Monday, October 20, 2014

Agility Mischief

I meant to post this earlier today, but I was busy worrying about my sweet Soth who decided to go on a hunger strike this weekend. I was preoccupied with worrying (and grading) this weekend and I've spent my free time this afternoon at the vet. Despite the fact that he's eaten very little in 4 days, the vet said Soth looked good: eyes and gums were good, no fever, nothing felt abnormal--so he's been given some fluids (he was slightly dehydrated since the majority of the water he gets comes from his wet food) and an injection to settle his stomach (he's thrown up the last several days). If he doesn't start showing interest in his food by tomorrow, we'll take some x-rays. So I'd appreciate any good thoughts you could send his way!

Soth has been enjoying curling up on a heating pad.

Now that Soth's done stealing the spotlight from his sister,  the real mischief I wanted to talk about is some less than desirable behavior Barley's developed in agility class.

Barley is pretty sure she could never do anything wrong.
For some reason, my darling girl has decided she wants to nip at me any time I try to send her over a jump. She'll be alright if I start beside her, but as soon as we start moving and I try to send her to the next jump, she comes running in and nips at my arm. She's only actually made contact once--and I got a bruise that looked like I'd been hit with a baseball on my forearm--but it's not behavior that I can tolerate in class (or anywhere else) and it's not behavior that I want to escalate.

Our trainer says that Barley's seeing my arm as a toy when I move it to send her to a jump. She's had us do several activities to try to get her away from my hand. 

In class, if she starts to do her playful growl and nip, it's an immediate down in a loud, firm voice. Every single time. Some nights, we don't get through very many exercises because every turn we spend doing a down. Other nights, she catches on as soon as she's been put in a down once.

We've worked on having her sit and me moving away from her and then throwing a treat, so she learns to go past my hand instead of coming to it. (She never actually touches my hand when there' s a treat in it--she's too well trained on the it's your choice game, so she knows that she gets the treats when she doesn't touch my hand.) Then we added in doing it with a jump. We've tried practicing that at home, but she usually doesn't nip at home--probably because we have limited space and can only get so much distance or pick up so much speed as we approach a jump. 

We walk by a park that has a very low (maybe 12 inches) fence for people to park in front of. Nobody every parks there, so sometimes as we are out walking, I'll jog towards the fence and send her over it several times. (She never nips when we do this--so it probably isn't helpful, but it makes our walks more exciting.)


This crazy face is always ready play.

On Friday, I mentioned that we've started going to a nearby football field and doing some heeling exercises. I've been trying to work in games that will help us address her issues. We've been doing some heeling exercises to mid-field with some sits, stays, and just walking in heel position. Then I've started jogging towards the other end zone. The first few times, she'd grab her leash, growl, and try to herd me--which resulted in a down and then more walking and heeling. Then we'd try again. Usually after three downs, she's been focused and ready to go. Then I let her drag her leash and jog around the field with her--and if there's any nipping, she's put in a down.

We've done this 4 times over the last week. Tonight, she only had to be put in a down once. Tomorrow night, we have class, so we'll see if this has made any difference at all. I'm hoping that she's able to transfer the corrections from the field into the gym.

Faster than a speeding bullet--and showing absolutely no interest in my arm.



It's so hard to curb a behavior when it really only appears for about 45 minutes once a week. No matter how hard  we romp and play in the house, she never nips at me. It's just when I start moving on the agility course. If anyone has dealt with this sort of mischief and has suggestions for how discourage nipping, I'd be very grateful for your advice! 


10 comments:

  1. Haha, poor Bar. I hope Bun feels better and that Bar's hard work pays off!

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    1. Thanks, sis! I just keep telling myself I don't want easy . . . ;)

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  2. Hi Y'all!

    High excitement? Hope sweet Soth is feeling much better now.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

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    1. Yes! Barely is a very high energy dog, so as soon as she gets in a setting where she can running that off, she loses her mind a little bit! We try to actually downplay the excitement on her turns instead of ramping up the energy like the other dogs do. Thanks for the well wishes for Soth--he's making progress slowly but surely.

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  3. Hope Soth feels better! Herders. Lol. Agility goes away if she nips and she spends a minute or two in a crate? Jackpot toy for going over a jump without nipping?

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    1. Thanks for sending good thoughts Soth's way! I had no idea what I was getting into when I fell in love with a herder! The instant down is sort of the agility goes away idea because she has to stop playing to down--but for some reason, Barley still thinks the down is part of her game. Even though she spends plenty of time in her crate when I'm teaching, she gets frantic in a crate at the training center otherwise that would be a fantastic idea! We've been trying to do jackpot treats when she doesn't nip, but that's been so few and far between lately! Hopefully we can start adding more rewards like that in :)

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  4. Myabe you should buy a toy that looks like an arm so she can't stop seeing your arm like a toy ;)

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    1. Haha! That would be quite the sight in class and would at least add some humor to the situation! One of the houses in our neighborhood has Halloween decorations out right now and they have a hand hanging out of a bear's mouth--Barley's scared of it!

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  5. I'd like to know 1) how Soth is feeling?
    2) How Barley did at class last night?

    AND do you think her nipping has anything to do with being in such a confined area? Have you tried actually holding a toy in your hand? I've seen some dogs respond to that in terms of motivation, but not sure how it would work for a nipper. I do hope you figure it out.

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    1. Soth is doing a little better. He's eaten about a full can of food in the last 24 hours, which is nowhere near his usual 3 cans, but is much better than nothing!

      I'll have the full version of Barley's performance in class on Friday, but the short answer is she did well! I think the nipping actually comes from not being in a confined area--she doesn't get very many options to just full out run because we live in an apartment and even though we have a patio and a grassy area, she has to be leashed--and even on her long lead, she won't leave my side if she's leashed--and she can't go play at the dog park because of her issues with other dogs, so she gets off the leash at class and starts running and all the sudden she's just overcome with excitement! At home, she responds really well when I have a toy in my hand and never nips, but she gets so distracted by the other dogs in class that she has no interest in toys.

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