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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Felix has reached the "Novice" level in his agility work. We've been working for about 13 weeks, with today being our first practice at this level and doing a full course. This is my first time handling him, as up until this point my partner had done all the work. Our schedules don't line up in a way that both of us can go to practice at the same time.

ANYWAY, I'm so proud of him. I've learned a lot about agility and just how much clever handling goes into really make a good dog an incredible dog. Felix has only been introduced to weaves within the last couple of classes and the only time he is exposed to the equipment is at class, but I'm hoping to put together a little course now that we have a backyard.

I was only able to get videos of the second and third runs, not the first, but I hope you guys enjoy watching a young Golden have fun jumping around the course. This is a new trainer and she told me that "He's fast, not a Border Collie, but fast, and when he goes he's not fooling around" and that the biggest thing with him will be to get super familiar with the obstacles and then add distance so I can control him without needing to sprint. There is a Border Collie in this class and it is a nut case, but holy cow its fast. It requires a completely different handling style than the other dogs in the class.

Here's the video :) Hopefully, I'll be able to post a video at the end of the course showing improvements.

 

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Loved watching this and jealous of his confidence with the teeter. This was my boy's Achilles heel so you've done a great job with him! We have great fun too.
 

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Very cool! I am doing this with my dog, Logan. I need to take my tripod out and get some video. Does Felix have favorites? Logan loves the A-frame and dog walk. The teeter entertains him too. I think agility is so much fun!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Loved watching this and jealous of his confidence with the teeter. This was my boy's Achilles heel so you've done a great job with him! We have great fun too.
Thank you! He does love the teeter, but we're still working on contact points and making him stop before flying off the end of it lol. We're both having so much fun and he does really enjoy it.

Great job, looks like fun.
Thank you!

Very cool! I am doing this with my dog, Logan. I need to take my tripod out and get some video. Does Felix have favorites? Logan loves the A-frame and dog walk. The teeter entertains him too. I think agility is so much fun!
You should! When I was riding, I used to watch myself on video to see how I could change and improve and I want to do the same with agility :) I just asked one of the other members of the class to record us 🤣 Goldens must be the same because Felix also loves the A frame and dog walk lol. He also really likes the tunnel!
 

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Nice job! And I agree about the teeter... really solid performance for a beginner!

Not that you asked, but...Some hints from a former agility instructor (me!)... If you are going to invest in back yard equipment, I’d start with at least three bar jumps. You’d be amazed at what handling challenges you can set up for yourself with just three jumps. If you are working handling, keep the bar low (or take the bars out entirely and just work with the jump standards) so the dog can focus more on where he’s going and what you are telling him to do than collecting for the jump. There’s a lot you can teach even “on the flat.” I think he’s dropping bars because he’s focused on your hand. If you are running with a treat in your hand to “lure” him then I’d try wearing a bait bag or keeping treats in your pocket so your hand can be more of a signal and less of a lure. You might want to even try running with your hands at your sides ... you’d be amazed at how much dogs use our shoulders and feet to cue them where to go.

If you are working on clean jumping at height, set up a “jump chute” with several jumps in a straight line. Start by calling him down the chute, then running with him, and finally send him down the chute independently (use a toy or food at the end as a target... ideally with a partner near the target to prevent him from getting it if he bails and goes around a jump). When he’s good at doing the chute independently, run with him but stay back a bit and introduce some sort of “go on” command so he learns to run ahead and do the obstacle in front of him on that command. If you have a fast dog that skill will save you in competition. I hate to think of the number of runs I've blown because there was a straight line of obstacles at the end of a run when I was exhausted and falling behind my dog and he turned to see where I was and incurred a refusal. 🙁

The other good thing to invest in for your back yard is a set of weave poles. It’s a challenge to get those smooth and independent so the more you can practice the better (though he’s doing very well for a dog that’s only been working a few months).

Some good resources for you...

Happy to provide more feedback and suggestions if you want it, but since you didn’t ask... 😉

Welcome to the agility world. I think you’ll have a blast!
 

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That's a great start! I guess Goldens are notorious for having issues with the teeter. My guy almost has the weaves. We may end up moving up out of the beginner level classes next time.
 

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That's a great start! When it clicks and he understands what you are doing he will be FAST! Agility is so addicting! Have fun with it.

And who knew the prerequisite for agility is ballet!
 

