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So we just got back from Levi's first ever agility class. To be honest, I'm left feeling very underwhelmed by the whole situation, and I'm really uncertain about the training practices.

Levi LOVES the equipment. We worked on tunnel (very short), jumps (very low height), and A-Frame (first flat on the ground, and then up on two milk crates). I got in trouble for taking the A-frame too fast, but Levi wasn't timid and just wanted to go, so my bad there. However, he is less interested in treats, instead he is VERY keen to simply run the obstacles, he seems to find the actual equipment reinforcing, which is awesome. Plus he was very hyped to tug on his tug-toy which was awesome. He really seems to enjoy it, which makes me very happy.

Now, to the bad stuff. Out of 7 dogs, Levi is one of three non-reactive dogs, which makes it a little stressful, but nothing terrible, it's mostly just barking. Except for one; another Aussie. This dog is veeeeeery reactive. Lunging, barking, flying to the end of the leash screaming and lunging if she even looks at another dog. I was feeling pretty bad because she seemed so stressed. Then the trainer was trying to put her in a sit and pet her. As she was doing this, she was lip-licking, cowering, and averting her gaze. Then she started petting her, and she started growling. I was internally screaming for this trainer to back off, but alas, she put her face super close, made a pouty face and said "hey you stop that". The Aussie lunged and snapped while snarling. Luckily, the owner seemed like she was paying attention and yanked the leash, so no contact was made. The owner then smashed this dog into the ground, held her pinned, and shoved her face into the ground while screaming "Enough" at her. I had to look away.
Now, normally I would just assume that the trainers are not aware of dog body language, and not assume they believe in that sort of training. But then the vice-president, trainer, and the other trainer complimented her on her amazing correction timing. Yikes.
The homework also advises working on heeling and making sure to "pop the collar" if they're pulling. All in all, pretty sure I won't be trying to join the club.
 

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Aww man, that's rough.. the way they're handling the reactive dogs sounds like a recipe for disaster :( I'd also be wary about their overall training practices. Agility is supposed to be fun, you don't want the wrong advice ruining it for you guys..

On the upside, I'm glad Levi is taking to the equipment so well!
 

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@Rileysaur - It was crazy. My husband who was watching from the sidelines had to turn and walk away because he was afraid he was going to say something.
It also unfortunately is a little "clique-y". We were told on the first night that in order to join the club you have to do the two classes, then volunteer at an event to help out, and then if you mesh well with the current members, you can join the club. The VP of the club was there, just kind of running her dog through the obstacles (A Dachshund!), but the only people she talked to were people who were already in the club and ignored everyone else.
 

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Oh, that really stinks that you had a bad time. I understand about having a dog that has more confidence and wanting to progress quicker (I do this Forbes and am constantly being told to take it down a notch), but a lot of times they are doing that so you can work on the smaller things you might be missing, like 2on2off at the end of the A-frame.

Reactive dogs in agility are pretty common. I see it alot, but then again we aren't there to play. BUT a dog that is THAT reactive should not be in the class. Also the cliquey behavior sounds horrible. I have a little bit of that problem with my club and a neighboring club, but I just try to distance myself. I have also seen people (one being one of my favorite trainers) flip a dog upside down and do things that make me cringe, but I take a lot of that with a grain of salt. Everyone corrects in their own way. I usually just try to avoid any of that kind of advice I may get.

Are there any other places in the area that teach agility?
 

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Wow.. yeah that doesn't sound like the best place to start out. You'd think the VP would take interest in the newbies and be more welcoming than that.

I guess you'll just have to move to Toronto and come to Riley's training facility ;)
 
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@jclark343 - Yeah, I think she was surprised when I was pausing with him with the 2 on 2 off (like my life has been agility videos since I got this 8 week old puppy...). I like the facility a lot (it's a horse barn) so the floors are sandy. I'm not too concerned with the reactivity for the most part, since I just give those dogs enough space and they seem to be fine. Except that Aussie. Levi and I were probably 15 feet away, and I was making sure Levi wasn't fixating on her, and she still was after him pretty relentlessly. The place I train does agility classes, but it's a little unorganized and it's done on a cement floor, which I'm a little iffy about.
@Rileysaur - That sounds like a plan! My hubby basically said, it's great to use the equipment, and learn about how to handle him, and if something doesn't feel right, just don't do it. Which I agree with.
 
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Cement floors without any padding? Would not be doing a lot of consistent jumping without some sort of impact flooring. It actually concerns me that they aren't having you work on some sort of board or something to train 2o2o. Is the teacher educated in agility? Like she competes? I'm always leery of teachers that start on equipment in the first class.
 

