The sport of dog agility involves much more than handling and obstacle performance. We strongly believe that dogs should enjoy running in agility. For our dogs, the training field becomes an agility paradise where dogs are constantly rewarded for their efforts. Agility should also be a safe place for your dog, where punishment never happens. The practice field is where you build your dog’s confidence, sharpen your skills, and develop the communication between you and your dog. When your dog doesn’t understand what you want, they can feel confused and then their performance suffers. You respond by feeling frustrated, which your dog senses, and agility isn’t as much fun for either of you.
How then can we communicate with our dogs in training? The answer is simple: when the dog does something you want them to do again later, you reinforce that behavior with a reward. Ignore everything else. When you have a problem with drive, motivation, or focus, your first step is to closely examine how you use rewards and how you deal with mistakes in training. We have many excellent podcasts that explain exactly how to do this (listed below) but we recommend starting with this Facebook Live video: 3 Quick Tips for a Quicker Dog
The vast majority of trainers tend to overreact to mistakes in training. Most mistakes can safely be ignored--the mistake was either caused by the handler or the exercise should be made easier to ensure success (and gradually made more difficult). Here is our podcast that details how we deal with mistakes in training: How to Work Through Mistakes in Your Agility Training
In addition, we explain how you can make the agility field a mistake-free paradise for your dog, filled with rewards and enthusiasm in this podcast: Free Your Agility Dog
If your dog runs slower at trials than at home, you probably feel frustrated and you’re not sure what you can do about it. Listen to these three podcasts:
- Why Does My Dog Run Slower at the Trial?
- How to Speed Up Your Agility Dog
- Six Strategies for Dogs That Shut Down or Get Distracted
Sometimes your dog will do all of the obstacles at home or in class, but at trials they refuse—the behaviors break down. We explain why in this video: Skills Visualization
Finally, you might wonder from time to time, what is the secret to success in dog agility? We talk about that in this podcast: Secret to All of Dog Agility
For dogs who experience anxiety or behavioral problems that are not resolved with adjustments to your training, we recommend working with Sarah Stremming at the Cognitive Canine. Sarah has joined us on the podcast twice, and there's great information in both podcasts: