Focus help
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  • My beastie has been doing really well in learning commands and in her agility foundation classes. However, once we moved on to sequencing several obstacles, she's shown her true colors. She'll clear the first jump/tunnel/whatever then race off. And because she runs, she gets sidelined and we don't get to do anything else for the rest of the class (so consequently she has yet to work through a single sequence).

    Our instructor said we need to work on recall – yes that needs improvement but that's not the primary issue. She needs to stop bolting after the first obstacle -- a focus issue I think.

    Because we still have knee-depth snow on the ground my little beastie has not had much opportunity to run in the yard. Cabin fever is thus a contributing factor. And it would have been nice if instead of moving from working on mastering one obstacle to suddenly having to clear a dozen or more we could have progressed from 1 to 2or3 to 4 to 6 etc. I think this is contributing to sensory overload maybe.

    Anyway I need tips on the focus issue. I know about training a dog to do something I want (make eye contact or whatever) before she gets to do something she wants. But I don't quite understand how to make that work when what she wants is to run. Tips anyone?

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  • Not sure if this will be any help but I have started agility with one of my Bs and I started ALL training on a long lead. We did each obstacle as a single exercise until the dog (and handler) knew what was expected of them. Then we moved onto doing 2 or 3 obstacles in sequence. All the time on a lead. Only once we had had 3 or 4 lessons did I feel confident about letting Chance off lead. One of the instructors did look at me a little strange when I said my dog was being kept on a lead but the rest have been great and very supportive and patient. Are your instructors used to having an ABC (anything but Collie) breed in the class?? Maybe they need to be a bit more patient with you and adopt a different tact. There is a sighthound agility forum which I have just joined. There are 3 or 4 Basenji people on it and you can ask them any questions.

    Incidentally, Chance is now being used as the poster boy for the agility club I go to to try to encourage more ABC breeds :D

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  • I start all my basenji on a 6 foot leash with agility. I can easily control the leash so it doesn't get hung up on thing but still give them enough lead to safely clear jumps. I just toss the leash in the tunnel after them. This is how my instructor starts dogs but it gives many other instructors coniptions. I think though you are right to think focus and too many obstacles in sequence too fast are more the issue. Our early classes we work on "point" which is a finger targeting command to help redirect our dogs to us. Also, most of the students in the class take their manners classes with one instructor who is really big on teaching name response and attention which also help to get them refocused. With the basics we then start building small sequences 2, 3, 4 obstacles and frequent click/treat between obstacles.

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  • Thanks.

    I'll insist on keeping her on a leash in class for awhile yet. I can't do anything about having too many sequences in class but maybe I can work something up in the basement at home so we can practise working together.

    And yes my instructor has experience mostly with Australian shepherds.

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  • Oh, there's so much you can do! You've gotten some good suggestions already.

    Part of the zooming is, like you've pointed out, a young dog lacking physical exercise. Part is stress. Now I know some people will disagree and say "But Princess looks so happy", well yes, some dogs stress up, some stress down. If you'd rather call stressing up, over-excitement, that's fine. But think of asking a kid to do geometry right before they open their presents on Christmas morning. It's hard to calm down enough to do that. Rescue Remedy may help some of this.

    Join the sighthound agility list. search yahoo groups under SHagility list.

    Work through Control Unleashed excercises. There is a book and 2 sets of DVD's. Pay close attention to mat work, Gimme A Break, whiplash turn, look at that and box work. (off the top of my head) You can do these on your own, but if you can find a local CU class, that'd be awesome. There weren't any classes in my area when i felt like a needed to be doing these things with Zest, so i ended up teaching my own class. One of my students with a Rhodesian Ridgie, told me she could yell "MAT!" as her dog began to zoom in class, and her dog would run to the mat and down. It does take a while to get to that point, which brings us to:

    http://dogscouts.org/Protocol_for_relaxation.html

    I use a down instead of a sit, but these steps made doing a lead out with Zest a snap! I also started teaching front crosses with her on her mat and got her used to me going behind her with out a spin. Very handy in agility.

    Also, have you done any foundation work without the obstacles? I'm think of Greg Derrett type stuff where you run around in spirals and figure 8's with the dog moving beside you? That's really the place to start running a course. You can find GD's dvd's at cleanrun.com or dogwise. it's a little pricey, so you many want to see if you can rent/borrow his foundations dvd from somewhere. I know cleanrun does some of that and there is an educational dvd rental place somewhere on line. i do not know if they have that particular video.

    Additionally, i would purchase the Jan 2011 issue of Cleanrun. It's the one with the pretty samoyed on the cover. there is a GREAT article on focus written by someone who has/trains/runs terriers and a whippet. She's also on the SHAgility list.

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  • Oh my oh my – so many things to mull over -- I now have a copy of C.U. but not the CDs yet. I wish my instructor was better trained in CU, I can see a lot of things now that she did wrong - or at least wrong for hypersensitive dogs.
    I'm not anxious to compete so I think I have time to work on these suggestions.
    Thanks everyone !!

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  • yea, ideally, the agility ring becomes your "box" as in boxwork. I think it would be fun to play with that idea in training for agility. You start with one jump in a small box, then 2 jumps in a small box, then 1 jump one tunnel in a slightly larger box, then 2 jumps 1 tunnel in a slightly larger box, etc. I have done a little of that with Zest.

    I did check the CU videos are at cleanrun under the video on demand but the GDarrett stuff is not. the video on demand will give you access to the videos for 2 weeks, but it's not yours to keep.

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  • I like the CU DVDs, they were a good supplement to the book. They could use some editing but definitely helpful. I got them for Christmas and I'm still working through them. Leslie shows several examples of dogs that react to stress in different ways and how she suggests to address it. Lots of focus stuff that I've found helpful in general with a highly distracted dog. :D

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  • Nemo -
    did you get the second set (the games set)? i've only gotten the first (foundation) set. So much info! i thought i'd heard there was a basenji in the second dvd set???

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  • @agilebasenji:

    Nemo -
    did you get the second set (the games set)? i've only gotten the first (foundation) set. So much info! i thought i'd heard there was a basenji in the second dvd set???

    I got the foundations set that you have. Once I get through that I'll probably go for the games set at some point.

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  • One last question – Is it worth our while to continue with this novice agility class? Should I drop it until we have better focus and try again later?

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  • did you take some sort of foundations class??

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  • Yes we had three foundations classes (working on individual obstacles and other basics).

    The current class started right off the bat with a dozen or more obstacles in sequence off leash - and because my beastie would take the first 1 or maybe 2 obstacles and then zoom off, we get sidelined every class so we have yet to do a full sequence anyway. That's why I'm thinking to drop it now and pick the class up another time and go back to work on focus basics.

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  • I think only you can answer that question. if you're only practicing undesirable behavoirs, dropping the class might be a wise choice. could you take some private lessons and slowly build to more obstacles? or just rent the agility area? could you just reward after two or three obstacles, then reward after 2 or 3 more and slowly build? i wish you lived closer to me!

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  • I've talked with the owner of the facility it was interesting that the owner had a similar situation in her class but caught the problem the first night. She suggested stay on leash for the sequences and treat more between obstacles (just as suggested here), so I guess we'll try and finish the class after I talk with the instructor and probably take it over with a different instructor. And the owner offered to do a private lesson with us so I'll jump on that chance too.

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