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Traits that make a good agility dog?

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Ok, so I have been talking to a breeder, and they of course was choosing the right puppies for each person from the litter based on the goals and activities that would be done with the puppies, and since I was planning on doing agility, obedience and flyball, they mentioned one of the pups that would be the best one for these types of sports.

 

So, my question would be what qualities would this entail?

The litter is not a litter bred for agility, but a different type of work, so what qualities would you think they would consider would make a good agility and obedience dog?

They have produced dogs which have done very well in agility before, so would they know based on this?

 

I myself personally like the more enthusiastic and speedy dogs because that's the type of dog I enjoy running the most (nothing against more moderately paced dogs, they are probably really fun to run too, its just a personal preference), and that training is a huge factor and probably even more important, but I still do wonder.

 

Also, what you would consider the traits that would make a good agility dog?

I am interested to hear the opinions on this subject in general, even if its not related to breeders choosing the puppy, which is why I am asking on a forum :)

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One trait that I saw in Bandit as a puppy that I desire in an Agility dog is the dog having the natural ability to use his own brain to regulate his motion appropriately.

 

Even as a baby, Bandit figured out to switch from full out running across the deck to more controlled movement to get down the stairs. He can slow down and be thoughtful, but doing so does not cause him to slow down in an extreme way.

 

This is kind of hard to explain. It is an appropriate degree of natural self control, but not something that inhibits his drive in any way.

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You didn't ask for this, but if I were specifically looking for an Agility dog, these are traits I would want to try to avoid:

 

Hyper go go go go go go! with no apparent off switch.

 

A dog who hyperfocuses - obsesses over things in motion.

 

Inability to recover readily after being mildly startled by a sound, or something falling. (Curiosity, or initial skittishness is fine, but I want to avoid a dog who shuts down in such circumstances).

 

Noise phobia. This is a dealbreaker for me. I will never again pursue Agility with a noise phobic dog. Not sound sensitivity, which is somewhat normal in a lot of Border Collies - that's fine. Again - the key is the ability to recover, which you can cultivate and strengthen if it is there in the first place, but presents an exercise in futility if the flight response is too strong. Noise phobic dogs in my household get to be pets and video event participants.

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Forget specifically choosing for agility; you can't tell much from a pup (beyond that you should avoid excessive nervousness or pushiness).

 

Good breeding, parents you like, crossed fingers - the rest is up to you.

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Bold, sociable with humans, interest in food and toys delivered by humans, recovers quickly from scary things, willing to walk on strange surfaces, willing to interact with unusual things, no hint of noise sensitivity, no shyness, no excessive fear, no obvious conformational abnormalities, biddable, parents that are workaholics, parents that are not aggressive to dogs or people; parents that are hip and eye tested; no epilepsy in parents, sibs, immediate relatives; no early onset cancer in sibs and immediate relatives

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Here are some things I've learned after getting into agility and things I will do differently next time I get a pup.

 

1) Avoid visibly fearful dogs. For example the dog cowering in the corner or attempting to completely avoid new people with no attempt to check them out. They could be trained, but it will require a much greater effort from you.

 

2) Avoid super pushy dogs who seem to be forcing you into paying attention to them. You want a dog who wants to interact but doesn't force it if you don't acknowledge them.

 

3) If you have other dogs watch and see how they interact with the other dogs. You don't want a bully who is going to have issues getting along. I don't expect my dogs to be super friendly with strange dogs, but they absolutely can't be jerks.

 

4) Be honest with your breeder (and yourself) about exactly what you want. A good breeder will know the pups way better than you will meeting them even half a dozen times. They may see something in the pup you want that goes against something you want or need from your dog.

 

5) Good physical structure. You want a well structured dog that won't have issues later. You want a dog that doesn't have any obvious issues getting around or physical defects that could effect their ability to jump or run.

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Bold, sociable with humans, interest in food and toys delivered by humans, recovers quickly from scary things, willing to walk on strange surfaces, willing to interact with unusual things, no hint of noise sensitivity, no shyness, no excessive fear, no obvious conformational abnormalities, biddable, parents that are workaholics, parents that are not aggressive to dogs or people; parents that are hip and eye tested; no epilepsy in parents, sibs, immediate relatives; no early onset cancer in sibs and immediate relatives

 

This sums it up for me. A confident, happy, dog that recovers quickly well and social, friendly parents and relatives. Definitely look for health testing.

