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Thanks, Jack. Like I said, I'm willing to try the technique with my younger dog, because I don't feel as concerned about problems with him. Perhaps that's all it would take to build my confidence. We'll see!

FWIW (and considering I haven't read the thread in the completeness it deserves), Christy, I coddle Rocky. I expect him to knock bars, for example, so I set him up for nice approaches, and he still knocks bars.
When I run him like I run Friday working behind him, running fast, rear crosses, pushing him outside, and cetera it starts to come together. As it turns out, he's not as frail as I once convinced myself he was.

Matt. Rocky's a Dog.
Well, you are probably quite correct, and I may be overestimating his softness. Still, I would prefer to try whatever ... because if I do it wrong, which is very possible, I could cause problems that won't be easy to overcome.

Back away from it for a minute and try to think objectively about what you need to accomplish. You want him to take responsibility for holding that ball in his mouth through a sequence of other behaviors. To do that he has to become accountable for holding it and you are going to have to teach him that accountability.FWIW, I haven't found many herding breed dogs that initially like the Hold much. I think you really have to be far more enthusiastic in teaching them Take and Give to counteract that, and I spend a lot of time teaching them those components first to make sure they enjoy them before tackling a long Hold. When I do start them on Hold, I make sure to keep my voice quiet, crooning, with matching hand pressure & stroking over muzzle and top of head. I'll proof it by touching the item in his mouth, varying the kind of items I ask him to Hold, and tickling under his chin so he knows not to spit it out until the Give command - all stationary before asking him to move while Holding.

At that point you can turn it into a game - have him Hold your car keys while heeling to the car, etc. There is a point where you are going to have to insist he Hold, but it doesn't have to be a big force thing if you've set up the rest of the training well.
Lynn K.
Well, according to what I've learned, cheering on a slow performance reinforces it, rather than speeding the dog up.

I would highly doubt that.

I've seen it happen. One thing that I've seen, more than once, is not so much that the cheering reinforces the slowness in the sense of rewarding it, but in the sense of distracting/stressing the dog. The handler stresses about the dog's slowness and pressures the dog with the cheerleading, however inadvertently.
IOW the dog slows down in response to the handler being a bit frenetic; it can be because the handler's stress makes the dog uncertain, because the dog is literally trying to calm the handler, and/or because the cheerleading sends confusing/distracting signals.
The other is classic reinforcement- the dog percieves the cheerleading as praise for going slowly, so the dog thinks that's what's wanted.

Another major reason that newbie handlers - especially those with a background in Obedience- end up with slow dogs is due to too much focus on getting the course right, as was discussed in the thread about fetching. If the dog is constantly called back and corrected because the HANDLER has made a mistake, the dog loses enthusiasm and drive.
It's entirely natural for some dogs to slow down when distractions are introduced. Have you ever tried training with the same kinds of distractions you'd encounter at a comp?

The problem with that suggestion (and it's a perfectly reasonable one) is that it's basically impossible to do. You can replicate some competition-type distractions in practice- such as having classmates act as the "judge" and "ring crew" - but it's not possible to replicate the full-blown competition atmosphere.
The closest you can get is going to fun matches and run-throughs, which aren't available in some areas, but it still isn't quite the same thing. IMO, the only way you can proof for real competition distraction is to compete. I, personally, start entering competitions with a green dog with the mindset that's it's expensive practice. If the dog happens to qualify (my JRT actually earned a title in her first trial), great. But I don't expect it on a regular basis until the dog matures & gets a bit seasoned. With my second and third dogs, it also helped that they attended trials before they started competing- Rocsi (the JRT) "debuted" at 20 months, but she'd been going along to trials since she was 15 weeks old.

There's another factor, btw, which a lot of people don't pick up on: one of the major distractions/problems dogs can face in agility competition is the HANDLER. People tend to get nervous/excited/stressed, and inadvertently change the way they handle.
I've seen it happen. One thing that I've seen, more than once, is not so much that the cheering reinforces the slowness in the sense of rewarding it, but in the sense of distracting/stressing the dog.

I agree with the latter, not so much the former. Just like any training with distractions, when they're first introduced, tend to slow down the dogs' reactions, performance, etc.
But we train every day by heavily rewarding/praising even the first hints of a correct response, and without inhibiting the dog's future ability to respond even faster, or better, etc., down the line.

