Our short stint with Agility classes

Well as you might have guessed from the title we have stopped going to the Agility class! We attended a grand total of 2 classes and the 2nd class, which was on Tuesday last week, was enough to make my mind up that it was not for us. I’ll first fill yous in a bit about our positive first class experience.

At the first class we were taught how to do “round” and “twist” on the jumps which I believe is also called wrapping jumps. We also practised doing stand and waits before the jumps as we still haven’t successfully taught Bonnie a stand cue (the shame!).

After, we had a practise in the agility area which was great fun. Bonnie had never been on AstroTurf before and was already excited from all the jump practise and lots of high energy praise so she had zoomies all over, tucking her little butt in and making her grumbly noises which was hilarious. After she calmed a bit we practised going through the tunnel and doing some jump work.

The first class was loads of fun, Bonnie really enjoyed it and there wasn’t really anything that I was uncomfortable with so I was pretty excited about going to the next one. The next class started out similar in that we practised wrapping the jumps but then we started adding distance so that I could send her to the jump. Unfortunately this is where it started going downhill, I will try my best to describe what happened and stay calm but I am still a bit shook up over it and also wish that I stepped in slightly earlier – that’s what happens when I give people the benefit of the doubt!

The person who was instructing us started to demonstrate how to do the sending to the jumps better or increase drive or whatever (I am not well versed in agility training) by holding onto the collar, egging her on and then “pushing” with the collar towards the jump. At first Bonnie seemed happy enough with this as she was enthusiastic about doing the jump and all the treats and fuss she got. She seemed happy enough with me doing that but as I was not “doing it right” the person demonstrated a few more times the “correct” technique, at this point Bonnie seemed pretty tired out and was getting a bit fed up so after doing the jump she would start wandering away – which should’ve been our first hint.

The person said that because Bonnie did not come back on the first command when she wandered away (I wasn’t using a formal recall command I was just like c’mon Bonnie so wasn’t a big deal) that I should go get her and make her come back otherwise she would learn to ignore me – should’ve been our 2nd warning. So after a few more goes at the jump she just wanted to wander off more which should’ve been a sign that we should’ve taken a break but the person insisted on showing the “correct technique” several more times and once again she wandered off, the person called her and she didn’t come (why would she, she had only met you twice and you’re clearly annoying her!) so he went over and tried to bring her back to the jump.

I don’t remember exactly what happened next as I was looking down to get some treats out to do a recall, either he tried to pull her back with her collar or she jumped up and he grabbed her collar, she got fed up and wanted to be let go but he wouldn’t so she growled and he still didn’t let go, this is when I looked up and seen her little face – she was absolutely terrified of being restrained by him. I seen red and while storming towards him said very loudly, but not quite shouting, something along the lines of “Stop that let her go. Don’t you dare. You have no idea how long we have spent building up her confidence, she used to be such a nervous dog” He looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up and I thought good now you know a bit how Bonnie felt whenever you manhandled her. I immediately leashed up Bonnie, got myself sorted and left the class. On the way out the trainer asked my partner what was going on, my partner was diplomatic and said that she had lost her confidence and the trainer offered us to take a break in the sand ring nearby and to come back and try in a bit. By that point I was already adamant on leaving so we came on home and needless to say we won’t be returning.

Thankfully Bonnie seems to have suffered no lasting effects from that incident. She’s still her usual self. I am still furious about the incident but I have decided to take positives from it;

  1. It’s given me more confidence to stand up for Bonnie, I didn’t care in the slightest what others thought or if they thought I was “making a scene” all I cared about was getting Bonnie away from him and I will definitely be more proactive in preventing incidences like this happening in future
  2. Bonnie’s well being will always be more important than training objectives or competitiveness or doing things the “correct” or “usual” way
  3. We will work on positively reinforcing a collar grab – although she doesn’t mind us doing it, a stranger might need to do it in future for example in the unlikely chance of her straying or getting lost
  4. We will continue to do our own completely amateur agility training at home because Bonnie enjoys it and I don’t care if I can teach it properly or not as it’s only for fun and not for competitions
  5. It’s cemented in my mind about how in future I want to foster nervous, shy and sensitive dogs (most likely collies as we have so many in our pounds 😦 ) and rehabilitate them to show them the world is not a scary place and to prepare them for home life through positive training such as low stress grooming and handling etc

