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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Agility Practice at Home - Part III

Agility Part III

In case you missed it!
Agility Part II - Patience
Agility Part IV - Terminology

As promised, we finally made some videos of us practicing!
I was hoping for a sunnier weekend to get some practice in at the field near our house but alas the rain has not let up much, and we received a wind storm to boot! Thankfully we don't mind the storms, in fact it is kind of fun to just curl up in the house, watch a movie, drink wine, and listen to it howl.

We did however have a few minutes of no rain, for fear of sinking deep into the depths of the mud pit we call a field on dryer days we ended up practicing on the street in front of our house.

Just so you know - our street is very safe, it is not a through street and so any cars are residents who live nearby or visitors. It's a long straight stretch and so we can see both directions down the street and have plenty of time to move if we need to.

Here we are practicing, "dig, dig!" This command is used to teach a dog to take a jump and then a tight circle around the jump wing to then return to your side for the next obstacle during an agility trial. She digs in and goes a lot faster when we are in the grass, but unfortunately my yard is also a muddy mess and it's sloped which is no fun for her to practice circles on.

Tight Circle Work

Here we are practicing, "touch". I use this command as a pay attention and look at me command. It helps to break her focus on other objects because it is always followed by a HUGE reward such as a favorite treat or her ball. This command helped us a lot during her fear reactivity phase, we used it to regain her focus when she became distracted by a dog.


We practice off-leash because in agility the dog run's free except for the walk to and from the agility ring. You have to practice this, you can't just start agility without a basic level of training. As you can see though I have a slip leash across my shoulders just in case. Generally speaking though Ziva is golden off-leash because we practice with her so frequently.

She doesn't bolt, stays right by my side, and if she wanders her recall is excellent. Her threshold is much higher than it used to be - What is Threshold Training HERE, My Reactive Ziva 

Our trainer requires new dog/handler teams to take her basic obedience class and a shaping behaviors class before you are allowed to start agility.

Ziva is familiar with shaping and understands the value of a click from my clicker. I use the clicker and yummy treats in the beginning phase of training a new trick and then quickly switch to hand signals and her ball. Why?

Ziva moves slower and pays closer attention to me when I am using treats. As soon as her tennis ball comes out her excitement level increases, her attention drops just a smidge, and she moves a lot faster. The tennis ball is the HIGHEST reward, and she will work really hard to get it.
This is a huge advantage during training, because in agility we want her to move fast! But in the initial training of a new behavior the ball is a little too much and she becomes more easily frustrated so I have to be careful to only use it when she is grasping a new concept.

Adding Distractions
Once a concept is grasped we start to practice in different environments with different levels of distraction. This particular session was extremely distracting for the both of us! With the break in the weather all the neighbor kids were out, 5 to be exact all of elementary school age. They were running, skateboarding, playing basketball, and being noisy.
But the hardest part?  They love Dante and Ziva! So of course they had to come over and wanted to try giving Ziva commands too! Unfortunately for them, I can't allow that. They aren't consistent enough and would mess up my hard work. But I did say they could watch from the sidewalk, and told them that when we were done they could toss her the ball a few times.
Of course watching meant staying the distance I asked but running circles around the trees like Ziva was doing around the bucket, screaming "dig, dig!", and blowing whistles!  Ugh... But it was great practice! Ziva was a champ at ignoring them, she had eyes only for me! And maybe the ball...

During our practice time, the hubby worked on recall with Dante out in the field. Dante has been ignoring us lately when we say, "Come". So we've gone back to high value treats and the basics to brush him up on his recall. After they were done the hubby helped me by filming.

We also like to train new tricks just for fun. Here are a few more!



I hope you enjoyed our training videos!


  1. You guys are doing SO WELL! It's really inspiring! "Touch" is one of our absolute favorites. For some reason, Cooper can not resist a "touch," so we use it whenever he hits a sticky spot or just needs some encouragement. For example, he's afraid of jumping in the back of my husband's car, so we call "touch" with our hand in the back, and he jumps right in!

    1. What a great use of "touch"! Sounds like you guys use it about the same way we do. It's a nice and easy que for if you need a break from learning something harder. :-)

  2. Great videos! I love to see how other people work with their pups. :D All my dogs love the touch cue, and through and around are favorites of Nola's.

    1. We're still working on Dante, he isn't quite as easy to train as Ziva. For some reason he acts like training time isn't fun. :-( I bet Nola is great at running circles, she's such a cutie!

  3. We need to get to work on this stuff. We did a few things but our pawrents have dropped the ball during the winter. Speaking or dropping the ball, this would be an excellent pay-off for me, not so much Stanley as all he wants is food.
    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

    1. Hey Murph! Tell your momma to get on it! The ball makes for super fun training time, cause then you can take breaks and just play fetch.
      Sounds like Stanley is like Dante, there needs to be a treat involved to get his attention too!

  4. Great post and great videos! I've been thinking about agility for the dogs so this is a great read!

  5. The videos were PAWsome, You are inspiring me to take advantage of this dry weather we're still having (no snow yet) and work on some training, Thanks

    1. Yay! Glad we could encourage you to get outside with your pups!

  6. It's great that Ziva loves her tennis ball as a reward!

  7. That's the perfect distraction, skateboarding kids! Thanks for sharing the videos!

  8. Loved the videos! I need to find my clicker! You and Ziva are doing so well, awesome!


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