable dog who has just enough drive, not over the top drive and for me with my style it is a good combination.

So next week we begin work "Drive to staionary object". Suggestions about this, I got the handout but we don't start until next week. I'd say Seb loves tug but right now he is more food motivated, what do you think about that? Should I use the food in the container, if I do can we switch and build up more drive for the tug as time goes by? Thanks for any advice. Also a rally class is starting in a few weeks, can I do both or will it be too confusing?
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Old 02-20-2013, 06:35 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Do both! Elsie does tracking, working trials, obedience, rally, agility, flygililty and most recently lure coursing... She never gets confused with what we are doing, even when I do
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Old 02-20-2013, 06:36 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Richter is extremely food motivated, no desire to tug. Hope that won't be a problem...?
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Old 02-20-2013, 06:45 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Foundation....and lots of it. Circle work, sending away, coming to hand, following hands, 2on-2-off, acceleration and deceleration cues (we still work this), sit, wobble boards, etc.
Don't sweat it when you see those 6 month old border collies or shelties (which I now own) are doing everything and you are working on the basics. All dogs and handlers learn at their own rates and as a team. There is no need to press it and ruin your foundation.

Teach weave poles in a way that works for you and your dog - some do best in 2x2s, some in channels, some in leading through (Pula was the last one).
Realize that you don't have to try and outrun the dog; it is not about speed but quickness and timing - waiting for the instant the dog commits to the obstacle and then leaving (no babysitting the obstacles ).

Once yo get the basics, working the "clock" for weave poles, teeter, A-frame, dogwalk, etc. and changing your location for entrances, so you can leave them at the obstacle and get to the right position for the next cue and trust them to execute.

Handler footwork is important - I am getting better as I train and that is helping a lot on making it feel natural.

Pula is my first agility dog, and now I have a Sheltie who is my second. I have learned a lot so far, but I have a very good trainer.

And, of course, have fun! I have just started to understand why people get addicted to this. When you are running the course and your are in sync with your dog (has happened with both of my dogs now) it is like electricity or magic. Pretty awesome.
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Old 02-20-2013, 10:14 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Richter is extremely food motivated, no desire to tug. Hope that won't be a problem...?
There is lots you can do with just food! I try to encourage tugging if I can, but some dogs just don't have the desire or feel it is rewarding. Delta has been trained almost entirely food, she doesn't play with toys and her desire to tug is hit or (mostly) miss, and almost exclusively out of frustration or boredom. It hasn't held her back
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:07 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Richter is extremely food motivated, no desire to tug. Hope that won't be a problem...?
It won't be a problem per se but you might want to think about teaching him to play and enjoy play. One of the things both seminars recently taught me is play increases drive more. I'll find the wording and post it - if I try know it won't make sense. You can use food to play and to teach him to play. Envy bit us so hard that I took the "play" and tug out of her as a puppy and I'm teaching her to re-engage and tug. The difference is amazing. I used some of my techniques with Havoc at class last night - rewarding with food vs playing with food was a huge difference in his drive levels. I also have the downfall of using too much food/toys sometimes and I'm learning how to just play with my dogs (no food and no toys) because that's what it will be in the ring.
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:40 AM   #20 (permalink)
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First off, sorry for the long post.

Lori - I don't find the words matter most of the time, so long as you're consistent, you give it specific meaning, and your dog clearly understands what it means. And just because a trainer uses a word for a specific action doesn't mean you have to.

I have a good lesson learned for why a word matters is if it's too similar to anther word or command they know well. I truly think one reason Fiona and I struggled SO MUCH with contacts is because I was taught (and blindly followed) to use the word "FEET!" for my 2o2o command. Well, guess what Fiona's nickname is? Fi. Guess how similar those sound when yelled to a dog running full speed ahead? I worked with contact boards at home, I tried contacts on stairs, you name it and we worked it. At home I could stand in the kitchen with her and say "Feet!" and she'd trot into the living room and put her back feet on the board - she knew what a contact was. But when running a course and I'd yell "FEET!" guess what she'd do... She'd leap off the equipment and run up to me looking at me like, "Here I am! Yay!" because she thought I was calling her to me.