 

I have a border collie. I also have a little fluffy mutt. There is a *reason* that I only really talk about the mutt's agility experiences and sometimes the 10 year old deaf Boston Terrier's. That is because they do agility, while the BC absolutely does not. She's done the classes! She can perform just fine! What she can't do is hack the setting. She's only 2. Maybe we'll get there, someday. Maybe she won't, I don't know but I'm not holding my breath.

 

First thing you need is a dog who can physically handle the demands of the sport and temperamentally handle the environment and thrive in it - or, maybe more importantly, relax in it and handle all the people, dogs, and excitement. After that, a dog who wants to be with you and work for what you can provide (food and toy drive) and wants to play with you.

 

Everything else is window dressing and training.

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Or you need a dog that wants to work (with you) so badly that the environment just doesn't matter.

 

True!

 

Not sure that will overcome a serious lack of resiliency or fear issues though. It's sort of a balancing act. It'd be pretty easy to 'poison' agility for a dog who's starting off on edge and uncomfortable in the setting, I think and I'd avoid the heck out of that moving forward.

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There is a huge difference in what traits you'd like to see in an agility dog and what you are likely to see in a pup.

 

There's a reason why breeders of good quality working dogs sell untried pups relatively cheaply - there are no guarantees. Promising can fizzle out and average can blossom.

 

Pups are not a sure fire thing and a better way of judging whether you are getting what you want is to rescue a young adolescent.

 

However, if set on a pup choose a breeder with a reputation for producing pups that are sound in mind and body and with a decent and trainable working instinct. That way you stack the odds in your favour and you can mould the raw materials into what you want.

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Can I be honest?

 

As gently, kindly, and respectfully as I can: I get the impression you believe that there is some trait or combination of traits that will give you the ultimate agility dog. There isn't. There's just how well you understand the game and how well you're able to work with the dog you have. (Maybe not entirely but mostly).

 

What you need is a mentally and temperamentally sound dog who is biddable, confident and likes to work with you and play a lot. Everything else, including speed, is largely about training and preference.

 

I think the best thing you can do for selecting a future agility dog is, as Mom24dog says, select a really good breeding - or even better yet, keep working with your current dog and figure out how to train for what you want, what you love and what you hate, and realize that mostly the dog you end up with on the agility field is the one you created. Not claiming dogs are interchangeable, just that to a large degree the performance you get is what you create.

 

What the breeder is seeing and talking about is probably either just toy drive or being hyper. Toy drive good. Hyper, not so much.

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First thing you need is a dog who can physically handle the demands of the sport and temperamentally handle the environment and thrive in it - or, maybe more importantly, relax in it and handle all the people, dogs, and excitement.

 

You know, that was the very first thing that struck me about Tessa at the shelter - I was only evaluating her at the time, not even thinking of adopting her!

 

She was shut down, hiding in the back of her kennel, acting like I didn't exist. But when the shelter people walked her through the dog area to get her to an area where I could see her in a different setting, she walked through that area with amazing calm, and even a glimmer of confidence. As she walked through the corridor, dogs were barking and lunging from kennels, they were barking from crates on the other side. And she meandered through calmly, looking quickly at each dog with calm, soft eyes.

 

She actually impressed the heck out of me (not in any way tied to Agility, but just in general). It struck me even then that I wished all of my sport partners had that kind of calm in the face of a hectic, chaotic, and stressful situation.

 

And then it turns out that Tessa actually thrives in the trial environment. She just couldn't care less when dogs bark, get excited, or whatever. At Thanksgiving when about 18 people come for dinner, Tessa hides. The very next day I can take her to an Agility trial, stuffed to the gills with people and dogs, and she practically sparkles!! Somehow that environment actually brings out the very best in her . . . just because it does!

 

If I could bottle that and sell it, I'd be able to retire and play dog sports all day long . . . how often the "issues" have nothing to do with sport skills and everything to do with dealing with the environment well. Having a dog who just naturally loves that environment is an amazing experience - especially after having had a couple with whom I had to work hard to get even a basic comfort level at trials. I even forgive her lack of speed entirely for it!! :P

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Molly and Kylie are a study in opposites and the pair of them have taught me a lot.

