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Old 01-16-2013, 10:29 PM
rudysgal rudysgal is offline
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Default Agility Stress?

Hello Chaz People. I've been reading up on Chaz the past few months, and since a lot of you are into dog sports, I was wondering if any of you have experienced anything like what I'm about to describe with your own dogs, and if it's something we can work through or if this is obviously too stressful.

Background: Rudy, 2 year old jrt x chihuahua, has completed three levels of agility class and enjoys practising weekly at our local agility "club" just him and me.

The problem is, I have put him in a new class at a new place and, while he was fine last week, these trainers are pretty hardcore, and I think the environment stresses him out. He's started putting on the brakes in the middle of the course and refusing to budge (he's off-leash), throwing out a lot of calming signals like intense sniffing and distraction, and this class he shook (and he's generally not your stereotypical shakey chihuahua).

My question is this - is experiencing agility stress to some extent normal? Or is this a sign we should throw in the towel? Is there something I can do to remedy the situation and make him more comfortable or is this particular environment just not meshing well with him? This is only our second class with this new club, and the last class he did GREAT (though we didn't do as much).

What would you do? I feel like he's telling me he wants to stop, but perhaps I'm being a wee bit over protective since the last class wasn't like this. I'm kind of afraid to put him through it again though if we experience another class like the one today.

PS by "hardcore" I don't mean cruel. They just really encourage you to continue moving (agility is a fluid sport, as they say). Rudy seems happier when I go slow and treat tons along the way.
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:37 PM
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Flyinsbt Flyinsbt is offline
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It does sound like he's stressing. Probably due to the new environment. It's not uncommon at all for a dog to feel stressed about working in a new place.

What I would do to deal with this is quick and fun. You don't want to go slow, because that isn't the behavior you want longterm. But he needs plenty of positive feedback. So I'd stop and reward frequently. Really frequently. Every obstacle, if that's what it takes. Certainly, not more than a few obstacles in a row before he gets rewarded.

Eventually, you should be able to go a little further between rewards, but really, most of the time you are working, you should be breaking it up so that the dog is frequently rewarded. Preferably, when they are moving quickly, so the dog knows that is what you want. Right now, since he's showing you that he finds the change a bit stressful, I'd want to back it down and make his criteria simpler, so the rewards should come easily.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:04 AM
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adojrts adojrts is offline
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Yep, stress. My first question would be what does he know and how well does he know it? Is he being over faced?
And agility is a fluid sport, but you don't keep moving if things are not going right. Short micro (1 or 2 obstacles if need be) sessions that are light, full energy and fun are better than longer, slower, stressed sessions or sequences. Of course that is also assuming that you and your dog are ready for sequencing.
What do you mean 'off leash'? Was a lot of your former training for agility including obstacles on leash? If so you need to start over at the beginning, because if it was on leash, I would highly doubt he or you has the skills to be doing it off leash or sequences now.

Another thing, make sure your not making 'sighs' or any kind of a negative sound or body language when something goes wrong or a mistake happens. With some dogs that is the death of them and will shut them down in a heartbeat. Doesn't matter if it is your mistake or the dogs, put a smile on your face and get over it. Mistakes happen and they happen to everyone and thing.
There are a lot of dogs that don't like to make a mistake and we have to teach them that failures are ok and to bounce back from them.
Beware of drilling, low motivated dogs wont take a lot of repeat sequences, piece work or exercises. Some dogs will think that if you keep doing it and it was right the first couple of times, that something is wrong........they are doing 'it' right and shut down. My golden rule is 2-3 times doing something, right or wrong, then we move onto something else. If it wasn't going right, I'll put my dog up or the students dog and we figure out how to fix it without the dog.
Some dogs also don't like unclear or inconsistant information, therefore you may need to look at what you are doing, how your doing it and hopefully you have an instructor that can see the little consistancies and help you fix them.

Last edited by adojrts; 01-17-2013 at 01:28 AM.
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Old 01-17-2013, 07:06 PM
Kilter Kilter is offline
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I would go back to doing what works, or seeing if the instructors can modify things to make him more successful. It may mean doing two things then rewarding when the rest of the class is doing half a course, but if it gets him happy, do it.

I know lots of handlers with 'cheerleader dogs' where they have to reward and reward over everything and be the cheerleader the whole way. With those dogs pushing for speed and getting aggressive as far as running hard just shuts the dogs down quickly, they don't like it. Some handlers will even modify the course if they see their dog isn't 'up' and run a loop and end it vs. doing a course their dog is going to hate, food for thought.

Not every dog can be run the exact same way either, so if the instructors tell you that, don't listen. If they haven't seen him before they may not realize he's shut down either, been there done that.
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Old 01-17-2013, 07:14 PM
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You've gotten some good advice

I can't suggest this DVD enough, I think it'd really help you: http://www.lolabuland.com/training-v...dconditioning/
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Old 01-25-2013, 06:52 AM
rudysgal rudysgal is offline
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Wow. Thank you so much. I'm sorry about the very rude late response. I read the suggestions and comments the day after and wanted some time to digest, and then life got in the way.

