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So, today I spent most of the day watching a(n??) USDAA agility trial! It was really fun. However, I noticed something kind of odd, and I thought I would ask you knowledgeable folks.

There were quite a few handlers who specifically "riled up" their dogs before their runs. Games of tug were almost always the chosen "energizer." This really surprised me, especially when I saw these super-energized dogs perform. Many of them seemed to have so much energy that they had a hard time focusing on their handlers. Now, for some, it seemed to be totally fine, but there also seemed to be some extremely over-energized dogs.

So, is getting a dog ramped up before a run fairly normal? I was just really surprised to see how excited some of the pups got before even starting their runs, and then it seemed like they had a hard time holding it together while running.

BUT. I also still have no experience whatsoever, so I'm sure a lot of it comes down to being able to sit and watch and not ever having done the work myself.

So, is psyching a dog up fairly common at agility trials? If so, what sort of things do you guys do to get your pups focused and/or energized? And apologies if any of this is dumb... I'm just really intrigued after watching my first trial! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Oh! And of course this was obviously separate from the folks who used tug as a reward after their runs. Saw that, too, and obviously that makes sense!
 

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I do Agility and a lot depends on the dog. If the dog is normally pretty calm it may need to get amped up a bit before they run, others not as much. What you are trying to do is say "lets go have fun".
 

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We don't do agility yet (we start in February!), but I can already tell, Levi is going to need to get amped up. He's way too mellow. Heidi on the other hand, will definitely not need to be amped up. :p
 
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Roxie needs to be amped up a lot before a run. A lot of time amping her up with toys and treats get her to understand that by paying attention to ME, and playing with ME will get her reward in either play or treats. That, for me, helps her focus more on me and less on what is going on around us at trials. At this point in trialing (we have only done 2 trials) I have to do whatever I can to get her to stay focused on me and not on what is going on around her.
 
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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, guys!

I went again on Sunday, and there seemed to be fewer issues with over-excited dogs, but still plenty getting amped up. I think what I actually saw was a lot of dogs annoyed by their handlers while doing more complicated runs and specifically "Snooker," which after I read the rules of, I can understand why! Handlers definitely need to be on top of things for that.

It was so much fun to watch, too. I saw some really great runs, and it seemed like pretty much everyone was having a blast.

Thanks again!
 

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@Sha - We knew you'd have a good time! I always have a good time watching, except for when I see those people that are waaaaaay too competitive. I like to win too, but not at the expense of screaming at my dog.
 

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@Sha - We knew you'd have a good time! I always have a good time watching, except for when I see those people that are waaaaaay too competitive. I like to win too, but not at the expense of screaming at my dog.
Yep, those were the only runs I didn't clap for. There were some where the dog hit just about every bar and/or had to do the weave a ton of times, but I still clapped for them, because they were still having fun. But the angry handlers... nope, no clapping from me for them. Thankfully there were only a couple.

And yes, you guys were totally right! Plus, one of the owners of the facility introduced herself to me, and then introduced me to all the other owners, explained the various games to me, and made sure I met some other folks. It was great. I told them I'd be back (which they seemed particularly excited about--I think there aren't a lot of younger [is nearly 30 really younger?!!?] folks, so they're glad to have 'fresh blood'), and next time I'll possibly look into volunteering with bar setting and such, though since the next trial at that location is AKC instead of USDAA, I may just watch again to see how things are different.
 

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As others mentioned, some dogs do need to be amped up. Tugging is also a good way to keep the dog focused on the handler and their game, instead of staring around at other dogs, getting nervous about the judge, etc. It provides a structure around the run that you can replicate at home in practice.

I do think some people do confuse frantic energy with drive. So they ramp their dogs up into a frantic state, assuming the dog will run better and faster "in drive", when it may actually send the dog into outer space where he can't focus as well. For these dogs it becomes a balance of control and speed.
 
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I have a high energy Australian Shepherd. While he will definitely not need to be ramped up, you may see me playing with him before our run to try to get some of that energy level down so he can focus on me and the run.
Hershey is only 6 mos. so we have a few months to go before we will even be ready for the SSA trials, but I see him having excess energy before our run and the need to play with him before hand to get some of that energy down before we compete.
 

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I always used tug as part of training obedience, agility, anything. In the dogs mind, the chase, the catch and shake was the ultimate goal. Treats mark the behaviour and show the dog what to do, but the tug game is the purpose. So yep, I was tugging before and after a run. That was me and Dynamo, now on to a new dog, different drives, I will see.
But for dogs that love to tug, it is the reward, and you want to make all that boring stuff rewarding too.
 

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I remember when I started agility with Alva. We had practiced single obstacles using treats as rewards. At the end of the course our instructor had set up a 4 or so obstacle long "course" of jumps and a tunnel. I produced a tennis ball from my pocket, showed it for Alva and put it back. Alva ran like wind through the obstacles and I maneuvered her almost blind because I had forgotten to bind my hair.

We had to quit agility thereafter though. I do take her to mock trials sometimes so she can run tunnel courses. I think the opportunity to run with her human and do tunnels too is a reward in itself...

I do rally obedience and obedience and since Alva is no border collie or malinois, her mental endurance is not as long as theirs. If I amp her up too much before the ring she won't show her talent there because I have tried her out. Too little warm-up and she is as lazy. I think I have found the equilibrium for rally trials by making simple contact exercises and some heeling and spins right before our run but our obedience trials needs still working on.

Regarding agility, I would not have been worried of amping her up too much because, well, she does not have excessive resources of drive. As long as she knows how to perform the obstacles safely, I would have wanted her to run crazy fast over and through them. If it failed I might have ended up eith a dog barking madly at me. Some dogs lose their ability to focus when they get too excited, I guess.
 
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