Looking at the first obstacle

Back ten years or so ago, Susan Garett was teaching dogs to look at the first jump on the startline of an agility course. Eh, I thought, just a party trick. After teaching agility for another decade, I have had time to re-think. Some of my students struggle to get the first obstacle for a number of reasons and that their dog is staring at them is very common. In scent work, I especially don't want the dog looking to the handler on the start line. Scent work dogs need to be scanning the search area ahead of them, ready to lead their owner to the hide.

Here's the entirety of a 5 minute training session in all its imperfect glory, edited only between resetting the target. It starts with my 12 month old Pitty mix, Pearl, with zero experience at looking ahead to staring at a jump with duration. This easily transferred to the agility field and looking for the first obstacle. It makes lateral lead-outs a breeze. I think it also helps with stays as the dog is >doing< something as looking is an active behavior as opposed to not moving. 

Will it bite me down the road if she chooses the incorrect obstacle? I dunno but will report back...

Choice and body contact

All dogs are not Lassie clones. It's a wonderful thing when you have a care-free confident dog that has zero issues with you brushing teeth, clipping nails, and toweling off. However, every dog is different. Some dogs shut down and accept their fate. Others show teeth, growl, or bite to get the point across that they do not want to be handled like that. Owners are often very surprised when their dog expresses discomfort from basic touching.

Dogs with touch and restraint issues, often the more restraint is added, the more the dog fights back. Vet visits turn into nightmares. Owners can feel angry and helpless.  There are several helpful training strategies for the touch sensitive dog, including muzzle training and a program of desensitization and counter-conditioning. But the most help is found on the other end of the leash. It's a two-way conversation with the dog about comfort level. The owner has to learn to give their dog choice and control in body contact.

Here's a video I recorded when I got home from a hike with the dogs. (Don't look at my hat head!) Hi-Fi had rolled in something disgusting and I had to get the stink off him. Through offering him choice and respecting his comfort levels, we had a low-stress clean up.

Agility Class for Reactive Dogs is a Bad Idea, But I Offer One Anyways

Agility class for reactive dogs is a bad idea, but I offer one anyway.  If your dog has mild to moderate issues with dogs or people and you have been working on it, this is the class you have been waiting for! First, scent work is more appropriate for reactive dogs, but I get it if you want to also include agility training. All dogs will be crated, either in the car if they are noisy or inside if appropriate.