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@jclark343 - I get the vibe that no one competes, or at least the people training the beginner class don't seem to. I was also a little concerned that she just had us go straight into jumping, without much concern for HOW the dog is jumping, but maybe I'm overly nervous. :p
 

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Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but as the owner of a super-reactive dog like the Aussie described, I'd have been out the door the second a person in charge encouraged that sort of reaction.

Obviously I wouldn't bring Chisum to such a class, but it really says something about the quality of the trainers and how they may react to frustration. It's really, really easy to get angry when you've got a dog going off like that - it's also really, really damaging to react in that way. Maybe it's just because every dog I've ever had, while not fearful, has been sensitive in some way and on top of that Chisum just compounded my ideas of how a dog should be treated but....no. Even if I had my non-reactive Sophie in that class we'd be gone.

That said, beggars can't always be choosers. :/
 

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@PoppyKenna - It was sad. She was obviously so nervous the whole time. Eyes darting around, constantly looking behind her, just totally on the defensive.
I think Levi could feel the tension because I was tense watching them. It was not great to watch. I wanted to suggest some techniques to her, but I don't think it would have been well-received.
 

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Honestly, it can be a great teaching moment for you and Levi. I would work on letting him see that, and then diverting his attention back on you and rewarding. Reactive dogs are every where, but if you can teach him not to pay any mind to it you're going to be ahead in the future. That's what I am doing with Forbes in his class because he feels that he needs to end every fight.
 
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Second class was good! The SUPER reactive Aussie had a much easier time tonight, just a few snarky moments, instead it was the GSD mix and the Weimaraner that hated each other, the GSD actually took off with the woman being dragged behind her, which was a scary moment.
We raised up the A-frame (still not full height), extended the tunnel to almost full length, but straight, no turns/bend yet. We also added the pause table, and a sequence of two jumps, and straight into the tunnel.
Levi still loves it, he is pulling me to get to all the obstacles, which I guess is fine, but is a little troubling since he's on a flat collar and he's wheezing. He also does one jump then jumps on me/grabs his leash because he's so amped up. The trainer seems to think that will go away once we do things at speed, but does anyone have any advice on that?
 

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Whoa. She's moving rather quick. Have they taught you any handling skills or are you just pointing at the obstacle.

I would say, for you since I know you are a training buff and want to go far with your dogs, look into any type of handling training you may find online. Getting the animal to go over the obstacle is only 1 small part of running an agility course. We as the handlers have to be able to handle the dogs properly.
@agilityk9trainer, do you have any suggestions?
 
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@jclark343 - That is actually my main problem with the classes - we are basically just saying "Jump, Jump" "Frame, Easy, Bottom" and "Tunnel". She does make us do it on both sides, which is good, but other than that it's just forcing your dog on obstacles by dragging them. Not for us, since Levi is extremely eager to jump, climb, and go do any obstacle he's allowed, but there are a few dogs that simply do NOT want to go. She just says tighten up on the leash and force them on, which I'm not really on board with.

I've been watching Susan Garrett's H360 for a while, and would love to take it if it become available. She actually is releasing 4 videos this week (Voila), so I'm hoping that means it will be soon, despite how pricey it is, I've heard nothing but good things.
Also, lady at the place I teach at has a barn with rubberized non-slip floors and almost all equipment. She invited me to come and train with her sometimes, which would be awesome.
 
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She just says tighten up on the leash and force them on, which I'm not really on board with.
And THIS is how a handler creates obstacle fear in a dog. That is a HORRIBLE idea, and if there is ever an obstacle Levi does not like, don't listen to her. That's how you ruin a dog to an obstacle. I've seen dogs in class that are having to be completely retrained because of that.

Is she teaching any sort of contact work? 2o2o? Man seems crazy to me.

That co-trainer to you seems to be a great option.
 
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And THIS is how a handler creates obstacle fear in a dog. That is a HORRIBLE idea, and if there is ever an obstacle Levi does not like, don't listen to her. That's how you ruin a dog to an obstacle. I've seen dogs in class that are having to be completely retrained because of that.

Is she teaching any sort of contact work? 2o2o? Man seems crazy to me.

That co-trainer to you seems to be a great option.
That is what I said to my husband first day "Forcing dogs on an obstacle - terrible idea!" Thankfully he seems fine with everything thus far, I have some concerns about the teeter, he gets a little spooked when things move, so we are working on a wobble board right now. You better believe if she tries to force him on there I'll be feeding her a knuckle sandwich. I'm not confrontational, but agility is for fun - if my dog hates something, I'll work on it slowly outside of class.
Contacts - kind of, she teaches a full pause on the contact - all four paws on, I was trying to do 2o2o and she corrected me so...
 

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Contacts - kind of, she teaches a full pause on the contact - all four paws on, I was trying to do 2o2o and she corrected me so...
That's hilarious. I would tell her that you are wanting to train 2o2o, if she's not ok with that she can shove it. (I can be pretty confrontational).