So I guess if there is something to take from all this its the following;

Be an advocate for your dog. You know your dog best and what is comfortable for your dog. Do not let any person bully you into doing something you are uncomfortable with or take suspect advice from, whether it’s a trainer (professionally qualified or not), groomer, vet or the guy at the dog park with the well behaved dog. Follow your gut instinct and always do your own research into training methods – will this be helpful or harmful to the bond between you and your dog? Whether that’s long term or short term? Ours dogs look to us for comfort and safety so let’s not abuse that trust by blindly listening to or following others bad advice.

It’s been a bit of a rant post so to leave on a positive note, here’s a photo of Bonnie who is a toy resource guarder chewing her ball beside me and she was even enjoying some pets – I can tell she doesn’t enjoy petting when she stops chewing her ball and she was happily chewing away!


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15 thoughts on “Our short stint with Agility classes

  1. Oh bless you both, how horrible 😦

    I am so incredibly impressed and inspired by the way you stood up for her, that made my heart swell!

    I’m crap at telling people to leave Kasper alone when they’re already interacting with him – I can ask them to stop or back off easily before they get to him, and I can say “oh we’ll get going now, I think he wants to carry on with his walk!”, but I struggle with outright asking them to stop because they’re making him uncomfortable. It gets harder if they’re talking and I’d have to interrupt them, or if it’s someone we know. I LOVE the way you did it, I want to say a huge ‘well done’ without it coming across as weird or at all condescending…it’s hard to get the tone right through writing XD

    That trainer was an absolute idiot to do all that he did. I always think when something like that happens, how dare these absolute morons risk all the confidence training we’ve put into our dogs?! When we hadn’t had Kasper very long (less than 4 months) we were finally seeing improvement. He’d just had a fairly confident, happy hello to this man we didn’t know, then this tosser grabbed either side of his face and peered right into Kasper’s eyes to “see if his eyes were both the same colour”!!! I was a dog noob and even then didn’t say anything, but I cried about it afterwards and really beat myself up about it.

    Ugh, people.

    I love points one and two in your list, amazing, and the photos are wonderful as ever 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you I really appreciate that and it doesn’t come across as weird I totally get you 🙂
      Yes I agree that it’s very easy to block people before they interact – the other day I had to step in front of Bonnie and tell a kid to stop don’t touch because their parent wasn’t looking and only then the parent was like no I told you not to touch dogs -_-

      Honestly I was so furious that it happened but I’m just so glad that there seems to be no fallout from it. They honestly don’t understand how one bad interaction can set some dogs back months of training, just because some other dogs are “bombproof” doesn’t mean you can treat all dogs the same and just because your dog that has a relationship with you appreciates something doesn’t mean a dog that doesn’t know you will like it!

      Ah that sucks so bad it’s honestly the worst because you feel like you failed them when in an ideal world we shouldn’t have to defend our dogs against the ignorant and sometimes cruel actions of others.

      Honestly when I got Bonnie I had the intentions of trying out lots of dog sports and could see the appeal of the competitive side of things but getting to know Bonnie, building her confidence and experiencing some of the apparently awful training scene around here I’m perfectly fine being an amateur and not going to proper classes, after all I got Bonnie with no previous dog or training experience so think I’m doing okay by myself so far 🙂 well at least I like to think so lol as when I was a kid I actually used to be afraid of dogs haha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We were told that one of the first rules of training was to make sure that what you want your dog to do, was much more exciting that what your dog wanted to do! If they lose interest and wander off or get otherwise distracted, then clearly that basic rule was not followed effectively. To then take charge and try and force cooperation is (to me) just plain “old school” domination training which I have no time for.