So I'd probably have to see what you're talking about to better understand it.
The other is classic reinforcement- the dog percieves the cheerleading as praise for going slowly, so the dog thinks that's what's wanted.

Again, I suppose it's possible, but I just don't see it as very likely.
Another major reason that newbie handlers - especially those with a background in Obedience- end up with slow dogs is ... dog is constantly called back and corrected because the HANDLER has made a mistake, the dog loses enthusiasm and drive.

No disagreement there.

Handsome "Jack" Morrison
*gently remove the detonator to reply via e-mail
Q: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation. A: Why is top posting frowned upon?
But we train every day by heavily rewarding/praising even the first hints of a correct response, and without inhibiting the ... or better, etc., down the line. So I'd probably have to see what you're talking about to better understand it.

I can see where it's hard to picture when you're not familiar with the way agility handling works... it's a bit tricky in text, but I'll take a stab at it.
The dog is being asked to perform an obstacle course, at speed, with no idea of the pattern of the course - remember, the course is different every time. The dog must take all direction, via body language and verbal commands, from the handler, who is also moving. Agility is somewhat like a high-speed dance, with the handler being the leading partner. IOW, the dog has to listen and respond to verbals, run as fast as possible, negotiate obstacles, and watch the handler with peripheral vision - all at the same time. With the average dog, this is happening at speeds of 3-4 yards PER SECOND; faster dogs can push up to near 6 YPS. (Rocsi's fastest time, to date, was 5.95 YPS.)
A command mistimed by a mere fraction of a second can send the dog the wrong place, or cause the dog to knock a bar down.

If you add in cheerleading- which is meaningless in terms of telling the dog where to go next - the dog may be forced to slow down in order to concentrate on the verbal chatter and pick out the commands that actually mean something.
Additionally, many handlers who cheerlead do things like hand-clapping, turning and looking back at the dog, etc., which can be meaningless - and in fact, can be downright confusing - in terms of where the dog is actually supposed to go next. Handclapping, in particular, can create both sound AND arm movement which may not have any real relation to where the handler needs the dog to go.
Last but not least, giving praise will cause many dogs to look directly at the handler - again, this detracts from the dog's ability to sucessfully negotiate the course, because you then have to direct the dog's attention back away from you.
Verbal praise given mid-course really needs to be minimal - "Yes!" or "Good!" - and has to be timed in such a way that it doesn't distract the dog from what's coming next. If you need to "cheerlead" to speed a dog up, IMO it's best to try to do so when you're out ahead of the dog, and the dog's path is clear - IOW you're asking the dog to speed up over the obstacle(s) directly in line between you and the dog- or when the dog is, say, running over the dogwalk & doesn't have to think about where to head next.
Which leads to the additional observation that "cheerleading" tends not to be specific praise for a dog doing one thing right, but sort of general verbal chatter & encouragement. Some "cheerleaders" literally cheer- they yell things like "woohoo!" as they go along.
But we train every day by heavily rewarding/praising even the first hints of a correct response, and without inhibiting the dog's future ability to respond even faster, or better, etc., down the line.

Meant to respond to this, also... yes, and the same is of course true of agility.
To clarify a bit, the cheerleading/slowdown issue is something that happens most often when you get past the very beginning stages - where the dog is learning individual obstacle performance and short sequences - and into running actual courses, even if they're short ones. Most often, however, the problem STARTS in the beginning phases of learning sequences. The cheerleading doesn't start there, but the slowdown does- again, this is a common problem for beginning handlers who get too hung up on getting things right, or on their own mistakes, and don't realise how it demotivates the dogs.
The slowdown causes the handler to start cheerleading, which puts more pressure on the dog and can slow the dog's performance down even more for the reasons I brought up in the other post.
As a side note, I suspect that most people who haven't done agility don't entirely grasp, when they visualize agility training, that a vast majority of what's taught in agility classes is HANDLING. IOW, the classes are as much to train the handlers in how to direct the dogs as they are to train the dogs to respond to the handlers.
So a beginning team tends to have struggles with communication because the handler is learning as much as the dog is, and often doesn't realize how that's affecting the dog.
A good agility instructor, of course, will make it clear to the beginning handlers & hopefully minimize the problem, but unfortunately I think many instructors aren't as aware of the phenomenon as they should be. (Witness Gwen's post, in the "fetch" thread, about being more aware than her instructor is of how "fixing" things demotivates her dog.)
But we train every day by heavily rewarding/praising even the ... to see what you're talking about to better understand it.

