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Is 11 months too young to start agility training?

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I would like to sign up 11-month old Cody for beginner agility classes. Cody is about 42 lbs. and still growing, and I think he is incredibly fast and nimble. I think he'd be a great agility dog and both my 12-year old daughter and I are very motivated to do this with him. However I have heard many conflicting opinions on when the best time is to get a dog started. Some say wait until 1-1/2 years old until he's fully "developed" and others say not a problem, just no high jumping. We are not looking to become national champions, we are looking for something fun to do as a family and for Cody.

 

He's already a very active suburban dog, lots of walks, lots of running, lots of soccer ball playing, weekly dog park visits, etc. But this sounds like a great way to work off all that energy. He has okay recall and "down" when he's outdoors and distracted, but excellent recall and down skills inside.

 

Your thoughts and opinions, seasoned agility experts out there? Thanks!

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For jumping above elbow height and full size contact obstacles I would wait until at LEAST 12mo and likely 18mo to ensure that Cody's growth plates are closed. Foundation work should be fine as long as it isn't high impact.

 

If you want to know exactly when he is ok to run on higher jumps and obstacles you can have the vet xray his joints and check to see how the growth plates are doing.

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start now!

Foundation! Foundation! Foundation!

 

There are a ton of things that must be worked on "on the flat" in agility, preferably before the dog ever gets on equipment - that stuff can start at 8 weeks old. Then there is stuff like tunnels, wobble boards, running between two jump standards with a bar just on the ground (a LOT of foundation can be done with a jump and no bars). That stuff can start at just several months old. Getting on low equipment (like a low Aframe or Dogwalk) should wait a little longer, but can still be done young, as long as there is no crazy jumping around being a dork sort of thing going on. THEN weaving, full sized equipment and jumping can be added, and THEN full courses at competition heights (which are the highest impact).

 

All that stuff is a lot of work and time. It isn't necessary just to become champions, but to teach the dog to do things SAFELY and under control. You can start now, as long as the trainer you find keeps work lower impact until around 18 months and works on a lot of foundation things (which would not have equipment, or would have different types of equipment for training - like touch board for just contacts, wobble boards or baby baby teeter totters, etc)

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Listen to Kat! Foundation plays one of the biggest parts in a dog's agility career, and is one of the keys to a focused, enthusiastic agility partner.

 

Not only can you get started on tunnels, exercises with jump standards and wobble boards as Kat listed, but also with the groundwork and obedience for agility. You can work on targeting(sending the pup out to toys or other targets, a form of distance work), attention exercises, contacts(practice on stairways or at the base of low contact obstacles), tug games - there are endless possibilities. I would look into this class, see if you can get some info on what's involved. Perhaps watch a session. More and more trainers and training facilities are offering a class specifically for "Obedience for Agility". It's a perfect way to get started, as being able to stay riveted on you and your commands is required of any agility dog.

 

At 11 months, you may be able to begin with low jumps, 4" high. Confirm this with your vet. Soon after he hits a year he should be able to move up to 8" or so and depending on his height and how comfortable you are with it, you can slowly move up. I wouldn't jump him competition height until he's at least 15-18 months - and even then, be careful, warming up, warming down, etc.

 

I'd definitely look into classes. BCs excel at agility and I'm thrilled that you've chosen this fantastic sport as the way to channel his energy and strengthen that dog/handler bond. :rolleyes:

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do you guys think that there is an age for a BC where you shouldnt try the agility? i just mean, is there an age that's to old for a BC to do agility?

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If a dog is in perfect health, I've seen border collies up to 10 years old competing in agility. As far as starting in agility goes, that does depend on how old your dog is, whether they have any health issues, behavioral problems(which can be worked through), etc.

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Great advice here on the young dog question. I would just add that it's worth taking the time to teach the dog to jump correctly, both collected and extended jumping, before you move to sequences. (Kat, I don't have time to find the thread on which you discussed that with pics - could you post the link).

 

On the question of older age - it depends whether the dog is already doing agility and/or jumping in obedience. If so, and if the dog is fit, you can keep playing as long as the dog tells you he's comfortable. I've posted before how my previous BC had an absolute blast running a Novice Jumpers course, when that first came in without weaves here, at over 12.5 years. We had 3 refusals (my bad), but he still came in under course time, and had the biggest grin on his face as he flew past the finish way ahead of me! That said, he was fit, and was jumping for obedience regularly.

 

I'd be more cautious starting an older dog - making sure you had plenty of conditioning on the flat, and then approaching jumpingas if you were training a pup - and all of that would assume that the dog was healthy.

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I have seen border collies as old as FOURTEEN still running and having a BLAST (thanks NADAC for allowing them to jump 12"!). But I agree, careful with starting a dog at that age. I don't know much about what other organizations offer, but NADAC is all for the old dogs. They have lots of "games" that don't require any jumping, very low jumping, and so on (tunnelers, jumpers with vet/skilled, "hoopers", and "gaters").

 

In the other thread I didn't touch to much on extended/collected jumping - but really that jump training should NOT be skipped! Anyway, here was the link for that thread, it is the 7th post down:

http://www.bordercollie.org/boards/index.php?showtopic=9919

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I started Skye in beginning obedience at 4.5 months, then started our beginning agility at 6 months old. She's doing contacts, tunnels, sequencing walkover jumps, Aframe and teeter without any problem. It's all on leash right now, and lots of fun. I can't wear Skye out with running and playing, we've hiked over 6 miles at a time (with her zigzagging back and forth - probably covered at least 10 miles), but after the one hour mental workout of agility she sleeps like a rock!

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Too old for agility? My guy retired at 13 yrs old this past summer, he would have kept trying for me too if I hadnt made that decision. He is a good size bc required to jump 26 in USDAA championship and 22 in performance. Sadly his hindquarters just dont have the umph anymore to get over that height so we play at 16 in the backyard much to his delight. I know many dogs that run into their senior years with no problems at all. The key is to keep them fit, and make sure you have plenty of time to warm those muscles up and cool them down.

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