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Well, well, well.

My normally very quiet, non-barking dog has recently discovered his voice. It only ever happens when we are training in agility. I'm assuming it probably has a lot to do with over-arousal and excitement in general.

I have tried simply stopping the cues (like wrapping cones, or doing jump grids) when he gets into a barky state, but I notice his drive disappears for the next rep or two if I "punish" him for barking by essentially stopping the fun.

I really don't like barking. In addition to it being freaking annoying, when he's barking, I don't think he is listening to the verbals I'm giving him.

I guess my question is, is it worth sacrificing drive to keep him quiet? Is it something that he might stop doing once he gains confidence on course, or will he just always be a barker in agility? I will stress, in his normal every day life, he is basically mute, he barely even whimpers.
 

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I wonder is he doing it because he doesn't understand what you are asking of him? I ave one lady in my class that's aussie barks whenever her cues aren't strong.

Also, I've seen many dogs that run barking the entire time. Just a way to release the excitement. I don't think it is something that is worth sacrificing drive for.
@agilityk9trainer, any ideas?
 
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I just did a quick session to show you him in all his barking glory:

 
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First off, I know it's probably annoying as all h*ll to you, but it's adorable to a bystander! What kind of noise is that! Lol.

I really do believe it's excitement. He is listening to you. He's driving and doing what you are asking. I think if he was barking (growling? browling?) and now staying focused on the job at hand, then I would be more concerned.
 

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I know! I don't even know what to call it. It's almost...a howl?

He loses his mind if we try to do sequences, especially during jump grids. Once we harness his crazy, he could do alright. To think, I once thought I might have to jazz him up before runs...
 
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There's a dog in my agility class that barks all the time and just seems really overaroused and frustrated- he'll even jump on and bite his handler. So I was worried you were talking about something like that but then I watched the video and agree with jclark343- that's really cute!
 

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@revolutionrocknroll - He's a funny dog that's for sure. :p When we do sequences, he just runs around taking whatever obstacles he can. He's a HUGE tunnel sucker. If there is a tunnel, he's running into it.

I'm thinking about buying a tunnel to add to my agility collection, but 350 is sooo expensive.
 

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I just watched the video again @Shandula and literally loled when you grabbed his collar and said 'ready' and he answered back with a bark.
 

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I just watched the video again @Shandula and literally loled when you grabbed his collar and said 'ready' and he answered back with a bark.
Haha, there is something wrong with him. Or me. Probably both.
 
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Yep, it's funny. Does it bug you? Is it carrying over into life where it gets annoying? No? Then enjoy.
But.... just a possibility, he may just 'think' it's part of the exercise. Your doing it too, as in, singing to him. It's VERY cute. He might be imitating your encouraging vocals. Again, VERY cute. It might just fade away as you go along and then you'll miss it. It really does not sound like arousal or frustration barking. Did I mention it's VERY cute?
It's clear he's 'working for you' while he does it...and VERY cute. Now I need to watch that again.
 

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@Artdog - Haha, thanks. The more I watch it, I have to admit, the funnier it is. He's such a goofball.

Heidi is so different. Silent and serious. :p
 

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Hahaha!! Very cute!!

My dogs bark a lot on course. Of course, they're shelties, so they were actually bred to bark. :D I don't stop barking unless it interrupts my ability to give commands. If the dog can't hear me, then I'm pretty much toast as I do mostly distance. Two of my shelties only bark when I have given a late or wrong cue, and they are frustrated. This is good with me. It is communication letting me know I'm goofing up. As long as they are able to keep doing their job, I'm good. My now retired sheltie used to bark throughout the course. Not constantly, but often. I'll post a link of him doing that.

In your case, I think Artdog is right. Your singing may be causing the happy growling noise thingy. Don't ever add something into training you aren't going to be taking on the course. Unless you want to sing every time you ask for a left or right wrap, you need to stop that. :D Also, I bet when you ask him to be quiet, you quit singing too. You want to not sing, but only give happy voice cues. Or, maybe you do want the cue for a left or right wrap to be singing. :)

If he continues the happy growly thing, let him. Don't stop him unless he can't hear cues, or he gets so drivey that he starts the herding, nipping stuff or won't work. That's a big no-no. Otherwise, let him talk. It's called "leaky drive," and it is pretty much as that sounds. It's drive leaking out through the voice. It's a good thing really!!

