CATCHING PEN WOES?

From time to time I see dogs chasing well, but for seemingly no reason they stop short of the catching pen, turn around, and run back to the starter boxes.

This raises a few issues; but the main two are that most races require your dog to finish in the pen, and the high risk of overexertion which could lead to health issues such as acidoses, they pretty much sprint/run double the distance they were set to do.

Before you think of how to fix it, you need to understand why the dog is doing this in the first place.

Is the dog getting distracted? Is it frightened by any noise other than the lure/rail etc? Does he/she avoid bitting on in an arm trial? Does your dog have chase issues?

If you answered NO to all of those basic questions, then the most likely cause is your dog has figured out he/she won’t get to catch the lure in the pen, these are clever types that you need to outsmart. If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, then fix that/those problem(s) first.

Then the next thing you should consider is to stop all pen trials, and only do SOLO arm trials, or FOL trials, a mix of the two is ideal… the idea is to give the dog a new and more appropriate habit. You need to drum it into his/her head that they will be rewarded for their fantastic effort (slow, fast doesn’t matter to them).

If your dog has a favorite toy or track, use it!

With any habit I try to instill into a greyhound, I have them repeat it at least 6 times, using a reward-based system to reinforce what I want them to do. The reward can be as simple as a pat for some dogs, others want a small treat or to play with their fav toy! That’s up to you to figure out, every dog is different.

So this means you’ll need to give the dog 6 ARM or FOL trials in a row (with a min 3 days between runs) over the shortest possible distance (275m at the Meadows for example) before trying a pen trial again. But as an added bonus to get your dog ready to race, put a vest on them so they associate the race rug with getting a reward. Remember these are clever dogs, they’re always thinking… get inside their head.

Once you are game to try a pen trial, have the reward ready for them in the catching pen. If they fail the first time go back to arm trials, but just do 3 this time, then try again and you should have them go into the pen!

And whatever you do, DO NOT REWARD their bad behavior, just collect them and give them a drink and take them home… no reward, be it a pat, treat or toy!

Also, and very importantly, don’t ever think your dog is “fixed”, you must maintain the habit or they will revert. Keep the pen trials to a bare minimum use the arm instead, and try to race at tracks that use the FOL, although we only have 1 at the moment in Victoria, that’s sure to increase in the near future.

Good luck, and feel free to comment on your experience with these types of problem dogs.