As far as how well does he know it... I would say pretty well. We've done 3 ' levels' plus extra classes. But I guess the reality is, he doesn't enjoy agility when other dogs are present. When we go to the training space for an hour on Fridays and we are all alone? Loves it. But the older he gets the more pressure he seems to feel to perform and the more he shuts down.

The cheerleader dogs comment was very interesting.

We have left the training that wasn't working and enrolled in a light, just for fun rally type class where everyone is so laid back and calm. He's still a little weirded out for some reason by the space (he doesn't like that the black floor matting doesn't line up perfectly and he's worried about stepping on the cracks) but he hasn't shut down yet and seems to be enjoying himself, which was my goal.

Thank you four again so much for helping me make my decision. Hopefully I didn't wear out my welcome with the late response.
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Old 01-25-2013, 07:51 AM
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Laurelin Laurelin is offline
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Honestly, I wouldn't give up on agility but I would back track on it. 3 levels of classes means totally different things depending on what trainer you're going to. I've done 3 or more levels of classes now at 3 different trainers who teach totally different ways. 2 were not very good (started on a leash and directly on equipment) then I moved over to this new place, which is very competition oriented. I wanted to put summer in a more advanced class here since she 'can do a whole course' and I'm very very glad i started from scratch. We went from being in the most advanced class at her old place to starting completely at baby-dog foundations classes here. Even though she could do all the obstacles, she didn't have the foundation or the drive worked in between them.

To me it sounds like he needs good foundation work and drive building. He does sound stressy but drive can work you through all that. To give you an idea, I've been at this almost a year at the new place. We still haven't done a very long course- about 6 obstacles at most. Lots of the work is driving forward to a target, when to collect, cik and cap, exercises on front and rear crosses, threadles, etc.

When I was at my old place, Summer was totally disinterested. She walked most the course. She was 6 and I figured she was too old or telling me she wanted to quit. Nowadays, she's the fastest, most eager dog in her class. And she's 9. Training methods can make a world of difference.
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Old 01-25-2013, 10:46 AM
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DJEtzel DJEtzel is offline
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It sounds like along with some drive, he could use some more confidence around other dogs. Does he typically show any reactivity or nervousness in big crowds of dogs? Being little, he can be intimidated by other dogs in the class very easily. You may want to let him watch from a safe place like a lap or crate for a class and reward a lot for calm, interested behavior, then try working with him SLOWLY (talk to your instructors about this, if they don't understand and aren't willing to work with you, you should probably find another instructor) and building his drive and confidence some more.
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Old 01-25-2013, 06:22 PM
rudysgal rudysgal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurelin View Post
Honestly, I wouldn't give up on agility but I would back track on it. 3 levels of classes means totally different things depending on what trainer you're going to. I've done 3 or more levels of classes now at 3 different trainers who teach totally different ways. 2 were not very good (started on a leash and directly on equipment) then I moved over to this new place, which is very competition oriented. I wanted to put summer in a more advanced class here since she 'can do a whole course' and I'm very very glad i started from scratch. We went from being in the most advanced class at her old place to starting completely at baby-dog foundations classes here. Even though she could do all the obstacles, she didn't have the foundation or the drive worked in between them.

To me it sounds like he needs good foundation work and drive building. He does sound stressy but drive can work you through all that. To give you an idea, I've been at this almost a year at the new place. We still haven't done a very long course- about 6 obstacles at most. Lots of the work is driving forward to a target, when to collect, cik and cap, exercises on front and rear crosses, threadles, etc.

When I was at my old place, Summer was totally disinterested. She walked most the course. She was 6 and I figured she was too old or telling me she wanted to quit. Nowadays, she's the fastest, most eager dog in her class. And she's 9. Training methods can make a world of difference.
Thank you for this perspective because the Rudes sounds just like how your summer used to be. And it's probably true that we have never experienced any proper foundation training. Question as well because I have seen a lot of you on this MSG board talk about drive... How does one build drive?
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Old 01-25-2013, 06:25 PM
rudysgal rudysgal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJEtzel View Post
It sounds like along with some drive, he could use some more confidence around other dogs. Does he typically show any reactivity or nervousness in big crowds of dogs? Being little, he can be intimidated by other dogs in the class very easily. You may want to let him watch from a safe place like a lap or crate for a class and reward a lot for calm, interested behavior, then try working with him SLOWLY (talk to your instructors about this, if they don't understand and aren't willing to work with you, you should probably find another instructor) and building his drive and confidence some more.
Thanks for the post. Yes you are very right... He is reactive. NOT aggressive, he goes out of his way to get away from other dogs, but if they get in his space he bares his teeth and shrieks. So I do think that with the place that wasn't working, it was too big with too many dogs and loud voices and stimuli.
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