>>>Slow and steady doesn't win the race>>>>>
Several years ago Leona Hellesvig and her Cocker Spaniel Ember took a class which was specifically for dogs who had been in agility for a few years but were too slow to make the course time. It was run by trainers Martha Healy, Carol Smorch, Dan Dege and a few other guest instructors, and it lasted for an entire winter which can be a long cold time in Minnesota! The course was called 'Go Crazy, Go Nuts' and it really helped!
What I learned is that every dog does not respond to the same things, and the fix for the problem will not happen in two weeks. A commitment needs to be made for a longer period time, say six months or so, and that during the re-training period, it is better to not do trials and reinforce the old habits.
Some of the things that worked for various individuals:-
1) Build separation anxiety.
2) Never, well almost never lead out
from the start and the table.
3) Practice lots of restrained recalls
and races over obstacles to a prize.
4) Give up the 'stop and wait'
on contacts for slow dogs.
5) Try running the outside of
the curve on the tunnel.
Always do cross in fronts almost always.
7) Re-train the see-saw from
8) Work on speedy weaves
9) Do puppy push ups on a regular
Never, ever run the course faster than your dog.
These things take time. Not every strategy will work for every dog. You have to find out which ones work for your dog by trying them. Actually, there were other things that were tried too, but I don't remember them all!
For me, the biggest part of our recovery came with re-teaching the teeter for the fourth time at least! and with learning to use better handling strategies. I discovered that most of the problems we were having, including the stress-sniffing, and the mad idiot running around the ring when the frustration got bad enough, would come if the dog was unsure or confused by my handling.
How I handled things had a very major impact on the speed I could get out of my dog on any given run. How I handled gave the dog confidence, or confusion in any course situation, and, on any given day, once we were slow for the first run, it sometimes carried on for the rest of the day. So, work hardest on handling!
Keep on working on it. It can be done. I did it, and so did nearly everyone in that class. You can, too!
About the author
She has shown in Conformation, and J+Junior Showmanship classes from about the age of five and Obedience trials since she was about ten years old. In all, she has trained some 20 dogs in Obedience in all three of those breeds, and finished several Obedience titles.
Leona's interest in agility began with a seminar, featuring Sharon Anderson as speaker, held by the local Cocker club in approximately 1987. In 1990, she began teaching agility to Dakota County (Minnesota, USA) 4-H kids. Those beginning years were quite bumpy. It wasn't until about three years later that she actually gained a first-hand knowledge of the sport by training her own dog.
Since then, she has trained two Cocker Spaniels in agility who have taught her so much more about the sport than she ever would have learned by training an 'easy' breed. Through many trials and tribulations, she has learned many lessons the hard way, but says that sometimes those are the ones learned best. She is quite grateful to them.
Many great teachers have helped me along the way, most of whom are not nationally known names. Martha Healy, Debbie Brink, Becky O'Sell, Kathy Eckert, and Ruth Van Kueren come to mind immediately.
Leona still teaches classes to 4-H kids every summer, and is active as a 4-H project leader and dog judge at the county, regional, and state level in Minnesota and Wisconsin. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Article © Leona Hellesvig
Thank you to David and Debbie Deuchar for giving permission to use the photos of Harmar who was a slow dog but is no longer!
Photo: Action Shots.