Monday, November 2, 2015

Harlow's First USDAA Agility Trial - advice needed!

Good Dog Agility sponsored USDAA agility trail this past weekend and I entered Harlow.  While we didn't place we definitely had a great time and I learned a lot!
Driving to the show...
Waiting our turn...
Making new friends...
Sleep pup!
So my question...

Harlow is EXTREMELY friendly and is easily distracted by people she wants to make friends with, which is just about everyone.  While she is getting better at practice, it really comes out in trials where she is seeing a lot of new faces.  Here is the important part:

Harlow prefers people to treats and toys.  Even if I have some tasty morsel or her favorite toy, she will always run over to people to make friends. 

Any suggestions on how I can redirect her enthusiasm?  She has a wonderful recall (except for in the ring) and just minutes before I went in with her we were practicing it.  Everyone I ask starts with "take a treat" or "grab a toy", and that just won't work with her.  Take a look at the video below - you'll see what I mean. 

If the video won't play, click on this link here.  Thanks, everyone!


  1. I'm thinking she has a future as a therapy dog. That's pretty funny - she really does love people!

    I wish I could help you out - but I have no idea how to make a dog love people less. I believe dogs like that can really benefit from some sort of environment where they get to meet lots of people in therapy or similar program.

  2. We agree with Blueberry - maybe her direction is elsewhere - being that people friendly she would make an awesome therapy dog - much like Bert - visiting those sick in hospital. When Reilly was younger we use to do hospice visits, the veterans home and the deaf school (he learnt sign language so the kids could talk to him) Look into getting her GCC (Good Canine Certificate)

  3. Oh bless her, love that she gave the trials a go. I haven't got any advice, our William wouldn't have got as far as Harlow did that's for sure!

  4. You are such a social butterfly, Harlow! We don't have any advice but we loved your video!

  5. Awww! Maybe Harlow would be happier doing something else? She could put the energy toward active tricks -- but do them as part of therapy work? Visiting nursing homes or hospitals -- or airports, like Bert does? She's such a sweet, sweet girl!!!
    We both love people, too. It's part of what our mom loves about us.

  6. Hahaha! *ahem* Nice work, Harlow. I'm sure all the officials LOVED getting the Harlow of Happiness greeting! I have no advice whatsoever, as Abby was deemed "too enthusiastic" to be a therapy dog. I'm sure she would be too enthusiastic to do agility with any degree of success, either. However, I LOVED the video. It made my day!

    -Dr. Liz

  7. I don't know the answer either; just wanted to say Harlow, you are adorable!

  8. Well....having a great time and learning a lot, has to be good. We don't have any advice because we're terriers....not known for obedience or agility.

  9. We do not do Agility for anything more than fun, but my handsome friend Simon does lots, and does very well up here in Canada!

    His person sometimes has my person help train this sort of thing... Simon gets set up to start, and then my person (or any of the other interesting people) suddenly appear. Simon has to complete his run before he gets to say "hi!" If he pops out of the equipment then all the fun people walk away and leave the barn or get back into their cars so he cannot get to them. But if he finishes his run and listens well to his person, THEN he gets attention and pets and he even gets to play with the people!

    My person calls this controlling the reinforcement. I just call it silly, because why shouldn't Simon just get to say "hi" whenever he wants?


  10. Oh, gosh, we know nothing about agility training, but she sure is adorable. We bet there are some agility experts out there who must have some training tips. Otherwise, yep - you have a therapy dog all set and ready to go:)

    Woos - Ciara and Lightning

  11. Loved seeing Harlow in action, what fun!! I also don't have any advice for you, but I have several friends who do agility with their dogs -- I'll ask them, and see if they have any thoughts for you.

    1. And I do have to say, that I know it's (probably) frustrating for you to see her run off to see her friends, but you can see she's having great fun and it gave me a grin! :-)

  12. First, that is a very Golden reaction to a first trial! I have seen it many times! The Goldens just love to visit! It is also a stress relieving activity. A lot of it is just that it is all so new to her. It tends to go away after attending more trials and continuing with the training. In your area, can you find a practice match, one where you can do some training and correction in the ring? Some of the dog clubs in my area hold "run-thrus" that are structured just like a trial, but you can take food or toys in the ring (I know she's not that interested in that), or touch/catch her to stop the visiting before it starts. Also, at a real trial, if you get three or four obstacles successfully before she runs off, just stop your run, grab your dog, thank the judge and head for the treat bag. This way she gets in and out of the ring without "self-rewarding" by visiting new friends. Eventually she will learn that the game with you is more fun than the other folks. It's all so new right now, she hasn't learned that yet. I think she actually did quite well taking direction from you!

  13. I wish I could give you advice but I know nothing about agility courses/training. Wish I did because I think Bella would have loved it if I had gotten her into it at a young age. One thing I can tell you is how much joy yours and Harlow's video brought me. I couldn't stop smiling! Whether she does agility or becomes a therapy dog, she'll continue to bring happiness to everyone she meets. :)

  14. Easy has the same problem and I fear the moments not even the tastiest treat will work, because he has to say hello to a dog or a human ... Maybe Earl&Ethel have an idea, they are Agility-pro's :o) earl&ethels blog:

  15. This may be extremely unhelpful, in which case, apologies. But, ultimately, interacting with friends is far more important than winning agility trials, isn't it? Why not let Harlow enjoy life ad do what she can in the ring, even if that means not winning?

  16. I had a dog, Angel K, who loved nothing more than making new friends. Because we didn't compete, I didn't worry about totally "fixing" the issue so that she'd ignore new people. However, my trainer said many times that I needed to make myself more fun than anyone else by "building my value". Over time, if a dog consistently gets something that she loves by being with you and gets nothing from the other people she goes to (like the people she approached in the ring), she will eventually start choosing you.

    Susan Garrett has a great online program called "Recallers" which is a year-long training program for your dog. It's all about building value for being with and listening to you. It also spends a lot of time "building your value" to your dog. It is pricey so another option is to buy a copy of her book, Ruff Love, and try to follow the program in it. It's out of print (I think) but I found a used copy on Amazon.

    I always thought that Angel K might be a good therapy dog but she never became calm enough about meeting new people to be ready for it. Harlow might be in a similar point because she loves new people soooo much!

  17. I know. Try fruit as a treat to distract her. :)

    I agree with Taryn. When Harlow decides visiting people is more fun than the course, simply stop the trial and take her out and away from the people. Put the leash in your pocket so you can put it on the first time she runs. In that way she doesn't get rewarded for seeking out the people. She's a clever girl and I think she will soon recognize that if she runs to others the game is over.

    We have had Goldens (still have one) and while they didn't do agility, they did a lot of obedience training and we had the same problem in that they loved the people and were easily distracted. As KB noted, you have to make Harlow more interested in pleasing you than in visiting other people. And that means Harlow cannot get any secondary reward by breaking away.

  18. Well praise Harlow for loving everybody and being friendly. I think it will take time for her to realize her assignment but things will calm down and come together.
    Sweet William The Scot

  19. Every dog is different, but I would embrace her people friendliness, perhaps she was made just to make her people happy,a good thing in a therapy dog,phyllis

  20. It will take years to turn her against mankind and into a cynical canine. ;)