Check Out This Weeks Featured Post! :

Flashy Friday Week 2!

Flashy Friday! Week 2 -  "Spin" Whew! A whole week between posts, sorry guys! Like I've mentioned before we're pr...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Agility Part 1 - Tunnels and Circles

The Value of High Value Treats

Agility Continued:
Part 2
Part 3

This whole adventure started with a fear reactive puppy, it's been a long road but we've learned a lot and Ziva is now a different dog today than when we first adopted her.

When we first adopted Ziva she was very sweet but very shy, our first walk with her she showed a lot of promise, she was really jumpy around loud noises on our walk - doors shutting, cars, kids, basketballs...but with the hubby's confidence on on the other end of the leash she was able to settle down and relax a little bit.

Out practicing our agility homework.
I don't think her rescuers would recognize the confident muscular female that now likes to trot around and greet people! Fireworks? No problem. Gunshots? Whatever. Car doors and kids running in front of our house illicit a low growl as she stalks towards the door to make sure that we are notified of the activity.

I was really excited to start agility, which was the whole point in doing the obedience and shaping classes in the first place. Our ultimate goal of agility was to help with confidence boosting in Ziva.

Well day 1 of agility was awesome! I was thrilled to see my trainer because we continued to make improvements during the holiday break and I wanted to share my excitement about Ziva's success in daycare! Woo Hoo! Good girl! My trainer has seen Ziva's snarky reactive side, and was a great help to us in fortifying what we had already thought - she was never aggressive she just didn't like rude dogs. She had plenty of doggy friends who belonged to family but strange dogs with rude introductions made her nervous.

First day of agility we weren't very well prepared, for some reason I was thinking an indoor agility course.
Well it was indoors - but in a horse arena so it was also outdoors, very cold, and not temperature regulated. Brrrr....first lesson was in freezing temperatures so in between our turns Ziva waited in the car because we hadn't brought her jacket. Now we know better.

Until our trainer is convinced that everyone can keep their dogs under control and next to their handler she is having us rotate turns inside the arena. So while one team is working, the next team is waiting at the entrance gate, then when team one exits - team two may enter.

Tunnels & Treats
First thing we were introduced to was tunnels, thank goodness the tunnel is expandable/collapsible and can be adjusted in length.
Ziva wanted nothing to do with the tunnel, "No way mom, too scary!". Our trainer lightly held her collar on one end while I attempted to call her through with treats. I was smart and brought both high value treats which for Ziva are chicken hearts, and cheese cubes. But I also brought an ace up my sleeve.
Well the treats weren't working, so out popped the tennis ball!
Ziva's Achilles heel is her tennis ball, I can get her to do pretty much anything if she knows she is going to get that ball at the end.

And sure enough, BOOM through the tunnel she went! The tennis ball is also great because she moves really fast and I can toss the ball to teach her to accelerate through the obstacles. The only challenge is that once the ball is out their is no going back unless we take a solid break.
Everything else is lost, she doesn't care about food or other treats as long as she knows the ball is around.
After that the tunnel wasn't so scary.

Border Collies & Aussies
We are not the only pibble team in class! Granted their are only two of us, but I think that's really awesome! However the other teams are: One golden retriever team, a couple border collies and a few australian shepherds. Those herding dogs are just a whole other level of smart and crazy rolled into one. I've had two different border collies in my past both of which we very different from each other but I had forgotten how much different they are to bully breeds.
The focus and drive is different, herding dogs naturally think outside the box whereas we've had to teach through shaping Ziva to think outside the box.
Herding dogs also excel at solving problems and being creative. Not to say bullies don't do either of these things - its just different.

Circle Time!
We then learned how to run a tight circle around an obstacle, I say "we" but really I mean: how I learned to signal her to run a tight circle around an obstacle. This one wasn't too hard, we started off by luring her around and then I would toss the ball as a reward a couple feet in front of her.
The goal is similar to that of barrel racing, the dog is supposed to take a very tight circle around the obstacle and then accelerate out of the turn. The end goal is that I can signal her from a distance and she'll know what to do.

Again we used the ball and she did great! I was a goof the first successful time around though and out of pure habit hucked the ball with such force and enthusiasm that she sprinted off way down the arena to fetch it back.  Hahaha! Ooops.

After playing in the arena a bit we were instructed on how to run circle with our dogs and were sent home with some homework that she promised we'd be tested on.

I call them our "Silly Circles".

I am supposed to signal Ziva to either my left or right side, she is then supposed to stay on THAT side while we run a circle both counter and clockwise. We should be able to do both directions on each of my sides without her crossing in front of or behind me - OFF LEASH. On a good note she does great off-leash. She knows a proper heel position and stays right where I ask her, but she is more comfortable walking on my left side.

Right vs. Left Side
When walking both dogs we initially trained them to opposite sides, Dante we started on the right with him because when we adopted him he was very reactive (not the same thing as aggressive) towards bicycles and skateboards. By walking him on the bike paths on my right side I was able to be the first point of contact; all the bicycles and such had to pass next to me not him. This worked great because to get at the object that he wanted to eat he'd have to cross me. It didn't take too long to desensitize him towards the bikes and skateboards.

But this meant that when we adopted Ziva I would walk Dante on the right (just out of habit), and Ziva on the left.

On a good note I knew we needed to work on this so before agility started I began introducing the dogs to walking on the same side of my choice, together. Switching it up was a bit confusing for them at first but they are getting it!

Our second class should be a breeze, we've been practicing and so far Ziva is a natural!
She gives great eye contact stays right beside me off-leash, recalls really well, she also tunnels and circles like a champ!

"Anything you say mom, just hand over that ball!"

The key to success?  A high value treat.

In our case, nothing is of higher value than a tennis ball.

Thanks to her obsession we were able to use positive training techniques to teach her to give us her intense focus, not the ball - because if she focuses on us we will give it to her.



  1. You take the time to work with your baby. That's the secret to a well behaved dog. You just can't throw them in the backyard and expect them to be well behaved. I applaud you for all your love and hard work.

    Have a terrific day. ☺

    1. Absolutely! She's my baby after all! :-) I wish more people would put time into training and working with their dogs, because their is soo much love to be experienced when you do. Thanks so much for the love! *wags!*

  2. Sandee is rioht! Your working with your dog pays off= a happy dog! Good for you!

  3. That sounds like an amazing first agility class! I'm also glad that Ziva is doing well at daycare!

    1. Thanks! We certainly had fun! My next post is coming up soon!

  4. What a great way to work with Ziva and use her tennis ball obsession to redirect her attention to you in a positive way. That's awesome! :)

    1. Sometimes one must be creative, but it really paid off learning how to channel her tennis ball drive. :-) *wags!

  5. That sounds like so much fun for you and Ziva, what a great way to bond. My friend's dog, Jack, loves his tennis balls as much as Ziva it seems. It's so helpful for training.

    1. Definitely helps knowing what drives them and motivates them to do things. It makes training soo much easier!

  6. Aww, she looks like such a sweetheart. I'm glad you're doing agility with her. I went through 4 Obedience classes and several Agility classes with my German Shepherd, just because it was so fun for both us, and because she needed the socialization and desensitization. I miss those days. Star died last fall of bone cancer at 13 years old. All the best with you and your dogs. Bravo!

    1. Very sorry for your loss, 13 though! What a grand age. :-) I'm loving agility so far and can't wait until we're more advanced, so we practice all the time. I'd love to be able to set something up at my house but my yard is too small.


Barks & Howls are always welcome!!

Share Me