Hyperactivity at agility

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


I love you- already!
Barked: Sat Jul 27, '13 2:08pm PST 
Hi there! Thanks for clicking on this thread. Any help will be much appreciated.

Rosie and I have been doing agility on and off for about a year now. She absolutely LOVES it, and I do too. Our problem is that she gets way too excited and can't calm down before we do a run. I love her enthusiasm, but she'll bark incessantly and start without me frequently. In all other circumstances she has an excellent stay and wait, but she just can't seem to keep still when I'm getting into position. As soon as I near an obstacle (particularly jumps) she'll run at it without me releasing her. She won't keep going though unless I ask her to, she'll just jump around and bark in frustration.

As you can imagine this causes problems in our group class because it often takes longer to get her ready than to do the actual course! I can't really take a lot of time to calm her down either, because we take turns doing runs and I really don't want to delay someone else from going. Treating her for staying helps a little, but she's not very interested when I present them to her. All she can think about is running the course. I'm trying to figure out a way to convey to her that sitting still = running the course, as it would be MUCH more reinforcing to her than any treat.

Does anyone else have/had this problem? What did you do, or recommend I do to help? Thanks in advance.

I dig in mud- puddles!
Barked: Sat Jul 27, '13 3:30pm PST 
I wonder if implementing some sort of consequence for starting without you is in order?

I've been taught that a broken start line stay should not be rewarded with the dog getting to run the course at that point in time, otherwise this can develop into a situation where they release themselves whenever they want. I would be going back to basics with the start line stays....

Have you read Control Unleashed? If not, I highly recommend it.

Also, what does your trainer suggest? I'm sure that there is a way to make access to that agility equipment a reward, but I would want to implement that under the eye of a skilled trainer so as to not make the situation worse. smile

Edited by author Sat Jul 27, '13 3:36pm PST


Will Work For- Food
Barked: Sun Jul 28, '13 11:01am PST 
First of all, in just a year of on again/off again training, your dog should not be running courses. The first year or so of training should be spent building a solid foundation which includes flat work, building value for obstacles and building control. Obviously your dog seems to have value for the obstacles but no control to counter it. As you are finding out, this is a huge issue, and it won't just stop at start line issue, it can progress to a dog that has no regard for the cues you are giving and she may begin hurling herself around the course, taking off course obstacles and missing contacts. This can be dangerous.
At this point I would work on control away from agility. Have her sit and throw a toy. Can she stay until released? Have her sit and run away with a toy. Can she stay until released? Once solid on this type of stuff you can start with one jump or one tunnel. Set her up and walk away. Can she stay? If yes she gets to do the obstacle and then be rewarded with a tug. If not, do not let her take the obstacle and self reward. You can also practice running between obstacles without her being allowed to take any of them. Reward lots so she learns that being with you is the fun part of agility and that just because equipment is there that does not mean she gets to take any of it.

For now, I would not be doing any more courses with her until her control issues are dealt with. Yes, it will be hard to go to class and only work on control but it will be much more frustrating in the future if you don't start seriously working on this now. I would also suggest using a head halter between her turns in class to keep her calm and focused on you. Control issues often begin outside the ring while watching other dogs run, so you might want to look at that as well.

Phineas AD- OA OAJ

all drive all- the time...
Barked: Wed Jul 31, '13 8:34am PST 
You've already gotten good advice here, but I will add to/reframe things a bit.

You say she can sit and stay in _any_ other circumstance? What if you drop a piece of steak on the floor in front of her? What if a squirrel/bird runs by? Could she stay while other dogs ran around her playing?

Its awesome you have a dog that is so excited about agility--that is what most people would kill for! But with that comes the need to work on impulse control a LOT more. I am blessed to have a dog like that and we have been working on his impulse control since 8 weeks old. He STILL will blow his contacts in the excitement of the ring because he LOVES agility. But it is something I am CONSTANTLY working on.

I think you should reevaluate _everything_ that she does in her daily life, away from the equipment, and see if you can find the "holes" where she is allowed to have no impulse control. Ie not waiting for meals, blasting out the door, jumping out of the car, etc. She gets rewarded for making good choices by being released to do what she wants to do.

I would be very careful using "consequence" with a dog that has only variable/short experience with agility. For a dog like this the only consequence of breaking would you be calmly stopping, gently taking her by the collar, and resetting her again. This of course would be heavily interspersed with rewards...

Start line stays are a BIG problem with lots of people. This is absolutely an "ice berg" problem and it should be well thought about now so you guys continue on on a long and successful agility career! blue dog
Augusta,- CGC, RN

Such a Good Dog!
Barked: Fri Aug 2, '13 1:02pm PST 
Good advice from experienced agility people.

I'm still in the newbie phase myself, but two good books that gave me perspective about building the foundation are "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt and "Agility Right from the Start" by Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh. way to go

Lenny -The- Wrecking Ball
Barked: Sun Aug 4, '13 12:05pm PST 
I don't have any experience in agility, but I agree in taking some time off and working on some impulse control before going back to classes. When I was looking into agility, the trainer I met with was very firm on how much ground work went into before she let students run courses. I knew Lenny didn't have that kind of control, so we haven't tried agility yet.

When I sat in one of her classes, the consequence for a dog rushing a start like that was being removed and having another dog run. Basically getting skipped. False start = another dog goes and you don't. I don't know if that's typical practice or not, but it makes sense to me since it removes what the dog really wants, to do the run.
Dennis- FDCH-S,- TFIII

I love agility- and flyball!
Barked: Tue Aug 6, '13 10:03am PST 
I would definitely get myself a copy of Control Unleashed. There are also Control Unleashed dvds which are very helpful for seeing how the exercises should be done. I have both the book and the dvds, and I refer to both frequently.
Shadow- *CGC*CL2*CL3- *

Is it time for- agility yet?
Barked: Wed Aug 7, '13 7:14pm PST 
If she breaks her start line stay remove her immediately from the course. You put her collar on and walk away. Even her breaking and doing that first jump is rewarding to her even if she does stop to wait for you. You need to have either someone watch her or you need to watch her carefully to see if she is getting ready to break.

My dog Shadow is very excited about agility and he had a hard time staying at the start line when we first started. To combat that whenever he broke his stay his leash was put on and he had to wait for another couple of dogs to do the course and then he could try again. If he broke again the same thing happened. There were a few classes when he didn't get to play at all because he didn't stay. He figured it out pretty quickly though since agility is rewarding all by itself. Remember this is a game that they get to play, but all games come with rules. Staying at the start line is one of MY rules. I can now completely trust him at trials(this is often where behavior falls apart because often handlers will let things go just to get a Q) Even in a trial if he breaks his stay he is removed from the course. Yea I may have wasted my money on a run, but the rules are staying the same. He will almost always stay where I put him if he is removed from the course the previous run. Consistency in training and at trials is key.

Control Unleashed has been mentioned by several people and I also agree it is a great book. It would definitely help you with some control that she is obviously missing right now.