It hit me one night in class when I heard someone new to our class yell "Hit it!" to command the 2o2o. As soon as I retrained the command with a new word - I chose "touch" because it sounds unlike any other command she has - almost immediately she was giving me solid 2o2o. (I don't use "hit it" though because I use "get it" for my girls when I send them out to a target. I've learned my lesson! LOL) I have kicked myself in the ass 100 times over for all the months of headache I wasted for her by me yelling a word she was mis-hearing. Seriously. MONTHS. But I've never trained agility before so when the trainer said she used the word "feet" I took that literally and used it too.

So I would say to be aware of how a word might sound to a dog. I can't think of any words that rhyme with or sound similar to Sebastian...so maybe don't use "shushmastian" as a command.

Wanna hear another way I messed her up for months and months? LOL This is my cautionary tale for making sure you give *specific meaning* to all commands. I was using the same command for the DW as I did the teeter - "walk on." I've spent a LOT of time working on teeter issues with her off and on the last year and I only recently figured out it was about 90% MY fault and 10% bad experiences (caused by it being my fault, no less). And I mean recently as in right before we had our big breakthrough in training about 2 months ago.

I've done tons of reading, tons of talking to trainers, tons of reaching out to other teams, watching videos...blah, blah, blah, you name it - and I've done it regarding teeter work the last year. After our last fun run where she did so well (and I shared some pictures of it beginning of January) I had a major lightbulb moment. A good friend came along and took those pictures for me and his camera is amazing and he's talented and he took a full second by second pictorial series of her teeter approach and fly off. Right down to the cringe worthy moment of it bouncing back up and slamming her in the ass...again. *sigh* I was really upset seeing that laid out in front of me in photos. Really upset. I don't want her to ever have a bad experience and I felt like such a failure for setting her up for bad teeters all. The. Time.

I really felt sick because I have this amazingly resilient dog who loves agility and who, in spite of being scared and hurt on one obstacle several times, she'd still charge full steam ahead and trust me time and again that it was going to be okay. But it wasn't. It was repeatedly bad for her. I felt like my ignorance taking advantage of what a great dog she is and I hated that I wasn't finding the answer. I tell ya, there is a huge difference between watching a bad teeter happen on video and having the still frames laid out in front of you to stare at and see every little thing. Every wince from your dog, every foot placed wrong. Every thing. It's awful.

And I decided enough was enough. I wasn't willing to watch her fly off or fall off one more time. Once more was completely unacceptable. We were either going to solve it before we ran a course with it again or we just weren't going to run standard. Some way or another, I wasn't going to put her in what was an unpredictable situation for her. There was some way to fix it. There had to be. Tons of dogs are successful on the teeter and she could be to. So I woke up in the middle of the night after that run and I couldn't sleep. I dragged out my lap top and laid in bed reading up on teeters and contacts for a couple hours until I happened across some article about the canine visual system and how it's different from humans. And then I remembered reading about why there's tape on the weave poles and jump bars and why some dogs will blow obstacles if the walls of a venue are white depending on where the tape is located on the bar/pole and height of the dog (i.e., are they even able to see the tape? or is it above their line of sight?); their eyes have more rods and fewer cones than we do. So they don't see colors as well as they see motion. And it hit me...Fiona had no idea how to visually differentiate between the teeter and the DW. Which also resulted in her not knowing SHE is in control of the teeter. Instead the teeter was this unpredictable obstacle that plummeted beneath her feet while the DW remained stable yet they looked the same on approach.

I couldn't believe I hadn't realized it before. If the teeter was before the DW on a course, she'd end up flying off the teeter full speed ahead but then trot up the DW and drop where she expected it pivot. And if the DW was before the teeter she'd fly up the DW successfully and then she'd fly up the teeter landing on the pivot point and crash. But if we worked on just the teeter, she'd get it. And if we worked just the DW, she was fine on that. But she didn't know which was which when running a full course like she did when working one obstacle at a time a few times in a row. Visuals weren't enough for her when approaching these things head on because they look the same to a dog head on and there I was using the same stupid command for both! And our trainers - who have trained several MACH dogs each - had never encountered a dog who didn't figure it out eventually with repeated exposure and positive experiences in training.

