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Introduction to Agility


Can my dog do agility?
Baby steps in training
Basic Do's and Don'ts


Overview of the obstacles
Training Tips for each obstacle
What to Call Each Obstacle


Help with dogs that are slow, scared, stubborn and crazy!


Joining a class
Entering a competition

General Rules


The organizations
Groups, discussion boards etc.



Help with Problem Dogs

     The Mopey-Dopey Dog / The Scardey-Cat Dog / The Zany Out-of-Control Dog / The Dog-crazy dog

The Mopey-Dopey Dog

It can be hard for us to believe that sometimes our dogs don’t want to do the activities that we think are fun. When not interested, the dog may sniff the ground, lie down, turn and look the other way, or simply yawn. She may do what you want her to do but there is no enthusiasm or excitement in her manner.

There are many reasons why a dog may be a Mopey-Dopey. If your dog is normally perky, it may be because she is either sick, or has had a previously bad experience on an obstacle and lacks confidence. You may have to go back to the basics (one obstacle at a time) to re-motivate your dog. Most the time, however, a Mopey-Dopey dog is simply bored or lazy. Luckily, there is a solution. The key to revving up your dog is to become the most exciting thing in her world. You need to find what “pushes her buttons” and makes her happy. In some cases, this may be a really delicious treat, such as cheese or hot dogs that she doesn’t get on a regular basis. It can also be a toy that she really loves to play with. It can even be a game, like tug, that she plays with you. The key is that it is something that she enjoys but she only gets that toy or treats from you.

You may have to try a number of different toys to find what “turns her on”. Does she like to retrieve? Does she like to tug? Does she like to squeak a toy? Does she like chew toys such as bones or rope toys? You will need to try a variety of toys until you find the one that puts the sparkle in her eye. Once you identify this toy, play with her with it for just a few minutes and then put it away. Do not let her have unlimited access to it. It helps if you can put the toy out of her reach but someplace where she can see it. This helps to build desire for the object. For the first few days, take the toy out of its special place and play with your dog. Act like it is a really big deal when you are getting out the toy. Make your voice high-pitched and happy and your dog will really get excited. You need to play with your dog with the toy. Don’t just let her have it. Toss it, tug it, squeak it, whatever you need to do to play with your dog. After a few minutes, while the dog still wants to play, put the toy back in its special place. Then take a few minutes to pet your dog and praise her.

After you have built the excitement for playing with the toy, you can then use the toy to reward your dog’s behavior. You can go out to your yard and practice your jumps or your obedience lesson and use the toy as a reward for the correct behavior. Try not to scold the dog or do anything to lose her enthusiasm. If she does a behavior that is incorrect, just ignore it and use the toy to reinforce the behavior you want.

Once you have figured out how to excite your dogs, you will still need to find other ways to keep her enthusiasm at a high level. You will need to find additional toys or treats or games that pique her interest. You will need many “tools” to keep her from becoming mopey-dopey again. But once you have revved her up the first time, it will be easier to keep doing it.

Also consider making your training lessons shorter, so as not to wear out your dog's enthusiasm by dragging the lessons too far past her attention span. Always end on a good note!

Good luck!        

By Amy Suggars, Watermark Retrievers / 358 Greenwold Ct. , Columbus, OH 43235 

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The Scaredy Cat Dog

No matter how big your dog may be, he may become a scaredy-cat in certain situations. He may be afraid of loud noises or new situations or strange items in the back yard. Sometimes you may not realize that your handsome dog is actually quaking inside. Many dogs become fearful when in a crowded place such as at an agility trial. Here are a few clues that your buddy is afraid:

  1. He may need to be coaxed through crowds and when he does move; he walks slowly and looks around frequently.
  2. He may cling to your legs.
  3. He may cower in his crate and not want to come out.
  4. He may shy away from people who may want to pet him.
  5. He may refuse to take treats from you.

It will take some time to turn a scaredy-cat dog into a happy-go-lucky boy in crowds but fortunately it can be done. One thing you may want to do is take your dog to obedience classes. You can find a local class by checking out the yellow pages or talking to your veterinarian. Obedience lessons will give your boy something to focus on while he is around other people and dogs. The lessons will give him confidence. But the key to overcoming his fear of crowds is socialization. You need to get your dog in as many different situations as you can so that he can learn to be comfortable wherever you take him. You’ll want to start small and just do a little at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm him and make him more afraid. Start by walking your dog in a park or a local school where children are playing and there is some noise. Don’t take your dog right into the thick of things but walk him on the periphery. Play a game with him to distract him. Practice your obedience lessons. Give him lots of praise and treats to make it a very pleasant experience for him. Once you feel he is relaxed in that situation, you can move to the next step. Take him to a pet store that allows dogs and have the employees greet him and give him treats. This is a good way to meet strangers on a limited basis so it is not too much for him to handle. Next you can walk him along the sidewalks at your local strip mall, near a busy store. Don’t approach strangers as they may be afraid of dogs. But if people are interested in meeting your dog, have them pet him. Have treats ready to give to these kind strangers to feed to your dog. Gradually go to different areas with increasing activity, noise and crowd levels. Soon your dog will be stepping out with his head held high, ready to greet the world.

