Tag Archives: having fun

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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Puppies in Dog Agility Classes

I am often asked if I offer a puppy agility class. Potential students want to know how young is too young. The myth of “puppies need to be six months old to begin training” persists. It’s not true for basic training, and it’s definitely not true for puppy agility.

Puppy Agility: Safety First!

Sheltie Puppies Playing Tug
How young is too young to start agility training? Well, it’s never too young to start playing!

Well-meaning veterinarians often advise their clients to wait until their dogs are “done growing” before starting agility classes. The thought is they might damage their growth plates due to excessive trauma or impact. It’s absolutely true that puppies should wait until their growth plates are closed before learning to jump, weave, or perform the teeter. But what these veterinarians are missing is that a good foundation agility class doesn’t focus on jumping, weaving, or contacts.

Bear in mind that I’m talking about foundation agility classes. I define that as a class which builds a “foundation” with the goal of enjoying the sport for years to come, and possibly even competing. My Pre-Agility class falls into this category.

I am not talking about “pet agility” classes designed to be a one-time, four- to six-week exposure to the sport. In many cases, these classes are taught by instructors unfamiliar with the sport of agility who may unknowingly push youngsters too soon. Continue reading

What is Pre-Agility?

Pumi Agility Training
One of the obstacles we introduce in Pre-Agility is a low table. The dog must get on and either sit or lie down, then stay for 5 seconds.

Are you new to dog agility? Do you live in Rhode Island? Our Pre-Agility group training class in Smithfield is perfect for you!

Beginner agility classes vary greatly from one training center to another. I have been answering a lot of questions about what goes on in this class, so here’s an unofficial FAQ for Pre-Agility!

Our Pre-Agility class meets weekly for one hour, and you have eight weeks to attend six classes. This flexible attendance policy means you can skip a week or two if you’re unable to make it to class, or you can be an over-achiever and attend for six consecutive weeks. It’s up to you!

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Why Are You Doing Agility?

There are a variety of reasons for participating with your dog in agility. Here are some that come to mind:

Strata with Ribbons on Chair
One of your goals may be to earn lots of ribbons. Another one of your goals may be to travel to beautiful places with your agility partner. (Check and check!)
  • To spend time with your dog engaged in a mutually enjoyable activity
  • To improve your dog’s physical and/or emotional fitness
  • To spend time with friends and likeminded individuals
  • To improve your dog training skills
  • At trials, to see how your dog’s performance compares to the other dogs’ performances on that day
  • At trials, to test your dog’s skills at a particular level or on a particular type of course (Gamblers, Snooker, etc.)
  • At trials, to qualify for a major event (regionals, nationals, international team selection)
  • At trials, to earn qualifying scores toward a title
  • At trials, to win

None of these motives are “right” or “wrong,” just different. What motivates me to get up at the crack of dawn, travel for hours, and spend a chunk of change on entry fees for less than sixty seconds in the ring is not necessarily what motivates you, and that’s a-okay! :)

I’m not going to analyze each of these reasons here, because I don’t want to inadvertently imply that some are better than others. No one goal is more wholesome than another. I encourage my students – all of my students, even those brand-new to the sport – to have goals and to clearly identify what they are so they have something to work toward and stay on the right track.

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