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How fun! He looks like he enjoys it. Ditto for what pawsnpaca said about not running with food in your hand. He's focusing on your hand instead of the obstacles. One thing I do to "desensitize" the food treats is to give a verbal cue before rewarding - so that the dog is listening for the cue instead of watching your hands. A "good job" or "yes" or something like that, to signal that the reward is coming. It's the same principle as a clicker. Ditto also her advice about the "go ahead" command - always useful unless you're Usain Bolt!

Since you're thinking of setting up some obstacles at home, it might be worth reading up on the "2 x 2" method of teaching weaves. I used it for the first time with Duster, and was very impressed with the results we got. It's a great way of reinforcing the entry gate (making sure he goes in on the correct side of the first pole), and of developing drive through the obstacle.

Congrats on the great teeter! It's so nice to see a novice dog that's not afraid of the obstacle. You've done a great job.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Nice job! And I agree about the teeter... really solid performance for a beginner!

Not that you asked, but...Some hints from a former agility instructor (me!)... If you are going to invest in back yard equipment, I’d start with at least three bar jumps. You’d be amazed at what handling challenges you can set up for yourself with just three jumps. If you are working handling, keep the bar low (or take the bars out entirely and just work with the jump standards) so the dog can focus more on where he’s going and what you are telling him to do than collecting for the jump. There’s a lot you can teach even “on the flat.” I think he’s dropping bars because he’s focused on your hand. If you are running with a treat in your hand to “lure” him then I’d try wearing a bait bag or keeping treats in your pocket so your hand can be more of a signal and less of a lure. You might want to even try running with your hands at your sides ... you’d be amazed at how much dogs use our shoulders and feet to cue them where to go.

If you are working on clean jumping at height, set up a “jump chute” with several jumps in a straight line. Start by calling him down the chute, then running with him, and finally send him down the chute independently (use a toy or food at the end as a target... ideally with a partner near the target to prevent him from getting it if he bails and goes around a jump). When he’s good at doing the chute independently, run with him but stay back a bit and introduce some sort of “go on” command so he learns to run ahead and do the obstacle in front of him on that command. If you have a fast dog that skill will save you in competition. I hate to think of the number of runs I've blown because there was a straight line of obstacles at the end of a run when I was exhausted and falling behind my dog and he turned to see where I was and incurred a refusal. 🙁

The other good thing to invest in for your back yard is a set of weave poles. It’s a challenge to get those smooth and independent so the more you can practice the better (though he’s doing very well for a dog that’s only been working a few months).

Some good resources for you...

Happy to provide more feedback and suggestions if you want it, but since you didn’t ask... 😉

Welcome to the agility world. I think you’ll have a blast!

Thank you so much!! I'm always looking for advice, especially now since we're going to start working at home without the trainer. The jump chute is a GREAT idea!! So much of this is like horse training. I also suspected he wasn't paying attention because of the food but I definitely need to start using my words and reward commands. Especially with the contacts and weaves so that he really understands the idea. I'd hate to run a nice course and blow the contacts 🤣 Our instructor was telling us yesterday to pay attention to our shoulders because those are first body language cues we use, hands come after. He was blowing the last jump in the 3 set and going straight to the dogwalk so she told us about the "Beth Davis" shoulder, where instead of our left arm, I need to use my right arm and shoulder to "push" him towards the third jump and keep him from cutting that corner, and it worked!! I appreciate all the advice and can't wait to have our backyard stuff 😭😭
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That's a great start! I guess Goldens are notorious for having issues with the teeter. My guy almost has the weaves. We may end up moving up out of the beginner level classes next time.
Thank you so much!! I think the Novice class at this facility is a huge jump up but even just one class I could see improvements and I'm glad we moved up. I thought we were going to be so far behind the other dogs, but we weren't thankfully 🤣

That's a great start! When it clicks and he understands what you are doing he will be FAST! Agility is so addicting! Have fun with it.

And who knew the prerequisite for agility is ballet!
Thank you! Agility is hard but it is FUN! And I'm happy to see him actually doing it and neither of us getting frustrated lol. He used to fall off the dog walk because he wouldn't pay attention to his feet so his coordination is definitely getting better!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
How fun! He looks like he enjoys it. Ditto for what pawsnpaca said about not running with food in your hand. He's focusing on your hand instead of the obstacles. One thing I do to "desensitize" the food treats is to give a verbal cue before rewarding - so that the dog is listening for the cue instead of watching your hands. A "good job" or "yes" or something like that, to signal that the reward is coming. It's the same principle as a clicker. Ditto also her advice about the "go ahead" command - always useful unless you're Usain Bolt!

