When a vague Facebook post falsely gave the impression that Novice dogs were being excused and written up at a trial for things like barking and having a case of the zoomies around the agility ring, the internet went wild!
“Tell us who the judges were so we don’t show under them!”, “Judge’s like that ruin it for everyone”, “Who were the sour-puss judges?” and “Report them to the AKC so they get in trouble!” was the theme of the first 44 comments.
The irony is that the situation as it was ‘reported’ was entirely fabricated from little bits of truth, peppered with lots of incorrect assumptions. I know, because I was one of the judges.
At around the 67th comment, the other judge of record stepped in to share that the original poster’s account was inaccurate. At around comment 122, I finally arrived home from my 3-hour drive and was able to provide a clear statement of the facts. By then exhibitors from across the country were well into sharpening their pitch forks and when the unbiased details came out, the tides turned and people were taking aim at the original poster for presenting what they felt was misleading information.
By comment number 193 the post was deleted, however the flood gates on defining inappropriate dog behavior in the agility ring was overflowing with opinions.
Opinions aside, let’s have a direct talk about:
THE 4 BEHAVIORS THAT COULD MEAN TROUBLE FOR YOUR DOG
Starting with the least likely and leading up to the most likely behavior that could mean trouble for your dog:
Barking In The Agility Ring
To state the obvious, dogs bark. Some dogs bark very little, some never bark and then others bark all the time. The good news is that there isn’t a rule preventing dogs from barking in agility and I have never heard of an instance where a judge penalized a dog just for the act of barking during an agility run. The bad news is that owners of barking dogs may face two potential personal negatives:
- A barking dog can attract the attention of other dogs, including the attention of unwanted dogs. Let’s face it, barking dogs can appear more fun and exciting which may entice a party crasher to enter into a barking dog’s space uninvited. While this rarely happens, it’s something all owners (of barkers and those attracted to barkers) should to be aware of.
- In terms of volume, a barking dog can make it difficult for a handler and/or scribe to hear the judge’s table count, point accumulation calls in FAST or Snooker and other verbal directives. Things like leaving the table early or not having the proper obstacle value written on a scribe sheet could cost an agility team a qualifying score. While most judge’s will attempt to speak over a barking dog, it is important for owners to understand that a judge is not required to make a special accommodation (like yelling) for high volume dogs.
A Case of the Zoomies
The zoomies in dog agility are described as random bursts of energy where the dog uncontrollably runs around the ring, sometimes taking a few obstacles along the way. While the zoomies do happen and most handlers are able to regain the dog’s attention and continue their agility run without incident, there are three things handlers need to be aware of:
- A judge will continue to make calls while a dog is zooming around the ring. Things like off-courses, refusals and runout lines are still in play and could result in a non-qualifying run.
- If the dog’s zoomies last for an extended period time and/or the handler is unable to gain control of the dog then a judge may excuse the team from the ring (they are no longer engaging in the agility course as it was designed by the judge), which also means a non-qualifying run.
- If a dog leaves their ring during the zoomies, they immediately earn a non-qualifying score. Additionally, if the zooming dog engages in activities like entering another dog’s agility ring, interacting with other dogs or people, is the cause of any incident, altercation, interruption and/or fails to return to the owner when called, the dog and/or owner could receive stricter penalties up to and including a misconduct.
In dog agility, charging is what a dog does when it rushes towards something. On an agility course, charging toward the next obstacle is a plus. On the other hand, charging toward another dog or person, even if the charging dog is generally friendly and knows everyone involved, could lead to negative consequences.
The act of charging is subjectively tricky because the intent of the charging dog is decided by individual perceptions. Things get even messier when we add in factors like a negative incident during the charge, an unrelated dog or person mistakenly believing they were the one being charged or a dog/person being startled into a reaction as a result of the charge.
Charging toward anything other than an agility obstacle could get an owner, as well as the friendliest of dogs into trouble.
To menace means to threaten to cause evil, harm, injury and/or whose actions, attitudes, or ideas are considered dangerous or harmful. For the safety of both dogs and people, menacing dogs (either in the ring, outside the ring or on the trial grounds) cannot be tolerated and it is important that owners understand that menacing behavior does not require physical contact for a dog to be disqualified, excused and/or written up.
Some examples of a menacing dog can include a combination of behaviors, such as:
- A dog who chooses to leave the agility course to charge, bark and menace a dog or person standing outside the ring.
- A dog who chooses to leave the agility course to charge, bark and menace the judge or ring crew member inside the ring.
- A dog who lunges, barks, menaces and attempts to charge another dog or person while on leash.
- A dog who reaches out with their mouth in an attempt to bite another dog or person.
- A dog who is unprovoked and chooses to snarl and/or bare teeth in a menacing manner.
DO NOT PASS GO…
It should go without saying that any time a dog bites another dog or person, there will be consequences that could range from a lost friendship all the way up to a dog being banned from competing in that agility organization.
Dog agility is a community made up of all sorts of characters. My best advice is to take responsibility for your own team and to focus on quality training that teaches the dog to remain with you (their handler) and embraces distraction training so that the dog learns early on to ignore other dogs and people when appropriate.