I can see where it's hard to picture when you're not familiar with the way agility handling works... its a bit tricky in text, but I'll take a stab at it.

I've watched it a few times, but know very little about it.
The dog is being asked to perform an obstacle course, at speed, with no idea of the pattern of the ... time. The dog must take all direction, via body language and verbal commands, from the handler, who is also moving.

Yes, I've seen quite a few of them (handlers) take some pretty nasty tumbles, too.
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If you add in cheerleading- which is meaningless in terms of telling the dog where to go next - the dog may be forced to slow down in order to concentrate on the verbal chatter and pick out the commands that actually mean something.

Gotcha.
Additionally, many handlers who cheerlead do things like hand-clapping, turning and looking back at the dog, etc., which can be ... sound AND arm movement which may not have any real relation to where the handler needs the dog to go.

Gotcha even more. That sounds like it could get pretty confusing for the dog.
Confusion = slowness.
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Verbal praise given mid-course really needs to be minimal - "Yes!" or "Good!" - and has to be timed in ... to speed a dog up, IMO it's best to try to do so when you're out ahead of the dog,

From what I've observed in the training of retrievers, you can't do much about a dog's speed. As the old saying goes, "You can't coach speed." He's either got it or he doesn't. With that said, you can do a lot of things to build up a dog's general confidence and enthusiasm, which will eventually translate into increased speed in the field, at least to the extent the dog was born with it.

When you talk about getting "out ahead" of the dog, that's pretty much what we do to gin up a retriever pup's enthusiasm, too, starting very early. For example, when I send a young pup out on a retrieve, I'll run out behind him, say half way, and when he starts the run back, I'll do some "cheerleading" myself, often running backwards/sidewards, shouting encouragement, etc.
Which leads to the additional observation that "cheerleading" tends not to be specific praise for a dog doing one thing right, but sort of general verbal chatter & encouragement. Some "cheerleaders" literally cheer- they yell things like "woohoo!" as they go along.

Do they wear short skirts and jump up and down a lot, too? If so, I may have to look into this agility thing a little more. Emotion: smile

Handsome "Jack" Morrison
*gently remove the detonator to reply via e-mail
Q: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation. A: Why is top posting frowned upon?
Gotcha even more. That sounds like it could get pretty confusing for the dog. Confusion = slowness.

Bingo.
Another factor is inadvertently training the dog to "check in" with the handler too much; you want the dog to be aware of/tuned in to you, but not slowing down and looking AT you for direction all that much.
From what I've observed in the training of retrievers, you can't do

much about a dog's speed. As the old saying goes, "You can't coach speed." He's either got it or he doesn't.

Same in agility, with of course the difference that all sorts of dogs compete. And there's the universal factor of keeping the dog fit, as well; quite a few of the slower dogs I see in agility could benefit from taking off a few pounds.
The major difference between retriver work and agility is that in agility, the handler is also running the course. Most of us can't run as fast as our dogs (I sure as hell can't run 5.95 YPS!), so the dog has to be able to work at both lateral and forward distance from the handler if the dog is going to maintain a high speed.
If the dog isn't sure what the handler wants, or is worried about making mistakes, the dog may slow down to keep pace with the handler.
With that said, you can do a lot of things to build up a dog's general confidence and enthusiasm, which will eventually translate into increased speed in the field, at least to the extent the dog was born with it.

This, too, is also true of agility. Unfortunately, what happens can be the reverse- too much focus on accuracy/correct performance, especially at the beginning level, can reduce confidence and enthusiasm, with consequent loss of speed.
IME, it's much harder to put the enthusiasm/speed back in, once lost, than it is to fine-tune control.
A lot of agility handlers go through it, at least to some extent, with their first dog. I was very lucky in that Brenin, my first dog, is A. fast but not superfast (so I didn't slow him down as much as I might have, and it was easier to learn to handle him) and B. naturally tuned in to me most of the time and C. extremely forgiving. He was an ideal beginner's dog.
Do they wear short skirts and jump up and down a lot, too? If so, I

may have to look into this agility thing a little more. Emotion: smile

Heh. Jump up and down, sometimes- short skirts, definitely not. And the worst "cheerleader" I've ever seen and heard was a short, roundish MAN, who ran three Pomeranians. He had an unnerving habit of yelling "Whoo!" and "Whee!" in a falsetto voice while on-course. (No, he didn't talk that way off course.)
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