DA/Reactivity and Agility

Running, catching, leaping; this is the forum to discuss dog sports and agility training with other active pups!

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Bruno CGC

Honorary Kelpie
Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 4:36pm PST 
So, agility pups... have a question. I would REALLY like to get Bruno into agility. He's fast, confident, and really focused on me (most of the time.) BUT... he is slightly reactive to other dogs. He would never go out of his way to attack a dog, and he has no problem with dogs that mind their own business. But face/face greetings with strange dogs are a no-go, most of the time. He's fine with dogs he knows really well.

We have gone through 2 group obedience classes with no problems. When he's in "working mode" he acts like the other dogs don't even exist. He is very responsive to me and has a great off-leash recall.

BUT... I've been told that dogs who are EVER aggressive with other dogs or people should not be in agility, because at higher levels they have to be off-leash and it's too much of a liability.

I already mailed in my payment and registration for a foundation class thinking, "Well, I just won't tell them what he's done in the past, and remove myself if it looks like his behavior is going to be a problem" but then I had an attack of conscience and emailed the training director of the agility club and described Bruno's behavior, telling her that if it's too much of a liability she should rip up my check and take my name off the roster. Still waiting for a reply right now.

What are your thoughts? Do you teach agility, and would you let a dog like Bruno be in your class? Have you taken agility classes and seen dogs with any aggression/reactivity? What chance is there of Bruno and another dog accidentally coming up face t0 face? The foundation class is all on-lead, as far as I know.
Sarah, CWSR,- CWG1, CGC

Million Dollar- Mutt
Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 4:44pm PST 
Sarah is kind of like Bruno. She doesn't like other female dogs much. We are in a GREAT class that has some fun agility and other sports samplers. They rent a doggy day care facility for their classes. Since it's at a doggy day care, they have these massive chain link gates that they can open and close to make different enclosures. We can work the whole hour off-leash because we are in our own "room". I LOVE IT!

Anyhow, I think you did the right thing by communicating with the instructor, and I hope it works out for you!

Awesome Dog
Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 5:12pm PST 
It's totally a judgement call on your part. There are many reactive dogs that compete in dog sports and never have an issue. You do have to be aware that almost every organization states in the rules that dogs who act aggressively can be permanently banned from competition.

You really have to know your dog. Competition sites can be very busy and packed. You might be right on top of other dogs while waiting to get into the ring. Can your dog handle it? Do you trust your dog to keep composed and not cause trouble? (Minor snarks are not a real big deal in my experience.)

Risa is dog reactive. She used to react to any and all dogs on sight alone. Forget being close to them. I did a lot of training with her to increase her confidence so that she would be more comfortable in a trial situation. I also had to get to a point where I felt okay putting her in a trial. I needed to know that she was unlikely to do anything that would get us into trouble. I would HATE to ruin someone else's good time.

I know that, once Risa is in the ring, she's cool. I don't worry about her going after another dog while we're actively competing. She too only has issues if a dog invades her space; she doesn't actively seek out trouble. But I do have to be on my toes and constantly scanning when we're waiting for our turn in the ring. It's a lot of extra work but it can be done.


Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 5:26pm PST 
Risa is right. I know many dogs who have "space issues" with other dogs that are managed very well at agility trials and do great.
Bruno CGC

Honorary Kelpie
Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 5:47pm PST 
Thanks guys. Glad to hear it's not the kiss of death in dog sports to have "space issues". Bruno is fine with dogs at any distance as long as A) he's in work mode and focused on me or B) the other dog totally ignores him, doesn't approach head on, make eye contact or try to sniff, etc.

I thought the on-lead foundation class sounded totally doable for us, but will let the trainer make the call of course.

Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 5:52pm PST 
Look into the book Control Unleashed. It is awesome for reactive dogs.

I dig in mud- puddles!
Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 6:58pm PST 
Rexy is reactive and we participate in agility classes.

