You don’t need a border collie to compete in Agility!
With a good instructor, practice, praise and patience you and your Ridgeback can have a great time competing together in this relatively new and exciting sport. Your dog is timed for speed and accuracy. The more successful you and your Ridgeback work as a team, the courses become more difficult with more obstacles and less time to qualify. There are many Ridgeback teams who are competing in the highest levels of competition, remember everyone starts out as a newbie. There are many different organizations throughout the United States each having their own sets of rules and regulations see the links page for reference to these clubs. Find out where the next Agility trial is being held, go and watch for your selves. It will be a great way to spend time with your Ridgeback.
To enter an Agility trial you must fill out a Premium. Premiums are then sent to the trial secretary. It is important to send your premium in as soon as possible, a lot of the trials have a closed entry of the numbered dogs allowed to run in a day. You can locate the premiums at Agility Trials, through various clubs or on line. A good agility resource for premiums and upcomin events is http://www.dogeventsonline.com
Some of the leading superintendents in the Northwest area:
If you need Agility equipment
Agility Handling Tips
1. The shoulders always tell the dog where you’re going.
2. 95% of the problems are the caused by the handler, not the dog.
3. For obstacle discrimination, slow down – the faster you approach it, the less time you have to focus your dog.
4. For most dogs, blocking draws their attention to the wrong obstacle like a neon sign.
5. Weave Poles, Weave Poles, Weave Poles. Practice, Practice, Practice!
6. Whatever method you choose for training contacts, consistency is an absolute must.
7. The more energy you give your dog, the more energy your dog will give you back.
8. Every dog is an individual; what works for one may not work for another.
9. When you think you’ve walked the course enough, go back and walk it one more time.
10. Always check your score before the class is over. Mistakes happen and it’s easier to correct if the class hasn’t ended.
11. You can always learn something new if you just keep your mind and ears open.
12. If you’re not enjoying it, the dog won’t either, so quit while you’re ahead.
13. There are no hard and fast rules.
A run on an agility course is either made or broken by the handling skills of the human half of the team. As mentioned previously, agility is a team sport. It is your responsibility to give the four legged half of your team all the help it needs to have a successful and fun run.
Handling skills are comprised of three parts: hand signals, body cues, and verbal commands. Ideally, all three should exist during initial training. Depending on the dog, verbal commands may be dropped during advanced training and during a course run. Many handlers are successful with only one or two of the three components, but these are handlers that have been training with their partners for years. In the beginning stages, always train with all three components in mind.
Your dog is completely dependent on you to tell them where they are going and what comes next. It is your job to give them this information in a timely, non-distracting manner.
Always give your hand signal with an open, flat palm. This is a bigger surface area and is easier for the dog to see than a pointing finger.
Always indicate the obstacle with the hand closest to the obstacle. Using the hand closest to the obstacle will open your shoulders to that obstacle, and serve as an additional body cue for the correct direction or obstacle.
Hand signals should be steady, not swooping or limp-wristed, and not flashing. Your hand signal should be used to indicate the next obstacle to the dog. It should not distract the dog from the next obstacle.
Hand signals should be given in conjunction with your verbal command.
Even when the dog is working in front of you, give your hand signal. Dogs have much better peripheral vision than we give them credit for.
When the dog is on the dog walk, keep your hands down by your sides. Do not use your hand to show the dog where to walk. If you were to do this and move your hand slightly, you might cause the dog to fall off the dog walk because they were focused on your hand instead of on where they were walking.
Timing of the command (both signal and voice) for the next obstacle should be when the dog is in the air over the previous jump, or as they are exiting a tunnel or coming off the contact zone of a contact obstacle.
Never run a sequence or course with food in your hand. This will only focus the dog on your hand, not on the obstacles in front of him. After you have completed a sequence, make a big deal of going into your bait bag or pocket for food to reward him, or have your tennis ball or toy in your pocket.
Your body positioning plays a tremendous role in dictating course direction to the dog. Dogs quickly become focused on the handler’s body, with particular focus on the shoulders. You can send a dog to the correct obstacle, or pull them off of it, through use of the shoulders alone.
Your body (shoulders, hips and feet) should always point in the direction that the dog is to go. You should never face your dog and run backwards because two things will happen:
You will trip and fall.
You will lie to your dog with your body about what direction you are headed.
Your body will act in one of two ways to your dog.
As a magnet: Your dog will be drawn towards you and away from incorrect obstacles or towards correct ones. Most dogs are drawn towards their handlers.
As a block: You can (with some dogs, not all) use your body to block the dog from taking an incorrect obstacle.
