Is your dog scared of people or other dogs? Is your dog sensitive to noises? Agility training provides the environment and structure to build confidence in your dog. Agility classes are a great place for people to learn about the sport and learn how to exercise, but the shy dog can take a long time before he is ready to venture under the chair or out of the womb.
A scary or shy dog can only learn within their comfort zone. So training must begin where they feel safe and behaviors need to be taught in very small steps. Home will probably be the best place to workout and learn instead of for your dog.
So how do you train at home? You must have guidelines and equipment. There are a variety of websites that give you information about agility training. There are also books and videos that will give details and visual aids and lesson plans for beginners to expert levels.
There are a variety of devices that is useful and helpful to have at home. Equipment recommendations are based on the available space and place of training. You have a large yard that will hold 10 obstacles? Do you have a small yard where you need setup equipment and then demolish it before you setup it again? Get training in the garage or basement, or, like some agility drug addicts, in your living room.
For the anxious dogs make sure your equipment is safe and stable. The break table is a good place to start your agility training. A 12 high break table, with adjustable feet for later use, is a great starting point for all dogs. Remember, with your shy dog, setup your table in an area that is very familiar to your dog. If your dog barks something new, leave the break-table in your house or yard for several days, let your dog examine and smell it on his own or with a little persuasion, but do not press too fast, remember baby steps with the insecure dog. With treats placed in a bowl or his favorite toy on the table will promote your dog to get up on the table. This can take more than an hour to be patient. If your dog anxiously loses interest in food or toys, if you want to try something new hold him, and you sit on the table. If your dog is too big, keep him on a leash and you sit on the table. If he dodges coax only treat or reward him, if he comes to you, never, when he starts again from you or the table.
After all, you want your dog to be able to jump on the table with the cue word, table, box, kennel, whatever word you, stay on the table as you come away and then come when you call. Build your distance slowly so that your dog will not be pressed soon.
From break table to coach contact is a nice transition for shy dog. A contact coach is available in different designs. We recommend a 3-piece contact coach that has a mini-A-frame page, a break table, and then a mini dog walk page. Your dog can sit on the table and then be lured down the A-frame side or the Dog-Walk side. Just remember with the shy dog, the training is done in stages, slow and cozy, with a little push to stretch it, but not enough to overwhelm it to cause a shutdown.
You can use the above techniques of introducing new obstacles as your dog is able to succeed. As your dog grows successfully at each new piece of equipment you see, his confidence grows.
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