    It would be interesting to see somebody try and force our Ray to do something like that. If a person (he did not have a relationship with) grabbed his collar and pulled, he/she would have an 80lb dead weight to deal with which would growl, and quickly escalate his response in accordance to his survival instincts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it definitely was a case of she was having fun first of all but was clearly getting a bit tired or fed up, I had no intentions of trying to ‘force’ her back as you say that’s just old school and not what I’m interested in. I was getting her attention back by asking her to touch and high five and being excitable and loads of praise and treats for coming back but apparently that was not good enough as she took ‘too long’. Can you hear me roll my eyes from there? Lol
      It would definitely not end well for the person attempting that! I don’t understand what they would expect to happen, if a dog is scared they will go into flight or fight mode, when you take away their option to flee you really only leave them with one choice!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Honestly I’ve never seen this in agility before. It’s popular to “rev them up” at the flyball club I go to though so I know what you’re on about and honestly I think it’s really counterproductive (both in agility and flyball). Especially in already excitable dogs because they lose focus and end up with zoomies in my experience. For our training class, we’re told that the goal for the start line is a really solid wait and the dog being focused what’s going on which just isn’t possible if you’re behind them hyping them up :\ I definitely think you were right to leave and I probably would have done too, unless your dog is being dangerous I see absolutely no reason for a stranger to grab them at all so definitely would be unimpressed with a supposed trainer doing it. Really well done on telling him, it is hard and I’m guilty of being overly polite even when telling people they need to back off for their own safety when I should probably be more blunt

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I was a bit confused by it as well since as you said it just seemed silly to excite her to the point where she couldn’t listen or focus as well. I was definitely unimpressed they really shouldve known better, thanks it’s definitely hard sometimes to be blunt with people especially if they are someone you have to see often or an ‘authoritive’ figure like a trainer etc. I’ve had a few times now where I have had to tell kids to stop and don’t come near so I’m slowly gaining confidence and learning not to care what other people think as after all I have to live with the effects they have on Bonnie whereas they go home and probably immediately forget about the weird lady with the dog haha

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh definitely, I know exactly what you mean about authority figures – I didn’t say something the other night when I should have done 😦 but I’ve just shouted at a guy this evening who completely ignored that MiMi was trying to rip him to pieces in favour of talking to the two of them O.o scary people!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. He definitely was and he then had the cheek to give us dirty looks like it’s all our fault as he goes ‘oh are they aggressive?’ Like no you tool she’s terrified

        Liked by 1 person

  4. One must accept the fact that some dog trainers, just like doctors, dentists and other professions just do not keep up with modern techniques of their profession and/or are simply burned out but have insufficient drive to find a more rewarding profession.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely it also seems that they think because it “works most of the time” or because it produces “results”, never mind the relationship between dog and owner , then why find a better way?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Domination training most certainly works, and so does hitting a teenager over the back of the head with a 2″ x 4″ ……. but clearly that does not prove that its the right thing to do! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. 1) Agility is supposed to be fun! It stinks that this trainer doesn’t seem to go about it in a fun way. 2) Don’t give up on agility – just that trainer. If you and Bonnie both like it, find someone else to work with.
    In all of my agility training (two dogs) we have never used “hands on” the dog (I agree with delladooo above^). Occasionally a light guide in a direction but most all agility training is done with food reward / food guidance. It sounds like this particular trainer is focused on competition training and perfection instead of the beginner trying to have fun with her dog.
    I’m sorry it turned out so badly – but be proud of yourself for sticking up for Bonnie! You’re a good Mom!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes we’re definitely more interested in the fun side of it! For us it’s just another way to get Bonnie mentally and physically tired while doing some bonding through training 🙂
      We are going to do some training ourselves for the moment, I will look into other trainers again at some point but unfortunately that trainer was a bit of a last ditch effort as no where close to us would respond to our messages or have suitable class times so was a bit disappointing that it didn’t work out. I’m just glad there’s been no lasting effects on Bonnie! Thanks, it’s sometimes difficult standing up to an “authority” figure but Bonnie doesn’t have a voice so I got to use mines for her 🙂


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