Since you're thinking of setting up some obstacles at home, it might be worth reading up on the "2 x 2" method of teaching weaves. I used it for the first time with Duster, and was very impressed with the results we got. It's a great way of reinforcing the entry gate (making sure he goes in on the correct side of the first pole), and of developing drive through the obstacle.

Congrats on the great teeter! It's so nice to see a novice dog that's not afraid of the obstacle. You've done a great job.
Oh thank you for this, I will definitely try it! I'm really looking forward to practicing the weaves at home and I'm nervous about teaching them because I don't want to accidentally train them wrong.
 

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I ended up getting three jumps and 2X2 weave poles with the removable guide wires. I've only have three 2X2s so far, so six poles. It's pretty cool. I got wing jumps and they are wonderful -- light weight, but well made -- from ClipandGoAgility. I bought the 2X2 weaves from Max200 and they are nice, but shipping was expensive. I use an auto treat dispenser at home. When I'm taking agility, I just put treats in my pocket. I use them for his target (using a plastic lid) for two on/two offs and give him a treat at the end of a run.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I ended up getting three jumps and 2X2 weave poles with the removable guide wires. I've only have three 2X2s so far, so six poles. It's pretty cool. I got wing jumps and they are wonderful -- light weight, but well made -- from ClipandGoAgility. I bought the 2X2 weaves from Max200 and they are nice, but shipping was expensive. I use an auto treat dispenser at home. When I'm taking agility, I just put treats in my pocket. I use them for his target (using a plastic lid) for two on/two offs and give him a treat at the end of a run.
Oh perfect thank you!! We use a plastic lid for target training too 🤣 I'll probably start with the 2x2 and transition into the real set later. I'm excited to start really working on them :) I think I can probably practice 180s and 270 at home with just three jumps.
 

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I ended up getting three jumps and 2X2 weave poles with the removable guide wires. I've only have three 2X2s so far, so six poles. It's pretty cool. I got wing jumps and they are wonderful -- light weight, but well made -- from ClipandGoAgility. I bought the 2X2 weaves from Max200 and they are nice, but shipping was expensive. I use an auto treat dispenser at home. When I'm taking agility, I just put treats in my pocket. I use them for his target (using a plastic lid) for two on/two offs and give him a treat at the end of a run.
I have 2x2s now. Before that I made my own with the cheap electric fence poles and pvc pipes. It looks exactly the same to the dog.
 

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I have 2x2s now. Before that I made my own with the cheap electric fence poles and pvc pipes. It looks exactly the same to the dog.

Great. I'm sure it does. I thought about my daddy when I saw the 2X2 bases because it's welded metal of some sort. He could have made those for me. I'm not real good at DIY of this sort.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Today was day 2 of class!

I was actually very happy today and think he improved in areas where he was weak and showed me other areas he needs to improve on. Our goals are weaves and teaching him to be clean and careful. The trainer told me to start using my voice more to help him realize he needs to actually pay attention and jump. Furthermore, the yard gets sod this weekend and the trainer offered us an old 2x2 set she has, but she said we need to move up to a full 12 soon.

Teaching him to jump clean reminds me of training young horses to help them find distances and realize they need to pick up their feet all the way. I'm going to be training Felix a bit like a horse LOL. We had a ton of fun and I realized I'm super out of shape.

Video for those interested :)

 

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Noticeable improvement from the last video! I think the bars he was dropping on this run were due to being a novice than that he was focused on your hand the way he was last time. FWIW (and not wanting to contradict anything your instructor is telling you to do).... I generally don't jump my dogs at competition height in the beginning, and even my experienced dog usually does most of her training runs at a lower height (16") so she can focus on the course. I save full height jumps for jump chutes and maybe ONE training run, just so I can verify that she's not losing obstacle performance when we go up to competition height. With your boy still being such a novice right now, I'd ask to jump him at 16" for classes and save full height jumps for home practice (jump chute or when you are specifically working on clean jumps at full height) and/or for when he's just about ready to compete.


