Jazzy and I started our Agility adventures at the end of September 2018 and other than a few weeks break over Christmas and New Year, we have been attending weekly lessons ever since.
At first I wasn’t sure if it was the right activity for her. Although she loves jumping and running everywhere, she was beside herself with excitement when waiting for her turns so I felt like I was completely failing the principle of correct management of environment 😉
I was willingly setting her up to display all highly undesirable behaviours and letting her wind herself up until she was completely losing control and just flapped on the lead towards other dogs’ toys and treats! Once it was our time to run, she was very “on it” but it took me ages to figure out the right “reinforcement” to use and keeping her vaguely calm in between our runs. If I took her training dummies as toys she was so obsessed with what I was doing with them she would crash into the jumps or run under them or around them just to get to the dummy.
The first few times we did the tunnel she would frantically jump on top of it or over it or gone in and then out at speed. I can’t really blame her for that as she is supposed to find the quickest way to the dummy when retrieving! Dummies had to stay for our gundog games only 😉
So yes, first several weeks were very much me changing my mind between thinking it was super for her to then blaming myself for doing the worst thing for my dog letting her become so excited.
After one particularly difficult session where she was just a mad, panting kite at the end of the lead whilst all the other dogs just calmly sat with owners, I went to good old uncle google and aunty You Tube to actually watch some Agility training sessions. I have never really looked into it from theory point of view before then because I just wanted to go into the whole activity with completely open mind. I also didn’t really know what to read or watch in the first place!
Anyway, via my googling I came across a story of a very emotional, unfocused Border Collie pup who couldn’t keep up with any training, challenged his trainer many times but ended up a multiple Champion. Jazz wasn’t that bad so I thought if he could do it surely she could too 😉 I decided to persevere and bought the book. Little did I know that Susan Garrett, the author of the book and the owner of Buzz, is one of the leading Agility trainers in the world 😉
The more I read the more intrigued I became about the sport and Susan’s methods of training for Agility (via shaping and positive reinforcement). I still don’t really know much about it but it’s a great fun to learn something new and Jazzy is truly loving the challenge.
What brings me most pleasure in our training sessions is feeling like we are working on something together and communicating well. Jazz is so tuned in into my every move that I do fail her a lot with clumsy moves, bad signals and bad timing but I do my best to never let her know she’s done something wrong. If I forget where we were supposed to be going I just improvise and send her over the nearest jump to finish and celebrate anyway so it’s always a good experience for her.
In my determination to keep up with Jazzy’s skills, I bought the Agility Right From the Start .
It’s a really enjoyable book that focuses on explaining every little detail which suits me just fine since I am a total newbie to the activity. I love how the training suggestions are divided into handling & obstacles. The handling i.e. directing the dog well, is the responsibility of the handler but the jumps are the dog’s game. The handler works a lot on their own skills and the dog is trained via shaping to understand the questions each obstacle asks of them.
All their training is done via clicker training and reward based training and the dogs learn to “read” each obstacle so when running the course the handler only has to focus on sending the dog well from one obstacle to another. I do really like that approach because I always feel like running the course is such a whirlwind of hundreds of things to remember! I’m half way through the book at the moment and hope I will be able to implement the suggestions into some fun training games in between our formal sessions.
Do you do Agility with your dog? Do you blog about your experiences or have some good resources to share? Let us know 🙂