 

Molly is *fast*, she is biddable, she absolutely oozes toy and play drive and she loves nothing more than working with me. Her sports skills are better than Kylie's - by a lot, and that's after starting 2 years after Kylie. She gets the game and loves it, instinctively and with no work on my end. She also can. not. hack. a trial setting. Practices and show 'n' goes? Sure. Trials? NOPE.

 

Kylie? Well, sometimes she's been slow. It took her forever to get weaves (mostly my doing, because I didn't know how to teach them). She really would like strangers to keep their hands off her unless they're going to feed her. She isn't 'dog social'. She's been known to burn out and shut down in pushed too hard in training and all those other things I've mentioned about her, BUT?


First trial there was a police training thing going on outside the ring and a soccer field too closer to comfort because of a triple booked field (we didn't know). She didn't care. She actually spends lots of trials flipped upside down in my lap asleep - or upside down in her crate asleep. Environmental chaos, movement, crowds, don't bother her - at all.

 

I can build drive. I can teach sports skills.

 

I can't rewire a dog's brain. Oh, I can do counter conditioning and behavioral modification and work on those sorts of things, eventually change reactions, and what have you but it's still a-) WORK, for me and the dog and b-) Still not changing the dog's mental wiring.

 

What will I be looking for in my next agility dog?

 

A comfortable, confident, older puppy/young dog who shows interest in me without apparent fear or aggression issues who will take treats and likes to play fetch and/or tug. DONE.

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Can I be honest?

 

As gently, kindly, and respectfully as I can: I get the impression you believe that there is some trait or combination of traits that will give you the ultimate agility dog. There isn't. There's just how well you understand the game and how well you're able to work with the dog you have. (Maybe not entirely but mostly).

 

What you need is a mentally and temperamentally sound dog who is biddable, confident and likes to work with you and play a lot. Everything else, including speed, is largely about training and preference.

 

I think the best thing you can do for selecting a future agility dog is, as Mom24dog says, select a really good breeding - or even better yet, keep working with your current dog and figure out how to train for what you want, what you love and what you hate, and realize that mostly the dog you end up with on the agility field is the one you created. Not claiming dogs are interchangeable, just that to a large degree the performance you get is what you create.

 

What the breeder is seeing and talking about is probably either just toy drive or being hyper. Toy drive good. Hyper, not so much.

 

Its not me who's selecting the pup from the litter, its the breeder.

The idea is they match up the dogs which they think would have the personality that suits the potential owners and their desired activity best.

 

for example:

http://www.spritebelgians.com/philos/art4.shtml

Of course it won't be the same as this, and obviously a different breeder, breed etc, with different methods, and obviously this is a very analytical way to do this, but I simply mean the the matching of basic traits to different potential owners and sports.

 

The breeder mentioned that they would choose a puppy which would be best suited for agility, and I am just wondering what they could mean by that. They don't breed for agility, they breed for a different activity...

______________________________________

I'll be the first to admit ive never had a single problem at trials. No DA or DR, no zoomies, no lack of focus, no running of to meet the judge, no speed issues other than him going even faster, no distractions from other dogs, smells, small animals etc, and he just loves the competition enviroment, so a lot of this I forget could happen in a new dog and it doesn't cross my mind.

So I am sorry.

I will try to consider them much more rather than focusing on the less important factors.

 

Both parents are fine with loud noises and can work under them, neither are timid or have a flight reactions, and they both adore to tug. The breeder has been breeding for confidence and to prevent shy behaviors, and for dogs that are friendly with strangers.

Though being DR or DA could be a potential issue due to the breed (not that either parents are particularly, but its still a possibility), and some other problems could occur too perhaps, maybe ones related to a high prey drive.

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If they don't have experience in agility how would they know? The breeder could be looking for the wrong things or assuming that something is more important than it is? You may end up with a pushy nutter.

 

I would trust my pup's breeder to give me an honest assessment of a pup's temperament in the litter but as they are working breeders I take any statement that pups would be suitable for agility with caution. They probably would be fine but as they can't even identify for sure pups that will make exceptional workers at that stage (or they would charge more for them) how could they do so for a sport dog?