 

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One more piece of history. Years ago people thought it was REALLY BAD if a dog barked on course. Trainers would yell at dogs and destroy drive to stop the barking. This thought process came from the obedience ring where dogs were to perform without barking. As agility causes so much excitement, drivey dogs naturally started barking as they worked. Over time, we discovered stopping dogs from barking was causing dogs to lose drive. We also discovered that lots of dogs can bark (and even scream) and still do well. Here is an example of a barker/screamer. This is a current member of the USA World Team with one of her other dogs.

 

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I've heard some agility people say that they'll do nothing to their dogs' barking on the course because they fear it would eat their drive and therefore speed in a sport where every millisecond counts (that is what agility is here, avoid mistakes and run as fast as you can).

I took classes at a club which had three fenced courses in a hall. Two of those were reserved for us beginners and one was occupied by some more experienced agility people. One of their dogs barked. It annoyed me because I could not hear our instructor. My dog barks only when she gets excited and tries to push me into playing with her or something so I am not used to barking and it distracts me.

Barking is also a problem because it disturbs the neighbours and then no one wants a dog training facility near their home.

I don't know if a dog can control that barking. I have seen videos where a dog is almost screaming while running through and over the obstacles at breathtaking speed. Is it consuming part of its energy or is it as natural as breathing.

I haven't officially done agility with any dog beyond that one beginner's class with Alva the collie but I remember making our BSD run a sequence of three jumps. She barked and started snapping at me. She just got too excited and did not like my sloppy driving. I responded by making her walk over the low obstacles I had set and guiding her super slowly. That did not spark her prey drive and kept her energy levels low. Then I let her do the sequence at full speed and she stopped snapping for a while. She seemed to notice that rowdy behavior made agility suddenly quite boring - and slowing it down a bit probably taught me something I did not notice. But I have no idea how it would have affected her agility in the long run and if anyone had raced with her - her speed.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
@agilityk9trainer - First of all, your distance work is incredible! There is a Sheltie puppy in one of my beginner classes. He's SO cute, but oh man, does he let you know he's there. :p

The "singing" is a cue for the Handling system I'm in "Nana" meaning wrap tightly and turn back towards, which will eventually be transferred to jumps.
Thank you so much everyone for your advice, I think I would rather having a dog excited to go go go who is barking, then a silent dog who is plodding along.
@FinnAlva - Yeah, like I said in his day to day life, he's practically a mute! He doesn't bark when I'm working Heidi (maybe the odd whine, when he really wants his turn), just when it's his turn. :p
 
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I haven't heard of singing as a cue, but why not? It would certainly stand out on course. Thank you about my boy's distance. I am actually working on posting a series of articles I wrote for "Clean Run" in 2009 onto my blog. Because of that, distance handling is on my mind right now. :)

Keep singing and barking!
 

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Most agility competitors and trainers just let it go because it's just the dog expressing himself. Addressing it is very difficult, can lead to frustration, and can compromise the dog's performance if you're wanting to compete at higher levels.
 

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As for the tunnel, be careful what you buy. If you are looking to do competition agility, don't by the "pet" tunnels. These are play tunnels for kids. With competition tunnels, the tunnels are made of tough, hard vinyl that won't give as the dog goes through it. The dogs actually "bank" up the tunnel sides as they blow through the tunnels. There are lots of cool photos of dogs "banking" inside of tunnels. Dogs learn to trust the tunnel will hold them as they "bank" through the tunnel. The kiddo "play" tunnels don't allow for banking. A true agility dog would rip those tunnels to shreds. They are for "playing" at agility in the backyard only.

Big dogs don't "bank" in the tunnels, but they do run into the tunnels hard, expecting the tunnel to hold as they switch their leads and power through the tunnel. The "play" tunnels don't allow for this.

If you want to get a tunnel and you want to do competition, get a real tunnel. At this time, I am hearing lots of people complaining about NTI tunnels ripping after only a few uses. I recommend not going the NTI route. There are other tunnel makers out there though.

You may be able to find a used tunnel on Ebay or through your trainer or other competitors. Just FYI.
 
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