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Doris

Help! How to tell if a puppy is suited for agility training

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My BC is now almost 8 months old and I've had her for about two months. In this time, I've done my best at teaching her obedience, am just about finished with a puppy training class. What is obedience and agility training all about? Deej loves to run and esp. to retrieve a ball over and over. Can you teach a puppy the weave poles and flyball without a formal setting? Don't know if I'd find one where I live but would try. Have an idea that she would take to flyball but it seems to require a lot of training, at least the right training. I have no interest in showing her, just in her being the best she can be at what she likes. Gee, that sounds more like what I want, doesn't it, or does it?

Can anyone walk me through what it takes to get her started? Bless you in advance, my child. :rolleyes:

Guess I also need to ask how to tell whether or not she would be suited.

 

Doris

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Hi Doris, I shouldn't be saying anything about subjects I don't know a thing about, except that you might find it interesting how our Socs dog has become more agile since he was 8mos. (he's now 18mos.) Particularly the last 6mos., he's jumping higher than ever to catch the frisbee, my son can make him do "spins" for another throw; he's taken to jumping the gates (a couple of times back and forth) before I open them, and likes to climb things to get a better view. He also jumps into my son's arms on command! It may be a while yet before your pup starts to show signs of being an acrobat! It's certainly a lot of fun to see how active and agile these dogs are, "formal setting" or not. I don't know if any of the foregoing has anything to do with agility training, but Socs is certainly agile!

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Doris

I can only explain agility from my experience. At one time the starting age for formal agility training was one year. Now I understand that in the UK 18 months is the recommended age. Whatever the age is, you should definitely not be asking a young dog to leap, jump, twist and turn before the age of one year. If you want to start agility with your BC you could concentrate on obedience exercises such as the sit/stay and the recall. Ensuring your dog comes when called is a must as there is nothing worse than an out of control dog charging about the training ring when another handler is trying to work their dog. Personally, I would not recommend starting agility without the guide of a formal trainer. As I?m sure you?re aware agility isn?t just about getting round a course quickly in the early days. Safety is paramount, and most dogs start off by going over the equipment on the leash. Many dogs tend to throw themselves off the see-saw, and a trainer will help you realise the appropriate time to command your dog to wait and thus exit this piece of equipment safely. Many people new to the sport also forget to walk their dog quickly away from the see-saw and their poor dog ends up being bumped on the rear end as the board goes up. Although someone may possibly write back differently, I maintain you can?t train yourself at agility. You need another pair of eyes to show you where you are going wrong, and another voice to scold you if you should let safety slip. Agility is all about dog AND handler. If you want her to be the best at what she can do, and agility is the thing, then you wil have to be right up there with her because she will need you to get her round the course. Good luck and may your dreams of her success come true. Regards, Val

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Thanks, guys, gives me a better idea of what I'll be looking at in the future; I WILL wait til she's older on your advice. You're right, Val, the obedience is first and I'm afraid I(we) haven't quite mastered the come yet, at least not all the time. Deej will come only if she 'feels like it' although she's pretty good at sit stays and down stays, too much playful puppy in her for the time being. Tricks have been fairly easy; she'll do spins in the air,and shake/high fives, too. Don't know the training lingo, what is the see saw? Maybe I could find a competition somewhere around just to see what's going on.

Doris

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Doris: The advice given is correct, you don't want your pup straining still-growing muscles and bones. HOWEVER, given that, there is NO reason you can't start agility training even earlier than one year! Many folks start agility as early as they start obedience. There are many ways to do lots of the things needed in agility - things like walking (ladders on the ground!) to help them learn where their back feet are [this may sound silly, but I have a recently-adopted three-year old who now wears terry-cloth pony-tail holders on her back feet during practice to "remind" her that she has back feet!]; things like a seesaw board six inches off the ground, flat then tipping, running between jump-support-uprights with no jump bars on them, etc. etc. etc. A trainer I heard at a recent seminar said that when her 18-month old dogs enter their first trials, basically, they're ready for more advanced courses! They're not doing all the physically-challenging things, but they know the routines.

 

There is so much handling that is, as mentioned, critical to winning in agility, it's almost impossible to train alone. Believe I know, cuz I DID try to train by myself! I ended up driving 120 miles - one way - for eight one-hour lessons. With one dog, then another! The pits was the day it began raining hard about 20 minutes after we started...and the field was too muddy to continue. frown.gif

 

There are also a number of two day to one-week long seminars around the country. These are generally geared to more advanced dogs, but there are usually "audit" slots - you attend without your dog - which are also valuable. And you get to watch everyone else make mistakes! Highly recommend. Check out the web sites of www.usdaa.com and www.nadac.com for calendar of events and local clubs. Many of these sponsor training sessions, can put you in contact with private teachers, etc. There are several agility books which are also good starters, as well as videos.

 

Yes, find someone to work with. Attend competitions to watch - I did this twice before ever even thinking of starting. Find folks not getting ready to run and ask questions. And accept that if you get hooked, you'll be an addict: your garage will become an equipment-building shed and your car will never see it again, your yard will become a course and you'll never have a view without colorful equipment in the foreground, and you'll become intimately familiar with your local hardware store - who will look at you with interest and puzzlement when you start asking about odd PVC joints and such. I'm absolutely hooked - and getting better every day (we hope!). Best of luck. It's never too early to start!

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Thanks for the good info, Diane, and the really informative sites - gives a much better idea of what I might be looking at in the future. Your pups must never have a chance to be bored, that's really a plus with the training, isn't it? As for turning my garage into a building area for exercise equipment instead of a car - that's a novel concept, keeping a car there. Do people actually keep CARS in their garages?

 

Thanks again,

Doris

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Agility is a lot of fun- and part of the fun is being with a group of other people and dogs who are having some of the same challenges and joys. Find a club or school if you can- but there are things you can do to get your dog started before you start formal classes. I highly recommend reading some of the books and websites out there. In addition to the agility sites, check out sites on clicker training, especially if that is how your club will be training. Work on having your dog really happy to go into a fast down- you don't want your dog to have problems on the table (one obstacle is a table that they jump on, go into a down on and stay for a count of 5). basic obedience stuff? yeah- just make sure it stays fun. One thing I enjoyed doing with my dogs was taking them to the playground and getting them used to all sorts of tunnels, ramps, sway bridges, etc. It isn't all a direct translation to formal agility, but having learned that going up on things is fun, that things might move but that's ok, that going into a tunnel might mean a ball toss once out, can translate into great attitude and increased confidence once you start classes.

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