 

I didn't agonise about choosing a pup. Two left in the litter, I took the short coated one. That was about the limit of my selection, but I had been intermittently stalking the breeders and their dogs for over 10 years. Didn't bother me that he was raised in an outbuilding.

 

He won me out of Beginners in Obedience at 13 months (not really my thing), at 22 months has won out of Grade 3 in Agility and is learning to work sheep. He'll have a go at anything I want.

 

There's nothing special about Agility or Agility dogs. There is something special about successful agility trainers / handlers.

 

What is your breeder breeding for and why are you handing over the choice? Is it that you don't trust your own judgement?

 

I'm quite relaxed over choice and traits. Our nearly 16 year old got a reserve CC but we had to watch for signs of wild life. Could have gone further but for poor training on our part. Our 10 year old has been reasonably successful at Grade 7 but is fear aggressive to dogs and people (much better now but not perfect) and has very little resilience. Both adopted as adolescents when bad habits had been learned. Any well bred pup was likely to be easy in comparison.

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If they don't have experience in agility how would they know? The breeder could be looking for the wrong things or assuming that something is more important than it is? You may end up with a pushy nutter.

 

I would trust my pup's breeder to give me an honest assessment of a pup's temperament in the litter but as they are working breeders I take any statement that pups would be suitable for agility with caution. They probably would be fine but as they can't even identify for sure pups that will make exceptional workers at that stage (or they would charge more for them) how could they do so for a sport dog?

 

I didn't agonise about choosing a pup. Two left in the litter, I took the short coated one. That was about the limit of my selection, but I had been intermittently stalking the breeders and their dogs for over 10 years. Didn't bother me that he was raised in an outbuilding.

 

He won me out of Beginners in Obedience at 13 months (not really my thing), at 22 months has won out of Grade 3 in Agility and is learning to work sheep. He'll have a go at anything I want.

 

There's nothing special about Agility or Agility dogs. There is something special about successful agility trainers / handlers.

 

What is your breeder breeding for and why are you handing over the choice? Is it that you don't trust your own judgement?

 

I'm quite relaxed over choice and traits. Our nearly 16 year old got a reserve CC but we had to watch for signs of wild life. Could have gone further but for poor training on our part. Our 10 year old has been reasonably successful at Grade 7 but is fear aggressive to dogs and people (much better now but not perfect) and has very little resilience. Both adopted as adolescents when bad habits had been learned. Any well bred pup was likely to be easy in comparison.

I believe the breeder has got some understanding of the sport due to probably seeing many of the offspring go on to compete in agility and do well, but doesn't practice it herself. However, I think her husband runs a dog which has done very well in agility and has been very successful too. The mother does mondio, and the father does ring.

 

Its not that I don't trust my own judgement, but that I do not know enough about the individual puppies temperaments to make the decision. Its also pretty common for the breeder to choose the puppies and pair them to the individuals they would suit best anyway, often advised too.

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Don't know what mondio is. Do you mean the sire is a show dog?

 

I don't think it's as common as all that for a breeder to choose a sport dog for a customer unless distance dictates and the tick box approach made me laugh, but not in a good way. People who really know dogs don't need such a formal approach.

 

Is there any reason why you aren't looking at a working bred dog?

 

The latest batch of new dogs with existing members in our club are -

Two from a well known working breeder, same sire, different dams, both doing very well.

One from a small farm breeder - also doing very well.

One from an agility breeder of successful but wild dogs - nervous.

One rescue collie x adopted at 16 weeks - doing OK but easily distracted.

Two home bred Welsh Sheepdogs - one doing well, one not very interested.

 

I believe this will be your second dog for Agility after being bitten by the bug and that you haven't been doing it long. If I had my time over I wouldn't rush to get another until both I and my first dog had more experience. That way I wouldn't have made so many more and different mistakes along the way. I do understand your enthusiasm though.

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Don't know what mondio is. Do you mean the sire is a show dog?

 

Is there any reason why you aren't looking at a working bred dog?

 

They are working bred dogs, mandio is Mandioring, and ring refers to French ring.

