There are so many different parts to agility, it can be a challenge to perfect your dog on all of them for perfect runs until the dog gains a better understanding of the sport. Here are some tips to help you improve your run with your dog.
What if the dog comes off the side of the dog walk as the handler attempts to peel away?
For small dogs, place a baby gate flat on the ground next to the plank of the dog walk so that if the dog jumps off of the side, he will land on the gate. Dogs do not like to land on uneven surfaces. Therefore, most dogs, upon seeing the gate lying on the ground, opt to run to the end of the board before dismounting.
For large dogs and dogs that are not convinced by the gate on the ground, plant a motivator ahead of the plank. After a few sessions in which the dog goes to the motivator as you peel off, try throwing the motivator ahead of the dog instead of planting it. This way, the dogs goes to the bottom of the board, regardless of whether you peel off, because even if he does not see a motivator, there may soon be one flying through the air ahead of him!
What if the dog has trouble getting his hind legs onto the dog walk board?
This is a fairly common problem with many large dogs. It represents a lack of rear-end awareness. To help make the dog more aware of his rear end, place a traffic cone or similar support on either side of the beginning of the dog walk plank to offer a guide and support. If the dog is still having trouble, place a baby gate on either side of the plank to make a channel for the dog to initially walk through.
Take your dog so a set of bleachers at a nearby park or school, and have him practice walking across the low-level bleacher seats. This will help him become more aware of his rear legs and of his balance on a narrow plank.
What if your dog starts stopping at the pivot point on the seesaw?
If you are training a small dog, this is normal. As soon as the small dog feels the board move, he wants to stop. This stalling, however, does not afford you the best performance. To insist that the dog comes to the end of the seesaw, go back to working on a call-to and hold the board up until the dog gets to the end of the board and lies down. Then lower the board.
If you are training a large dog, this problem can still develop. Place a bungee cord around the end of the seesaw and slide a piece of food or toy underneath it. This should motivate the dog to come all the way to the end of the board. Be sure to work on sends to the motivator. If the dogs is still hesitant, lower the height of the seesaw.
What if the dog suddenly becomes fearful of the seesaw?
This can happen following an unexpected fly-off or when a dog gets on a new piece of equipment and is not expecting the board to tip so early. Some seesaws make very loud, banging noises when they tip, while others land more softly. If a dog is not used to hearing a loud seesaw, he may develop a new fear of the equipment. Back up to the earlier steps of teaching the obstacle and rebuild the dog’s confidence. Usually a few sessions back with the board landing on a chair helps.
What if my dog refuses to enter the tunnel when I try to do a rear cross?
This problem occurs as the dog senses your movement and anticipates the direction change. To fix this, work on sends through the tunnel. Plant a motivator at the end of the tunnel and send your dog through. As the dog commits to the tunnel, cross behind him and reward him at the other end. Initially, you may have to delay your cross until the dog is actually inside the tunnel, but work until you can send him to the tunnel and can cross behind him before he has passed through opening.
More agility tips and in-depth training advice is available in Diane Bauman’s book Agility Start to Finish