Tag Archives: getting started

Clicker Training for Dog Agility

Clickers for Dog Agility Training
We think clickers are so useful for agility training that we give one to each new student.

Today is another Dog Agility Blog Event, and the topic is “Outside the Ring.” Specifically, Steve asked us to write about the things we do that aren’t specific to agility that make ourselves and our dogs better inside the ring.

The first thing that came to mind when I read about this topic was clicker training! I spend hours “clicking” each month. My work as a professional trainer helps me hone my skills for my agility dogs, not to mention my students and their dogs! I am a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, and use clicker training with all of my clients.

Why Use Clicker Training?

Clicker training speeds up the training process so dogs learn new behaviors faster. (Nearly 40% faster than training with a verbal marker, according to this master’s thesis.) It also helps develop your timing and observation skills. Anyone who has trained a dog for agility knows how important those two things are! Agility is a precise sport, and I think all elements of our training should be just as precise.

Personally, I’ve found this statistic to be true. My students who use clickers more often in the early stages of their training get results faster. I understand that it’s difficult to juggle all the different pieces of equipment (toys, treats, a leash or long line, etc.) and worry about clicker timing, but it seems that the effort pays off.

Besides, not much in agility is easy. Most handling maneuvers push people outside of their comfort zone at first, even the basic front cross! Embrace the challenge of learning a new physical skill and perfecting your timing early on. It will pay off as your agility journey continues.

Clicker Training in Providence

Strata on K9 FitBone - Clicker Training
Strata works on a K9 FitBone at Spring Forth Dog Academy.

Speaking of working with clients, Dan and I just opened Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RI, which is an expansion of the dog training business we’ve run in Massachusetts since 2010. At the Academy, we’re doing Puppy Day School (a combo of daycare and puppy kindergarten), private dog training lessons, and group classes. If you’re local, check it out!

In my down time at the Academy, I am doing tricks and physical conditioning exercises with Strata and Spark. (They come to work to help us socialize the puppies in Puppy Day School!)

We installed safe flooring for the puppies to play on, but it also gives us a great surface for agility behaviors. We’re looking forward to reviewing one-jump exercises, tricks, heeling, stays, and Crate Games. These are many of the same things we work on at home, but with the added distraction of puppies!

Get Clicking

If you’re new to clicker training, my two favorite resources are ClickerTraining.com and Clicker Solutions. If you’re not sure what to work on that might be related to agility, check out my recent post on what to practice at home.

If you’re a little more experienced and need help applying clicker training skills to dog agility, the best book on the subject is Agility Right From the Start by Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh. I adore this book, and use many of the exercises for my agility students.

If it’s been awhile since you used a clicker, grab some treats and get started. It’s never too late to start. I think you’ll find that you make even more training progress!

Beginner Dog Agility: What to Practice at Home

If you’re enrolled in a beginner dog agility class, you may be wondering what you can practice at home without any obstacles. Here are some ideas that will boost your dog’s understanding – no equipment necessary!

Click a Trick

English Springer Spaniel Learning to Wave a Paw
Finch learning to wave a paw.

Much like obedience training, trick training is an excellent way to improve your connection with your dog. Many of these tricks will improve your dog’s strength, flexibility, and proprioception (awareness of limbs), which is very important for dog agility training!

  • Spin in a circle (in both directions)
  • Sit up/beg
  • Take a bow
  • Backing up (train this from a stationary position – do not step into the dog)
  • Wave a front paw/shake paws
  • Crawl

Need more inspiration? You can’t beat Silvia Trkman’s trick videos! (They’re free on YouTube – although she does also have a couple of excellent trick training DVDs.)

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Why is Obedience Training Required for Beginner Dog Agility Classes?

Chihuahua Learning Agility
This little Chihuahua is focused on the equipment. She is used to learning in the presence of other dogs because she graduated from a group class before trying agility.

A frequently asked question here at Crossbones Dog Agility is, “Why does my dog need to take a group class before starting Pre-Agility?”

It’s a good question. Most owners who are interested in joining a beginner dog agility class are devoted to their dogs. They have taken the time to teach them basic manners in their home and neighborhood. Many have taken training classes with their previous dogs, so they feel like they know the basics and are ready for more.

In my experience, there’s one big flaw in that approach. Ask yourself:

Has my dog routinely practiced focusing on me and performing basic manners (sit, down, come, stay) in the presence of other dogs?

If you haven’t taken a group training class, the answer is almost always “probably not.”

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Introducing Myself

Katherine Ostiguy and Strata
Katherine and Strata in August 2009.

Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m really excited to have a new place to write. I want to dive right in and introduce myself so I can start sharing my experiences with all of you.

My interest in dog agility started when I was just a kid. My mother gave me the book The Soul of the Silver Dog by Lynn Hall, which is a fictional tale about a Bedlington Terrier who learns to do agility after going blind. That was my first introduction to this great sport. Shortly after that I started watching it on television and I was hooked.

At the time my childhood dog, an English Springer Spaniel named Tessie, was about two years old and had never been to a training class before, but that didn’t stop me from encouraging her over broomsticks and under lawn chairs for pieces of leftover hot dogs. We found a local outdoor agility class that required us to take her to an obedience class first. By the time we finished that prerequisite, winter was coming and agility classes were done for the season.

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