Though the parents of the litter are not overly high drive or hyperactive and are more moderate in these areas, and have a good off switch too. (just mentioning before someone suggests otherwise; im not getting a working Malinois or a dog with that much drive)

 

I believe this will be your second dog for Agility after being bitten by the bug and that you haven't been doing it long. If I had my time over I wouldn't rush to get another until both I and my first dog had more experience. That way I wouldn't have made so many more and different mistakes along the way. I do understand your enthusiasm though.

You have a good point there. I would be planning on getting another dog anyway, even if I wasn't doing agility.

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I have a confession that shows just how laid back I am about selection - I didn't see either of my pup's parents except in photos. Sire was at the breeder's other farm, don't know where the dam was but she now lives with the son few miles away.

 

A friend had confirmed that the sire was extremely friendly and I knew the bitch was a return after unsuitable training ruled her out as a working dog. Siblings and line were good workers though and failure to work in her case was not deemed to be genetic.

 

Pups weren't timid and despite limited human contact in comparison with a house bred litter mine was happy to be picked up by a stranger. Good enough for me.

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Looked up Mondio. "The hardest dog sport" apparently! ( Try controlling own feet, arms, rest of the body, whistle, dog and sheep.) Not sure a pup from a dog trained in a protection type sport would be top of my list as a potential Agility dog. No idea about "French ring."

 

Devon must be very different.

 

When you say "working bred" what work do the parents do? How many head of stock, how often?

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Looked up Mondio. "The hardest dog sport" apparently! ( Try controlling own feet, arms, rest of the body, whistle, dog and sheep.) Not sure a pup from a dog trained in a protection type sport would be top of my list as a potential Agility dog. No idea about "French ring."

 

Devon must be very different.

 

When you say "working bred" what work do the parents do? How many head of stock, how often?

Well, Mondioring is probably arguably the most difficult of the protection sports it seems. It also has an emphasis on distractions. French ring is also a protection sport. As for which is more difficult, herding or mondio, I would have no clue.

 

By working, I mean they are from lines designed to do a specific job/activity rather than showing, and need the drive and instinct to perform it. But for herding, the mother is titled in herding (which I know doesn't mean too much), and the father has shown a good amount of natural instinct, but the pairing is not really designed specifically for herding work, I'm sorry... :(

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I'm assuming that you're referring to the watered down KC programme as there aren't any herding titles in ISDS trials, unless you get to be Supreme Champion or similar.

 

Hobbies are just that, not work.

 

I'm surprised that you are considering a pup from dogs whose main hobby is protection training, whether or not the breeders say they have produced good Agility dogs. I would run a mile. I know a good Agility dog that was found in ä skip but it's not a source I would choose. There are top notch Agility lines that I wouldn't give house room because I don't like them.

 

There is no instinct for Agility as there is for a job that requires ability to be hard wired. Agility is trained, not innate. All you need is an agile and resilient dog that is willing to work with you and is responsive to movement.

 

I do find that the further one gets from the working world the more determined people seem to be to make everything unnecessarily complicated. Try to cut through the BS.

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I guess I forgot to mention its not a BC, but a different herding breed.

I guess I shouldn't have asked on a BC forum if it wasn't a BC, which I am sorry about.

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It's not a problem that you asked here, but it is definitely an important piece of information that the dog is not a Border Collie.

 

FWIW, when I got my puppy (Border Collie), the breeder had bred specifically for stockwork, but she did ask me what particular traits I was looking for in my puppy (who would be a loved pet and sport prospect). Knowing that there are no guarantees, of course, I did share some of what I hoped to find. (Resilience, a certain degree of independence coupled with a strong desire to work with the handler, no noise phobia, etc.)

 

She told me how the parents of the puppy incorporated those particular qualities, which I found helpful. Even knowing that there are no guarantees.

 

I actually got EXACTLY what I said I was looking for, and I couldn't be happier. I know it doesn't always work out so perfectly, but I think having that conversation back before I committed to a puppy from that litter was extremely helpful. Had it been the case that one, or both, of the parents didn't possess the qualities that were important to me, I would have known that going in.

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I don't think I would change what I have said even if we aren't talking about a BC.

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