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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Does anyone have an agility dog who has been well-trained and has all the skills but sometimes totally loses his/her mind in competition? I'm not talking zoomies. I am talking about running faster than they can control, coming right off the top of an A frame, and busting weave poles. And maybe even biting their handler a couple of times for good measure.

Any ideas on how to get things back between the lines? FWIW--this is a total stress response. This particular dog is as honest as the day is long.
 

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Funny a couple of friends and I were just discussing the same subject. We train in a small facility and our dogs never really get the chance to run full tilt. All of a sudden open space and woo hoo its off to the races! I found this article and thought it very interesting....http://bestpetsdogtraining.com/agility-dog-building-focus-drive-part-1/. Be sure to read part 2 also. I also read an article about proofing the 2on2off many of us slow down when teaching our dogs this skill. So if we happen to run past the obstacle or they get there before us they release too quickly. Putting them in 2 on 2 off and walking and than running past in different directions and rewarding for the stay would proof them.
 

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Is she stressing over competition? The reward? The course?

I don't.compete in agility, but mine have to do agility with focus. If they ever get to a situation they stress over (like the ladder) I slow way down, go back to food reward, rather than the tug. I will also give the dog a vacation if work seems to ne to hard. Go back to simple activities.

Is this new? I always consider the health, or if the dog is any pain. Maybe its time to change the routine a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for the responses!

This seems to be a competition issue only. Last weekend, my dog imploded at trial. In his defense, there was a disgruntled neighbor shooting off guns, blasting an airhorn, putting loud music on an amplifying system, dragging trees to the edge of the property line and chain-sawing them, and putting a skid loader into reverse so that the beep-beep-beeping wouldn't stop. My dog was blowing all of this off when he wasn't on the course, but he just couldn't get it together once we got out there.

This week, I took him to two new facilities where he has never been with dogs he has never met. I paid to just drop in and run with the class. In both cases, the strange people and dogs were actually sitting inside of the course. My dog ran clean in both places. He never even struggled. We just moved up into excellent, so I think it's possible that MY nerves are really the problem. When I was in a training environment, he was fine. When I was stepping up to complete, he was too fast, too intense, and trying too hard. I was all "gooned" out of my mind too.

He ALWAYS is very, very fast. He is a bullet in practice and on course. He is much faster than my coach's MACH 7 dog. In fact, from time to time, she runs him in practice and his speed is hard for her to manage too. I am a short novice handler with serious joint issues. It is very difficult for me to handle him. When I freak, it makes it all worse.

This dog competes in obedience and rally. The ring stress does not affect him in the least out there. He has his rally excellent title and his grad novice title. He has won almost all of his classes to this point. His obedience scores from his CD and Grad Novice journey have all ranged from 193 to 197 1/2. He almost always scored 99 or 100 in the rally ring at all levels and he was always the winner on time ties. He is going for his first CDX legs in two weeks. He is calm and easy in the obedience rings. This is a good dog who is giving me his best.

He is a powder-keg sort of dog. To try to simulate his arousal in competition, I have been handling him while holding his favorite toys. I have has people playing with his ball beside him while we did weaves and tight jump patterns. He is able to work through those distractions. I trial this weekend and I am very concerned that we are going to struggle again...

Perhaps this is more about me than it is about the dog...
 

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Sidebar, but what the hell is an "honest" dog? I hear it all the freaking time and have absolutely no clue what it means.
 

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I think your right :). My dogs definitely know.the difference in training and a real search no matter how realistic they make it. The difference... I know there is a missing person. The dogs totally feed off of this.
 

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Wow there was a lot of distractions going on at that trial. Do you normally train indoors? Is your facility a full size ring or it is small? Was this your first outdoor trial? Another good book is Agility Right From the Start. Have a local trainer who has one of the top poms in the country, this is his bible.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I have not read "Conquering Ring Nerves" or "Agility Right from the Start" but I will order both today. I have "Control Unleashed" and just need a little more discipline to get further along...

I train mostly out-doors. We haven't competed outside for quite a while. We do train in BIG spaces. The rings we were in were small and very,very tight. Cluttered even. As far as the excessive distractions, the neighbor to the site was intentionally trying to sabbatoge the show. He's mad that the conditional use permit was granted. Most of the dogs didn't even blink. My dog's implosion may have been unrelated too.

And as to the aside: The phrase "honest dog" means a dog that tries hard and is eager and willing. They try their best. With honest dogs, when things go wrong, you pretty much know that you or your training are entirely accountable. I own one honest dog, one dog who is always looking for a reason to quit, and a sighthound. When things go wrong with my "honest" dog, despair sets in.
 

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Perhaps this is more about me than it is about the dog...
When I read this, this was my thought. Usually when I see dogs who are spiraling out of control, it is because the handler is stressed or is giving confusing feedback. I'd second reading Control Unleashed.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I read "Control Unleashed." While I think that the book is great, I am not sure how it applies to my dog. He is incredibly calm around other dogs. He is very comfortable at show grounds. He easily does recalls and other exercises next to running dogs. He does long down-stays in groups of dogs as I walk agility courses. We tug until his eyes cross and he offers a quick and happy "down" to restart the games...

Even when he went all mental at the last trial, when I called for him to drop/down, he did it instantly and heeled off the course beautifully. The arousal issues are ALL competition dependent. In class settings, he's really mellow. Last night at a drop in class, his second time there, we were chilling ringside when a german shepherd abandoned the course and jumped on us. The dog is young and was trying to play. Still, she tackled us. I was sitting on the ground was wasn't able to stop it from happening. My dog didn't seem to care at all. He doesn't worry about other dogs. We got tackled and then ran the course about 2 minutes later. He ran clean.

Great book, but I wasn't sure what exercises seemed to apply the most. We did almost all of them as his foundation training, I just didn't know that they were CU based.

(And now that I know the level of training of the dogs in class, I won't be sitting on the ground anymore. Big mistake on my part. My dog wouldn't leave a course for love or money, and since it was an excellent level course, I assumed the other dogs wouldn't either.)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
UPDATE!

So, we competed again today in a very hectic and crowded soccer facility. My dog was FABULOUS! Weird. I kinda wondered if we were driving into a train wreck, but instead, my dog just ran great. We NQed twice, but one was a missed weave entrance that was immediately corrected and the other was a knocked bar when I took off too quickly and he turned in the air to see where I was going.

We started together, we ended together, and we engaged every obstacle! It was great! Never been so happy about a double NQ!
 
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