Our classes are set up so that when a dog is not working, they are crated, and each dog gets to take turns getting the field to themselves. This means that everyone gets to work off-leash, the dogs get plenty of breaks, and you get a chance to watch everyone else in action too.

That being said, I think it's in everyone's best interests that you gave your trainer the heads up about Bruno, and I think that it would be good for the rest of the class to know to at least keep their dogs out of Bruno's space. You have the right to expect a safe, worry-free class. smile

I doubt I will ever formally compete with Rexy in agility. Her dog reactivity is still way too intense for me to consider it. One meltdown on course could get us banned for life.

And yes, there are many, many dogs that compete who have reactivity or DA issues. Many have to jump into their handlers arms immediately after finishing a run because they are still so "high" from doing the course, that they could nail another dog. Other dogs must have people standing at the gates, blocking the exit to ensure that the dog doesn't leave the ring and start something.

Edited to add that Rexy is dog AND people reactive, so it requires a bit more management on my part. The other people in my classes know us and our issues and do their best to make it easier for us. I'm very upfront with anyone I take classes with, as I want to set us all up for success.

Yes, agility can bring out that higher state of arousal where dogs can temporarily lose their minds and react.
I do a lot of impulse control games with Rexy. She is also super fast and really keen, so I don't have to do anything whatsoever to "amp her up". If anything, I am trying to slow her down and keep her focused.

You mentioned that he has great focus when working as well as a good recall, so I would think that you guys would be fine. So long as we were using crates (because it brings down both mine and Rexy's stress levels), I'd have no issues whatsoever being in the same class as you. smile

Edited by author Sun Mar 25, '12 7:10pm PST

Delta and- Doc

The Spots Are In- The House!
Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 7:44pm PST 
Doc is reactive. He's especially reactive to one dog in class who is extremely high strung and gets away from his owner all the time in class. Management is key. If they can be managed, then you should be fine. Class will never be a problem for you, but I would definitely let your trainer know and tell her you honestly don't think it will be a problem in class, and ask for a 'trial' run. My trainer knows about Doc's problem and they help to keep dogs away, and expect management. They are willing to allow me to do whatever I need to do to manage. However, I do worry about eventual competing with him. Just from competing with Delta, I know that at agility trials, there are tons of dogs crowding the entrance and exit to the ring, and there will be times they very near other dogs. Luckily Doc is just starting, so i have awhile before he would get to competition ready stage... I guess we'll see.

the Runaway- Bunny
Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 8:34pm PST 
If he is truly "slightly reactive", then you should be just fine with some common sense and good management skills.

My first agility dog started out as "moderately reactive", and after a few years of training and trialing is now downgraded to "slightly reactive". smile It's good that you are up front with your instructor, and just realize (assuming she lets you into class, which I hope she does) that the burden of responsibility is on you to properly manage your dog. And by that I mean you need to always be aware of what not only your dog is doing but what the other dogs in class, and eventually in trials, are doing as well. You will/should take a "good offense is the best defense" stance, because unfortunately you have to assume no matter how many times you may make clear the fact that your dog doesn't want others on top of him, other people wont listen or register.

The in-gate at trials used to be my worst nightmare, now we are fine 95% of the time, just doing our own thing, but I have to admit I always have eyes in the back of my head for those dogs whose owners let them be too social. Regardless, just the fact that my formerly DA (well, dog-reactive) dog can now happily and comfortably compete among many other dogs at an agility trial is pretty freaking awesome.

I also teach foundation agility classes and I can already tell you are way ahead of the curve with being aware of your dog's shortcomings as well as strengths. You are far more savvy than most, I think you will be more than fine.I say go for it. happy dance

Barked: Sun Mar 25, '12 9:29pm PST 
Reactivity isn't inherently a problem if you have control and are aware of what's going on. I had to tell one woman in our agility class three times in one class to stop moving her dog into mine during 'wait' times. I would move and she would follow. Highly irritating.

If you don't have control or the ability to manage the situations agility will place you in, it's not going to be a good idea but if you're aware of the pitfalls and prepared to do the work it should be fine.
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