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madison has been in beginning agility for 5 weeks now and she loves it. she has no fear and
once she starts she doesn't want to stop. the only problem we seem to be having right now is sniffing. if anyone has any advice for us i would love to hear it. i have pictures of maddie but i don't know how to post them.
 

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I have trained 3 bassets and 2 beagles in agility and sniffing has not been a problem the Harrier on the other hand - . Here is what I have learned about it. Hope it helps. For other perspectives you should consider joining the BassetAgility group.

There is cliche in agility and obedience that the handler must be more interesting than dirt. Not altoghether true, the Dog must find the handler more rewarding than dirt. When we moved from training in a relatively sterile environment of indoors on thick rubber mats to a horse area Zephyr was having a hard time keeping focus. It took about six weeks but we never had a problem afterwards. We would go to the training facility but not do one bit of agility. She was reward at a very high rate for attention and depending on the transgression perhaps a time-out for sniffing. once we were confident she was unlikely to sniff we then added agility back into the mix only single obstacle no sequences to start and slow built up to longer sequence.

For Fischer the harrier sniff is a default stress releaving behavior. If I asked to much or push to much or repeat to often then sniffing shows-up.
It is a clear indication to me that I have to change how I am training, make it esier for him etc.

Attention in Agility

Attention

Teaching "Leave It"

If you were to join the bassetagility group and ask the same advice you are sure to get the following responce. Never use food on a target or the ground or on the contact obstacles because it encourages sniffing. I have never found that to be a problem and if food/reward only come for the handlers hands it discourages when of the most necessary behaviors in agility the ability to work ahead of the handler. That said the reason for this advice can be found in the following article Instinctive Drift
Instinctive drift is the TENDENCY for a learned behavior (for trainers, that means a trained behavior) to trigger innate behaviors. The closer the similarity (topography) between the learned behavior and an innate behavior, the more likely the occurrence of the underlying innate behavior.

... In training, especially when the trainer is inexperienced or unobservant, the animal may begin to emit the innate behavior, say, head shaking or chewing by a dog during a retrieve, and be reinforced (clicked and fed) for that little piece of unwanted behavior buried in the overall wanted retrieve behavior. The timing issue, always important, is especially critical when teasing out or trying to separate wanted from unwanted behaviors. When instinctive behavior is reinforced by the trainer, even inadvertently, it can become very strong very fast, and very difficult to extinguish later on. This is just one reason why early training can be important, and the criteria for early trained responses should be carefully thought out.
It is possible for a lure/reward placed on the ground to become a reward for sniffing.


Another common area of sniffing is after giving a reward in the middle of a sequence. Sometime you want to reward in the middle of a sequence but hounds in general have a hard time getting start again because the reward is a signal that the job is done. One way to train through this is to have a few different food rewards with very different values to the dog. When doing a sequence reward with a lower value treat and continue on and reward with a higher value treat.
The same can be done with food on targets and this mitigates the possibility of instinctual drift because if the dog beleaves there is a higher reward awaiting farther don the line it is not going to sniff around for the last bit of the lesser value one. Another option is not even try to continue. Let the reward be the end of the exercise. Set the dog up to start again either at the beginning of the sequence or where you left of but make a conscious effort to be sure the dog is ready and you have its attention.
 
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