Agility Training Tips and Reminders

This issue’s training tip is brought to us by Janet Boggs, who recently made the finals of the 2016 AKC Agility Invitational with her All-American Dog, Speedy, aka MACH8 Feel The Need MXC2 MJS3 MFG TQX T2B8 CGC. Janet has competed in agility since 2002 and earned numerous MACHS and other honors.  She gives some great tips for success in agility and dog training in general.

I thought for some time on what I should write about when asked if I would consider contributing the Training Tip article.

The only thing I kept coming back to was the acknowledgement that the more I learn about dog training, the more I realize how much I don’t know! 

Every dog certainly is a journey of his own, and it is up to us as the trainer to figure them out, what makes them work and how to communicate and teach them what we want.  That being said, I have found some tricks and generalizations that I try to stand by.

Tip 1:  It must be a game!  If your dog is not having fun with you, nothing really works.  Remarkably, I also find that many people have the inability to look within and see that they are not fun in their dog’s eyes.  It is nothing to be ashamed about, it is simply information that needs to be accepted or fine-tuned.   This problem is usually very fixable once it is acknowledged.   I fully admit I have to remind myself of this concept, especially when things are not going like I want.   

Tip 2:  If you find yourself digging a hole, stop digging. Asking your dog to do something over and over without seeing any success borders on the definition of insanity.  Yet sometimes the stubborn streak in us makes us do exactly this!  If things are not going how you want, you need to break it down into smaller segments or make complete changes.  My personal rule is that if my dog has not successfully done what I’ve asked in three attempts, I absolutely stop and do something else.  When I return to attempt this skill again, I’ll make sure it has been modified so my dog can be successful.

Tip 3:  Make them think it is their idea!  Breaking things down and shaping new behaviors can be very helpful if you will wait for the dog to offer the behavior.  I’m always amazed how a little patience can show me that they will indeed offer the performance I’m going for, if I’ll just let them think about it.

Tip 4:  If you don’t train it, don’t expect miracles.  Most of the really successful handlers I know actually like training more than showing. Even if you don’t honestly feel this way, accept that if you don’t put the effort in, your results will reflect it.

Tip 5:  Keep an open mind.  You will receive both solicited and unsolicited advice from others throughout your dog sports career. But dog training is so different for each dog, I actually have gotten many good tips and have often thought “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

Tip 6:  You will pass and be passed.   Every team will make faults, but I truly believe that every dog can have their day! 

Keep practicing and good luck!