Why Problematic Agility Behaviour? 🤔❓️

Those that follow my social media will already know that I have laser targeted the business to focus on problematic agility behaviour. You may be wondering why I’ve done this, so I thought I’d explain.

If you have read my book (if not click here you are missing a treat 😜) you will know why I got involved in agility in the first place. Over the years of teaching I’ve realised it is the behaviour side that lights me up the most. Helping handlers to understand their dogs and WHY they are behaving the way they are is where my passion lies.

Dog behaviour is fascinating and I love agility as a sport – so why not combine the two and help as many handlers as possible to achieve whatever success they desire!

Problematic behaviour in agility isn’t something that is routinely covered in your standard agility classes but it is something that, in my opinion is way more important than the kit itself! If we truly understand what is happening in our dogs world at each moment we are training them, then the training would be far more successful than just training the kit on its own!

There are many fantastic agility trainers that teach the agility skills, both online and offline but what I found has been missing is the dogs emotional state when training! (I get it, I have been there, it is hard when you have a set workshop planned and certain skills people have signed up to train, so I completely understand why it is often overlooked).

Dog behaviour really fascinates me, I am constantly learning new things, taking new courses and updating my knowledge and skills but I found I wasn’t using all this knowledge by just training the agility kit and I was often faced with dogs who weren’t in a place mentally to take in the learning as it was intended.

What a waste not to be able to use my knowledge to help as many handlers and dogs as possible to progress by just a few tweeks to their standard training! Dogs are brilliant and have been bred for many generations to please us, we owe it to them to understand them as much as possible!

If your dog is barking and in high arousal, unless we have taught them certain skills to think when in that state of mind then the training will not be as successful as it could be. If the dog is jumping up and nipping the handler while training or competing, instead of labelling the dog as ‘silly’ ‘crazy’ or ‘stubborn’ ask yourself WHY this is happening. Help the dog out in that situation instead of chastising them, this would be far more beneficial in the long run than giving them a label they don’t deserve! I have never met a crazy or stubborn dog yet in all my years of training – I have however met several that are worried, frustrated or over excited and struggling to understand what their handler is asking them to do in that moment in time!

The spaniels that have all been labelled as ‘just sniffy dogs’ lets look at WHY they are sniffing and help them out with teaching them what we want them to do instead! The collies that lunge and bark on the lead while their handlers are chatting ringside – let’s help them to disengage and learn them an alternative behaviour that will put them in a better mindset to listen when they enter the ring! I could go on with the list but I think you get my point.

Agility is 90% of what you do at home and what the dog is rehearsing day in day out – and I don’t mean on the kit.

A lot of the dogs I work with have success very quickly once their handlers open their mind to this lateral step in their thinking and training. They start to train the dog in front of them and not the one they think they should have on the end of their lead.

Dogs are individual and behaviour can change in an instant. If you look after how your dog feels and make it easy for them to understand what it is you want, then training them the actual agility skills is the easy part!

There is little point in training a dog on kit who is unable to focus due to the environment or distractions!!

I have made this sideways step as that is exactly what I did with Milo when I was training him all those years ago. Back then it was harder as looking at the dogs emotions wasn’t as widely known as it is now. I had to ignore the comments that I was feeding him too much or several other snide remarks I received along the way! I knew I was doing right by him and the effort and training paid off, he is now in grade 7 and for a first agility dog with the new rules of agility progression I would say that is an achievement in itself! Flash has now joined him in grade 7 and it is all down to me understanding their individual needs in each moment of time they are training or competing.

I never have pushed my dogs to perform, I don’t actually train them on kit that often at all, but what I do is understand their needs and look at what areas may need topping up. Confidence, focus, tolerance to frustration, disengagement – all these skills are vital in agility yet none involve jumps, tunnels, weaves or contact equipment! I obviously do have to train them on kit but this is done with all the other things in mind.

So next time you are training your dog agility, really look at the session – are you asking too much? Is the environment challenging them? Are we providing them with a good deal compared to what else is on offer naturally?

If you would like to be kept up to date with my ‘words of wisdom’ (said very loosely) then hit the link below to receive my weekly emails straight to your inbox! These emails will have information and training tips that I don’t post anywhere else!

Happy Training!



Published by KB Agility

Games Based Agility Coach. One to One Agility Training. Small Group Workshops and Seminars. Based in Derbyshire.

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