Then I realized I was saying "WALK ON" for both and I could have died. Of course she had no idea what to expect - they looked the same on approach and I wasn't really telling her which obstacle she was on! I changed my word to teeter and we retrained it from scratch. It took 2 weeks to fix. That's all. 2 weeks. Now she's driving it, dropping on the pivot, and finishing straight off through the contact. *sigh*

And nearly everyone else I train with uses "walk on/it" for both the DW and the teeter and their dogs all just figure it out.

I also feel so fortunate every single day that I have her because another less confident, less determined dog would not have allowed me the mistakes I've made. I could have really screwed up so many other dogs with this stupid crap. But Fi is so resilient and so sure of herself. She has no fear. She thinks I'm crazy sometimes (and who can blame her?) but she's not afraid of what I'm sending her to do and she's not afraid to be wrong (mostly because she just doesn't ever believe she's wrong anyway LOL).

Don't get me wrong...we had a long time working through her victory laps and trying to leave the ring and running over to jump on people and insisting on racing back and forth through the tunnel 20 times and picking her own course...she's not been an angle, but I sure haven't done her any favors either. Really, if you want to talk about rookie mistakes holding a dog back...well, you'll have to pry the sash from my hands because I've earned it! LOL

Fiona is a walking testament to how one can make the DUMBEST mistakes with their first agility dog but you can overcome challenges and really, really, REALLY stupid mistakes if you're thoughtful and put in the work.
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Old 02-21-2013, 12:48 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Agility - what do you wish you'd known with your first agility dog?


What a great question. I had to think about this.

For me it would be play more. I know some think that some dogs will not play with you and I was one of them. Tamora is a serious/wants to be right dog. So we had to learn how to play, put it into training and using play for a reward. It has been so rewarding to see the joy in her face when learning a new skill and bouncing back to try even harder.

I had to work at it and I learned.

Tamora is also very very food motivated, so that helps. also. I love using food for things too. I just think having both (food & Play) is a great combo.

So for me its play more, than keep the contacts. Easy to lose and even harder to get back. Also keeping the stay on the start line.

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Old 02-21-2013, 02:52 PM   #22 (permalink)
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See this is interesting. My trainers old and new say always train 12 poles period. Don't even train for 6 train 12 and always work entries as you start. At each point in your training routine, do clockwork entries AND add 1-2 obstacles before to teach collection (that's the part of the memo I missed!).
Weird - we work 3, 6, 12 and sometimes 18 (spaced 6,6, & 6) Especially for entry work.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:02 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I would have started foundation stuff with V from the beginning. Taught him to release the tug/toy. The next one is starting foundation stuff from day one Vader has a really good foundation as we went to class for months before we were allowed on equipment.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:16 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Weird - we work 3, 6, 12 and sometimes 18 (spaced 6,6, & 6) Especially for entry work.
I can tell you what the instructor would say, not that there aren't more methods She never just works entries. She works the whole thing (assuming you are at 12 poles and not doing 2x2). And I lied she doesn't work less than 12 typically. I shouldn't say never and always! In class, we typically do 12. With the channel method that I was taught (and this may be why it is different), you work entries at every step of the way too.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:19 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Location: 45.452538,-123.074104
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Speed 1st

Accuracy 2nd

Otherwise you lose the speed and may never get it back. Agility is not obedience. The accuracy will come with practice, confidence and more practice, but the speed may take years to return - if ever.

Never tell your dog he did something wrong
- if he misses a jump just carry on. You will learn how to circle back without letting the dog know they did something wrong - the dog probably didn't make an error, it was most likely the handler for not supporting the dog enough or being clear enough or practicing a difficult thing enough. Never be negative in the agility ring. Make sure they potty outside so you never have to face poop or pee in the ring during practice or a trial.

Try to make your dog successful. If your dog fails something, go back to where he was last successful and call it quits for the day or very gradually increase the difficulty.
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the boys (rip): Cato, Emerald's Black Onyx, Emerald's Black Quartz
Owned by the girls: Enid, Jill (kelpie) and Lana.
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Join Date: Dec 2008
The Following 7 Users Say Thank You to vivienne00 For This Useful Post:
Adara (02-21-2013), AgileDobe (02-21-2013), brw1982 (02-23-2013), Jenny (02-22-2013), Jonesy'sMom (02-22-2013), MeadowCat (02-21-2013), Rosemary (02-21-2013)
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