There is a direct relationship between your body position and your line of movement and your dog’s line of movement when you and the dog are running on parallel lines: when you move to the right, your dog’s path should move to the right, and the same for the left. The exception to this is when you have given your dog a directional command that will differ than the direction your body tells the dog.
Your body can be used to push your dog away from an obstacle or jump, by moving in towards the obstacle and using an “Out” or “Get Out” command, in conjunction with a pushing hand signal.
Your body can be used to draw a dog in towards an obstacle or jump, by moving away from it and drawing the dog closer to it and using a “Come” or “Come In” command.
A shoulder rotation or dip acts as a big signal that the dog should make a hard turn in the direction the shoulder is turning.
The simple act of turning your shoulder towards the dog or away from the dog can serve to push the dog farther out, or draw them closer in.
Your dog should be able to work comfortably on both your right and left side. All obstacles and jumps should be trained from the beginning from both sides. If your dog has had a lot of obedience work and is hesitant to work on your right (off) side, give the dog cookies as he heels on the right combined with a command of “Side” or “This Side”.
Give the command only once unless the dog shows confusion or a lack of confidence.
Do not repeat the command over and over. This is distracting to the dog and will draw their focus off the next obstacle and on to you.
Do not use the dog’s name before an obstacle. That will draw their focus away from the obstacle and onto you.
Do not speak to the dog or chatter at them when they are on the dog walk or see-saw, unless they are hesitating or showing stress. If the dog is moving along under his own steam (with confidence) on a contact obstacle, stay quiet. Talking to them will only distract them and possibly cause them to turn their head towards you and fall off the obstacle.
It is preferable to give encouragement while they are in one of the tunnels so that they will know where you are when they exit.
Keep your tone of voice low when giving commands, unless you have a dog that needs motivating. It is harder to distinguish commands given with high, squeaky voices than low, clear voices.
If you have a dog that is slow or needs motivating, by all means, give it praise to help it out.
If you have a fast dog, give only the directional commands and keep quiet. Let the dog do his job.
Once your dog is familiar with your body signals and all the obstacles, try running a course without using any commands. This is called “running silent” and can be very enlightening, and generally is the best way to run a fast dog.
The more work you do with your dog on jump sequence and directional controls, the farther you will be able to work away from your dog, and shorten your running path. A goal we’d all like to attain!
Training & Safety Tips
Agility training should be fun. Use a motivator to train your dog, whatever it likes best. Whether it’s treats or toys, reward the dog often.
Each obstacle should have a different name. The dogs will eventually learn each obstacle and need to be able to locate them on a course.
Dogs learn the finer techniques required for agility competition by training obstacles in groups of sequences, not by running courses. Most training should focus on sequence work and directional controls.
Before beginning a training session, make sure the dog is properly warmed up. This is more important in agility than in obedience. You can injure your dog if you begin sequences or a course without warming the dog up first.
Do not train the dog with any sort of slip collar or pinch collar. They may easily get caught on a contact obstacle, and may result in strangling the dog.
Be careful with the leash when training. Keep it clear of the contact obstacles. As with the collar, the leash may get hung on a contact obstacle and result in strangling the dog.
When doing jump sequences dogs should generally jump at a height lower than they normally jump.
The point to sequence work is learning direction, control and timing.
Dogs should be given lavish praise and an abundance of cookies when they have successfully completed an obstacle or sequence that had previously been difficult. Break off the sequence or exercise after successful negotiation of that obstacle or sequence, and give the dog a jackpot reward.
Most mistakes will be yours, not the dog’s.
When you make a mistake, don’t get upset with yourself. The dog won’t know that you’re mad at yourself and not it. When you make a mistake, laugh at yourself, and let the dog think that what it did was correct. Dog shut down more from the handler getting mad at themselves than from the handler being mad at the dog – they just don’t know the difference, because the tone of voice can sound the same.
If the dog makes a mistake, use “Uh oh” or “Oops” to let the dog know that wasn’t right. This MUST be said in a light tone of voice.
Negatives or corrections generally not allowed. The exceptions to this are:
Aggression towards another dog or handler
Not coming when called
Sniffing on course
Blatant disobedience by the dog. (Do NOT mistake confusion for disobedience!)
Keep training sessions short. The dog should always end with a success. Even if you have to back up to something easier, the dog must end on a successful sequence.
Train equally for right side and left side handling.
Start training weave poles from the beginning. You’ll be glad you did!
Do not allow the dogs on the contact obstacles unattended.
Consistency is the key to training.
Your body will tell the dog where it is to go next. Be consistent with your body signals. Don’t “lie” to the dog.
Above all else, keep your dog’s safety in mind.
Training should be fun for both you and the dog. If you’re not having fun, stop for the day.