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Leaving the Ring

It's not funny if it's your dog...

Weíve all seen it... the spaniel that catches a scent in the ring, the lab that clocks the burger van before itís got down the first line, the terrier that would rather be chasing furry things in the undergrowth than doing agility, the collie looking for something to chase or the GSD that thinks it would be more fun to follow the dog in the next ring around its course. Occasionally it is amusing, but often it is very distressing for the owner as well as for any dogs and owners who are caught in the line of these dogs. Claire Bacon gives some tips on how to deal with this problem.

Too many times I have been joined in the ring by someone elseís dog. Luckily for me this has never caused a serious problem. I have just caught my dog and re-started my run, but I know of a lot of situations where it has not ended so well.

I have also been the one with the dog running off. When my dad's terrier Rusty started competing about six years ago he was a nightmare. He had the attention span of a gnat - after about 20 seconds, he would run off and harass the closest dog. Again luckily this never ended badly and people were very understanding, but it could of and we shouldnít have risked putting him in the ring knowing that this could happen. He is now in G7 and has got in to three Champ finals in 2012. I canít remember the last time he ran off.

So how do you deal with it?
You could put perfume under their nose or have a team of people fielding the ring to send your dog back in or rub liver under your fingernails, but is this really going to help you in the long run?

First I think itís important to figure out why your dog is leaving the ring

  • Is it stressed, frightened, nervous?

  • Does it really understand and enjoy what it is doing?

  • Has it had a bad experience in the ring?

  • Does it value being with it's owner?

Here's a few tips on how to deal with the problem.

It may be worth looking at your pre-competition routine. For instance, if you tend to join on the end of a long queue which could take 20 minutes to get to the Start Line, then the chances are your dog will be bored by the time it is your go. If you have someone to help you, ask them to hold your dog until there are only one or two dogs to go. Then spend that bit of time you have with your dog before your run, getting it focused by doing some tricks or playing a quick game. If you don't have someone to help, how about putting your dog in a crate somewhere away form you but close enough that you can get to it when you need to run.

Try not to give too many rewards before you go in to the ring. This way your dog will need to stay with you until the end in order to get their reward.

If something goes wrong on the course don't spend too long fixing it. This just gives your dog more chance of getting distracted. You can gradually build up the amount of time you can spend in the ring once your dog is staying focused for a short time.

When you get to the end of the course make sure your dog's favorite reward is waiting and have a fun game or give him lots of treats.

It will take time to figure out what works for you and your dog, you will need to try different things and tweak them until you get the result you want.

Should rings be fenced at competition?
In theory this could be great for those dog's that do leave the ring, however, how high does the fence need to be to be dog proof? Would it need to be staked to the ground to stop dogs going under it? would it lead people to bring more aggressive dogs to shows feeling more comfortable knowing there dog couldn't come in to contact with other dog's while in the ring?

Personally I feel that fencing ring's isn't the answer. I believe it's up to agility trainers to ensure that the dog's they train will stay in the ring before sending them off to competitions and if the dog is likely to leave the ring the solution to the problem need's to be found before going into competition. Trainers and handlers also need to be open minded enough to know that if they don't have the answer someone else might and not be to proud to ask someone else for help.

If any of these are true of your dog, then you probably need to work on it in a 1-2-1 lesson where the environment can be manipulated to get the best results with your dog. If your dog just gets distracted and forgets itís meant to be doing agility, then a group situation could work.

At Diamond Dog Training, we come across a lot of dogs with these issues and have successfully worked through it within 1-2-1's and regular groups. We run regular workshops where we aim to give as much information as possible so that you can carry on with the work at home and feel prepared for whatever your dog might throw at you.

For more info on what we do go to www.diamond-dog-training.co.uk and www.clairebaconagility.com

About the author...
Claire Bacon is a dog agility trainer and competitor based in the South West. She teach all levels from beginners and puppies up to Grade 7.

She competes with two dogs in G7. Ty, her Border Collie, regularly gets into Champ finals and he is very completive against the best dogs in the country. He has qualified for this years Olympia Semi's at the first attempt and has gained 8 points towards Crufts. Rusty, a Parsons Russell Terrier, is also very competitive in the Medium classes.

Claire has also competed very successfully with her Belgian Shepherd at Crufts and the BSD World championships very successful.

She also has a rescue collie who has just reached G6 and qualified for the Novice Olympia semi's. Her young collie has now won two  Grade 5 classes so needs one more to go G6 and she has qualified for the Novice Pro Plan Final.

First published 30 May 2013