January 10, 2020

Thinking About Using FNG or FEO at Your Next AKC Agility Trial?

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On January 1, the American Kennel Club (AKC) implemented several new rule changes for 2020, including “For Exhibition Only” (FEO) and “Fix And Go” (FNG) options. For more information on these rule changes, click here and here.

If you have not already done so, you can also listen to our podcast with AKC Executive Field Representative Kitty Bradley, which details the rule changes, how they came to be, and how competitors can use them in the ring.

What’s the difference between FNG and FEO?

Fix And Go (FNG) is a one-time allowance for training in the ring that can be used on any run, at any time. For example, your dog flies off the teeter before it hits the ground. You can call your dog back and re-attempt the teeter. Before FNG existed, you did not have the option to re-attempt the teeter. Another example: if your dog misses a difficult weave pole entry, you can add the obstacle before the weaves in your re-attempt so you recreate the same angle of approach. Before FNG, you had 3 tries to complete the weaves and were not permitted to do the obstacle before the weaves.

For Exhibition Only (FEO) is a training run where you can bring a toy into the ring (as long as it does not have food, does not make noise, and never leaves your hand). You can do anything with your allotted course time:

  • Run the dogwalk 10 times
  • Work on start line stays and lead outs
  • Personally replace dropped bars
  • Praise and touch your dog through petting and nose touches.

There’s a catch though: FEO can be used only in Time 2 Beat and FAST classes, and only if a club permits it for that trial. On the other hand, FNG can be used on any run, at any time.

Fix and Go (FNG)
  • Available for any AKC run
  • Does not need to be announced, determined by actions
  • No toy, but you can touch your dog
  • Can only be used once per run, a second attempt is “training in the ring” and an excusal
For Exhibition Only (FEO)
  • Only available for Time to Beat and FAST
  • Available at the discretion of the club
  • Must be announced at latest as the dog goes to the line
  • Can use a toy but it must never leave the hand
  • Can train any equipment in any order during allotted time

BREAKING NEWS: Fix and Go at Westminster

Fix And Go (FNG) will be allowed in the preliminary rounds at Westminster this year, but not the Finals. In addition, if you use FNG in a preliminary round (jumpers or standard), you will receive an E (Elimination) and be ineligible to qualify for the Finals. Remember, you do not necessarily need two clean runs to make the Finals, so if you have one clean run and have faulted in the second run without going off course, you should probably NOT use your FNG.

How should you use FNG and FEO?

Which Program is Best?
  • Environmental Issues? → FEO
  • Ring Exposure? → FEO
  • Overarousal/Self-Control? → FNG, FEO
  • Ring Only Behaviors → FNG, FEO
  • Lack of Understanding? → TRAINING FIELD!!!

If your dog is sensitive to the environment, then FEO offers far more value than FNG because you can bring a strong reinforcer (the toy) into the ring with you. You can also use another strong reinforcer: touch (petting) and verbal praise. Keep in mind that since you can’t bring food in with you, you’d be wise to develop toy play/tugging and playing/reinforcing without toys/food as a skill.

If you are transitioning a new dog from practice runs to a trial environment and/or new equipment, then FEO will get you the ring exposure you need, as you can literally train in the ring. If you don’t have access to a tire or triple jump at home and rarely see them in class, you can devote an entire run to tire work or spread work. Many dogs have problems generalizing well learned behaviors to ALL variations of equipment, so FEO is invaluable in those situations.

If your dog has issues with impulse control or over-arousal, then both FEO and FNG will be helpful to you.

If your dog has become “ring-wise” and never makes a mistake at home but often makes an error at trials (for example, they never break the start line at home but always break at trials), then both FEO and FNG will help, although with FNG, the help is limited to just one instance of training in the ring, however, it can be applied to any course. FEO is more powerful, but limited to Time 2 Beat and FAST.

If your dog lacks the understanding for a specific behavior or obstacle, you must fix this in the practice field, and FEO/FNG is NOT the solution you’re looking for.

In fact, I think the most important thing to keep in mind as we embark on the FEO/FNG experiment in AKC (it’s here on a one-year trial basis) is that FEO/FNG is not a panacea. It’s not a magical “cure all” for your agility woes. The vast majority of performance problems can and should be fixed in the training field.

AKC National Agility Champion, Westminster Champion, and 3-time AWC Individual Medalist Jennifer Crank thinks the most important thing to keep in mind for FEO and FNG is to have a plan. In our webinar, she brought up an example: what if you are using FNG to address dropped bars by your dog? You can reset the first bar your dog drops, but now you’ve used your one-time allowance for training in the ring, so what do you do when your dog drops a second bar? Ignoring it will certainly muddle the minds of most dogs. Why is the handler resetting some bars but not others?

Sarah points out that per the judges guidelines: “FIX and GO On should be utilized for the benefit of the dog to reinforce a positive performance and not as a punitive correction.” While many handlers will view both FEO and FNG as welcome opportunities to “correct” their dogs, smart handlers will view FEO/FNG as a chance to positively reinforce behaviors they want to see from their dogs in the future. The ability to reward with an actual toy in the ring, or to praise and pet your dog without being excused for “training in the ring” is a fantastic gift from the AKC.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them to team@baddogagility.com and we will respond as soon as we can.

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