As far as the teeter (the obstacle I am a little intimidated of with Forbes because Roxie had such a problem with it)

We started also with the wobble board, and also the flat board on the ground teaching him to drive forward and get his 2o2o. Now we are working on the actual teeter. The way my trainer does it is we put the tall pause table under the lowering side of the teeter, so that it teeters, just not a lot. It's getting him use to driving towards the end and feeling the motion, but not the full motion. Eventually we will put the small pause table under it, which will eventually lead to a full teeter. I am working REALLY slow with Forbes because he is so brave, I don't want him to think it's one thing and scare himself.
 

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I don't know all this agility jargon (yet ;) ) BUT I will say that any trainer that would not allow me to adjust their methods to something my dog and I are comfortable with, would no longer be my trainer. When I had Aspen in Intermediate Obedience, some of the exercises were way too easy for her. I didn't want her to get bored so I did the required command but added a small addition to it for some extra difficulty. After class, I went to the instructor to tell her why I did it and she was totally on board. A trainer that is willing to adjust their curriculum based on the needs of different dogs, is a great one. Just like people don't all learn the same, neither do dogs.

Anyway, I know you know all that haha I just felt like saying it. @Shandula - any chance you'll get some photos of Levi in his classes? :) Is there another agility facility near you that may be better?
 

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Ooh sorry forgot to update!

So last night was week number three. A number of sort of crazy things happened last night, so here's hoping I don't forget anything.

1. Levi has officially recognized when we turn onto the road to the barn. Cue the whining. I love that he's excited, but man he's annoying. :p
2. Trainer again, was petting the reactive Aussie in my class like crazy before we started. Dog lunged and grabbed her coat, she slammed it down and wrapped her hand around the dog's muzzle to hold it shut. Trainer and owner laughed and said "she wasn't expecting that". Yiiiiikes. I feel like after that, she was extremely reactive for the remainder of the class.
3. We had two new obstacles last night - Tire and the chute (or soft tunnel whichever you prefer). Levi loved the tire, was slightly tentative the first time in the chute, but after the first time, he loved it, same as the other obstacles.
4. He's obsessed with the A-frame still, it is his favourite without a doubt. We were doing the tunnel, and he came out and took a hard left towards the frame. The trainer started screaming "LOOSE DOG" while running around waving her arms. Levi looked at her like she was crazy, and I said "Levi, come" and he did, but it was bizarre.
5. While practicing the frame, I mentioned I'd really like to eventually do running contacts, and she had no idea what I was talking about. :p
6. While our class is running, the other side is used for the club to practice. One dog was super excited, and was FLYING off the end of the teeter. Apparently when your dog makes a mistake, you're supposed to yell "WRONG" at them. It was quite a sight.

Really cool news - H360 should be available any day now, and my hubby gave me the go ahead to actually pay for it, so we should have lots of fun stuff to do at home. In addition, one of the ladies I work with is also doing H360 and has a full barn with rubber floor that she says I can come practice in with her once or twice a week! :)
@Aspen726 - I'll get my husband on it! Unfortunately, these trainers seem very set in there ways, so I basically use these classes as proofing his working ability/focus with other dogs, and a nice introduction to obstacles.
 

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1. GAH I'm glad I am not the only one who has this problem. Last week Forbes started scratching my doors in my car. I could have screamed. Lol.

2. W.T.F. Seriously. That's ridiculous and probably doing more good then bad.

3. Man Levi has an awesome confidence! Very cool. Just make sure that every interaction with an obstacle is a positive one.

4. Be careful with this. Obstacle bias is a real thing, and hard to break on a course. I would start working less on the A-frame if he is already trying to run off and go to it. A-frame is also Roxie's favorite thing, and the last thing you want is an off course because you ran SLIGHTLY too close to the A-frame. When you work on new things, reward a lot, and when you work on the A-frame reward a little less.

5. Ugh. What a pain. Also, speak with people who do both 2o2o and running. I first thought I wanted to do running as well but honestly with the fast dogs that I have the 2o2o really helps me sometimes catch up with my dogs. Unless you are a FAST runner, or have a slow dog, runnings can be difficult, especially when you're first getting into agility. Just relaying what I was told when I had this conversation with my trainer when I first asked when I was starting Roxie.

6. Never heard of yelling 'Wrong' at a dog, don't think they will really understand that. But flying off the teeter is very dangerous. That's a little concerning if it happened multiple times...

That's awesome that you're doing the H360. I am WICKED jealous! It's double awesome that you have someone with mats to practice with as well. I agree that this does sound like a conditioning class with access to the equipment. Which is kind of a bummer because I know you had high hopes for this.
 
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