A few other bits of advice:
  • Start line stays: He's doing REALLY well with these but do continue to reinforce them. A solid start line stay will allow you to lead way out and get into the ideal position to start the run. I can't tell you how many dogs I see in competition (even at high levels) that won't hold a start line and then their handler is "behind" them right off the bat (I've even seen small dog handlers "bowl" their dogs by basically holding them at the start line and dropping them as they take off for the run!). I've never seen any run or handling style that benefited from the handler not having to lead out from their dog. In this video, if he held the stay (and he was looking like he might)... you could have lead all the way out to be by the weave poles and called him over the jump and he might have been more successful in hitting his entrance to the weaves (since he would have been focused forward to you already)..
  • Contacts: He's looking pretty good here too. I've done both stopped contacts and running contacts and, unless you are very fast yourself and/or intend to compete at the highest levels where every second counts, I would definitely stick with stopped contacts (again - allows you to either catch up or get into position for the next obstacle). You can "proof" these by keeping your dog on leash, letting him hit the contact (two on/two off), and then tell him to wait and gently pull on the leash so he has to pull back to hold the contact. Reinforce him for resisting the pull and holding the contact. Introduce some sort of "release" command (I just use OK, but many people use "break!") so he knows when he has permission to leave the contact. Once he seems to "get it" that his job is to stay there till you release him, you can remove the leash and start running past to see if he'll hold the contact (and if he does, reinforce the heck out it!). Obviously, this is a training exercise - only do it on leash when you are doing just that obstacle (it shouldn't be done as part of the run).
  • Weaves: My instructor uses "gates" on the weaves and I've been amazed at how well they work to get the dog to understand how to navigate the weaves independently. She starts by using plastic fencing to create guides (short pieces connected to the poles with zip ties that allow them to be easily removed, and cut at about shoulder height so they are obvious but so that the dog can bail if they're uncomfortable. Once they are doing well with the fence guides, she moves to wire guides - first attached to the poles, then just on the ground, then just on one side or on the first and last poles, depending on where the dog is having issues. Here's a link to the guide wires. For the plastic fence option, just image if the fence extended from the wire to the ground (it's just a slightly more substantial barrier to discourage the dog from popping out). I've never tried the 2x2 method of training, so if you are being gifted with those and understand how to use them for training, by all means, give that a try instead. You might be able to do both... 2x2s for the initial training and add guides when you make the final transition to up-right/inline weaves.
  • Table: I've always taught my dog to down on the table. I think most venues have made the down optional as long as the dog keeps all four feet on the table until he's released, so it may be fine to not insist on the down. The advantage of the automatic down on the table is the dog is less likely to jump or slide off in the excitement of competition. The advantage of allowing a stand is a quicker departure from the table when you release him.
I'm enjoying seeing your growth in agility... please keep posing updates and new videos!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thank you Lisa!

For the stays, our beginner and intro classes pounded the stays into him. A lot of walking back and rewarding so he doesn't start to anticipate that every time we are at the start line he doesn't anticipate taking off. I just don't have confidence in myself when it comes to handling him right if I'm far away. Our trainer told us to start making a "tunnel" for him to help direct him.

For the contacts, that is a great idea!! I don't think we'll need running contacts, but the static contacts yes! I can probably get a membership to the facility and practice it there. I think he would wait, but I'll definitely need to reinforce me walking ahead of him.

I do not think we'll use the 2x2s, but the guide wires you and Diane mentioned will probably work better. If he pops out with the wires I'll add the fence posts, but I'm hoping the wires will be enough lol. I think I'll go ahead and get a set of 12 poles to stick in the ground and get the guide wires.

I didn't even know down was a requirement before lol. I think he would probably down on the table and I think it wouldn't hurt to make sure that he's able to down on command when I ask him to on the table. I think it'll be harder once he really starts getting the hang of things and begins to anticipate things more.

Thank you! I enjoy the videos and I definitely feel like all the running will help me get in shape lol. I was so winded after course 3.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Apologies for the short video! I wasn't going to ask anyone to record this week, but the husband of the Border Collie owner got a video for me unprompted, but didn't want to record past where we had stopped.

We ran five 14 obstacle courses today and Felix and I are beat. It was 2 back to back and then 3 in a row. We also did some handling practice indoors that was quite fun. When Felix gets tired he stops paying attention, so I definitely need to build his endurance. Something that impressed me today is that twice he found his way into the two by twos himself and I wasn't expecting it.

We're going to sign up for another 4 classes but I'm really happy with him. We have to practice our contacts because during our first course he didn't bother collecting himself and came flying off the pause table, the teeter, the a frame and the dog walk. Next courses were much better. I've also found that if I'm struggling with him not looking ahead, I need to reinforce the fact that I don't have a treat in my hand lol.


 
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