One word of caution, don’t take any dogs but especially scaredy-cat dogs to any outings where there might be fireworks or other loud, unexpected noises. Also be sure to keep your dog on leash at all times. You don’t want him to bolt away from you.

Have fun and good luck!

By Amy Suggars, Watermark Retrievers / 358 Greenwold Ct. , Columbus, OH 43235

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The Zany-Out of Control Dog

We all have met the zany out-of-control dog. Unfortunately she is often our dog! Sometimes you may not realize that you have a zany dog until you experience certain situations. For example, your dog may be perfectly behaved while on a leash or in your backyard but when she goes to a friend’s house or to an agility trial, she runs all around and won’t listen to a word you say. She goes visiting other dogs and people, sniffs everything and anything and generally ignores you. In addition to being frustrating, this can be a potentially dangerous situation because you may not be able to get to your dog if she puts herself in harm’s way.

The first thing you need to do to curb your dog’s zaniness is to teach her a reliable recall. That is, she MUST come immediately whenever you call her. First your dog needs to understand the command “Come” or “Here”. Once you are sure she knows the recall, you can start insuring that she will always respond to the command. To do this, start by having your dog on a long line (10 or 20 ft) in the backyard. Let her wander around and think you aren’t paying her a lick of attention. Walk over to the end of the long line and call your dog to you. If she ignores you, pick up the long line and reel her into you. Say “Come” in a happy voice and give her lots of praise when she comes to you. You never ever want to punish her when she comes to you because then she won’t want to come to you the next time. Also, never give the “Come” command when you can’t reinforce it. This will just teach her that you don’t really mean what you say.

Once your dog is coming to you reliably in the controlled location of your backyard, it is time to take her to another location. It may be as simple as the front yard, where there isn’t a fence and there are the distractions of the neighbors. Again, use the long line to reinforce the recall. Gradually increase the complexity of the location where you practice your recall until your dog is reliably returning to you whenever you call her. If you have problems in any one location, you may need to go back to a less stressful, less complex location and work your way back up.

In addition to training a reliable recall command, you should also work on getting your dog’s attention. There are many methods for teaching attention by using treats or a clicker. Your local dog trainer can help you with this. There are also a number of books you can buy or borrow that explain how to get and keep your dog’s attention.

Finally, the one sure-fire method of keeping your dog from becoming out of control is to be the most interesting thing in her life. If you are going for a walk and she is pulling to go in her own direction, turn and go the other way. She will want to come with you. Walk briskly so that she has to work to keep up with you. This will help keep her from wandering and will also help your waist line! There are many ways to keep yourself interesting to your dog. After all, they really love us and want to be with us!

Good luck!

By Amy Suggars, Watermark Retrievers / 358 Greenwold Ct. , Columbus, OH 43235 

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The Dog Crazy Dog

The dog is man’s best friend. But we are not always our dog’s best friend. Sometimes our dogs go absolutely nuts when they see other dogs. He may be the best behaved, nicest dog when he is around you and your friends. But let another canine come into the picture and he doesn’t even remember who you are! You feel like you are nothing but a food dispenser to him anymore!

The heart of this problem is your dog’s socialization. He simply hasn’t been around enough other dogs in various situations to choose you over a canine companion. If you aren’t a dog breeder, you should spay or neuter your pet. Keeping your dog reproductively intact will keep him wanting to seek out other dogs, either for mating or for showing who is dominant. Spaying/neutering will help your dog be more interested in you than in other canines.

You’ll need to exposure your dog to other dogs in a variety of situations so that he may be accustomed to being around other dogs. A great place to start is with obedience training classes. Look in your local yellow pages, ask your veterinarian or talk to employees at your local pet food supermarket to get information about classes near you. Teaching your dog obedience in a group setting will not only get him accustomed to other dogs but will strengthen the bond between the two of you. And he’ll learn to be better behaved as well!

Once you and your dog have some basic obedience under your belts and you know your dog is friendly with other people and animals, you can take him to other locations for socialization. You may want to go to the local dog park. Or talk to some friends from your dog class about arranging a “play date”. There are even some businesses that offer “doggie day care” that will give your dog an opportunity to interact with other dogs.

Once your dog has been socialized with other dogs, he won’t be so frantic when he sees another one of his own kind. He will be much more willing to focus on you when you are doing fun and interesting things like learning obedience or playing at agility.

Good luck and have fun!

By Amy Suggars, Watermark Retrievers / 358 Greenwold Ct. , Columbus, OH 43235

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