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Appropriate age to begin agility

Discussion in 'Agility' started by Simba13, Jun 29, 2014.

  1. Simba13

    Simba13 Forums Enthusiast

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    Jun 25, 2014
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    I was wondering what is the average age that people begin agility training with their dogs? I know every dog is different and proper training can't begin until the growth plates have fully developed. This is my first Sheltie. My German Shepherd began training at about 14 months but would it be different for a Sheltie?
     
  2. Toffee's Mom

    Toffee's Mom Forums Sage

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    actually proper agility training begins way before the dog ever sees an obstacle :D There are so many games and training sessions you can do to shape the foundation for later.
    Going on obstacles is only half the battle, believe it or not, what happens in between the obstacles is what matters at least as much!
    I do cringe when I hear people doing full obstacles in their first class, especially without basic foundations on obstacle performance. If you see of such a class run the other way ;)
    I recommend puppy and life skill foundations, so good for so many things and do it with people who also teach agility...
    You can start with walk with me, come, stay, sit with all kinds of attractions, tugging and playing, rear end awareness exercises, teaching directionals, wrapping around a standard... so many fun things :D

    I would say most don't put the dogs on obstacles like weaves and contacts until they are what around 15 months? They can't compete until they are 18mo in most venues, so lots of time to get the foundation :D
    These are amazing beginner dogs videos, obviously they took amazing Silvia Trkman classes you can just youtube all kinds, here are just a couple I liked to look at, they are way ahead of what I ever did, but wish I had done when my dogs were puppies!! :D Good for some ideas, if you're looking :D

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nObBHMLXINY
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0j1OUJwN550
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSMPv9Eoy4w
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2014
  3. Rileys mom

    Rileys mom Forums Enthusiast

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    I started agility with Riley in March at 12 months. We are in the 3rd of 3 foundation courses. Most of the jump work is no more that a couple inches and the contact obstacles are at a low height. Last week we just started making the teeter more difficult by having the high end on a table about 2 ft or so off the ground and walking down the teeter to start getting used to the bang. Before that the ends on the teeters were on tables so there was a little motion but no bang. After this class is over I think Riley and I will repeat the 2nd and 3rd series of foundation classes before going on to novice classes. He does fine on the obstacles but I don't want to rush him.

    Here is where I train, and what ages they recommend for the foundation classes https://ontheruncaninecenter.dogbizpro.com/public/registration/index.aspx?cat=17-18-19-20-24.

    We did about 3 months of obedience and a rally class before starting agility.
     
  4. Silaria

    Silaria Premium Member

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    As you already know a puppy and puppies should not be doing things like jumping, weaving and full height contact obstacles until their growth plates have closed; about 1 year old for a Sheltie but check with your breeder and/or vet to be certain.

    Your puppy will also have a very short attention span so you'll only be able to work with him/her for short periods of time.

    Here's a few things based on my experience in starting out:

    1 - Obedience requirements: I think a better description here is BEHAVIOR basics rather than obedience because it's easy to confuse what you need for agility with competitive obedience. (Not that more advanced obedience is a bad thing. I had my CGC when I started agility training.) What you should have are basic behaviors - Sit, Stay, Down, and a very good recall. You can start without these in some clubs (like mine for instance) but it is highly recommended and encouraged - especially when you start off leash work. As an agility instructor, the most difficult dogs to work with are the ones with absolutely NO basic behavior/manners training.

    2 - Tunnels: A child's play tunnel like the ones described here are perfect for indoors because they are small and short. An actual agility training tunnel would be a bit unruly indoors, especially if you don't have a lot of room.

    3 - Teaching where his back legs are: Believe it or not, dogs don't really realize they have rear legs; or more specifically don't usually pay attention to where they are in relation to their front. So, we have to teach them. This skill is necessary for jump but more so for contacts like the dog walk and teeter, which are narrow. There are two different exercises you can do here:

    Ladder work: Place an extension ladder on the ground and walk him through it. Do NOT expect him to go through the entire thing the first time through. Start by rewarding him for starting to walk through it, even if he bails after a few steps. Slowly increase what he has to do with the ladder to receive the reward (get halfway across, get all the way across, get half way WITHOUT touching a rung, get all the way WITHOUT touching a rung.)

    Walk the plank: Put a plank of wood on the floor roughly 2x4x8. (You can do 2x4x4 if you can find that in the scrap wood or have a hardware store cut a 2x4x8 board in half for you.) Start by rewarding him for putting his feet on it. Increase the requirement for the treat by having him walk across it (all 4 paws don't have to be on at this time). Increase the requirement again by making sure he keeps all 4 paws on the board. Stopping at the end is NOT required for this exercise. If you want to make it a little more difficult, you can put something under the board to raise it off the floor by about 6 inches.

    4 - Teach targeting: Get the lid from a margarine container. Hold it in your hand perpendicular to the floor. Reward when he touches his nose to it. (A dab of peanut butter as bait helps when first starting.) As he gets proficient at it, add the word "target" to the action. Next step: place the lid on the floor; reward when he touches it with his nose. (MAKE SURE he's touching it with his nose before you reward. Some dogs, after a little while, will go through the motion but won't actually touch the lid. You DO NOT want to reward that.) Again, add the word Target as he gets proficient at this. Finally, slowly start to move the target away from you and send him to it with a "Target" command from a sit stay. You can bait the target with a treat to get him started but still reward correct behavior even if you bait.

    Target training and 2o2o training go hand in hand. We use targets at the end of contact obstacles when training 2o2o because it gives the dog a reason to stop. Even if the target is baited, we still reward the correct 2o2o behavior.

    5 - Flatwork - something for when your pup is a few months old: This is one of the foundations for agility; it's what happens between the obstacles. It includes things like 'recall to heel', basic sends, turning skills like front & rear crosses, etc. This is something you can definitely start working on without worrying about the dog's joints. Clean Run, the only magazine on the market for agility that I know of, has a book available called "Flatwork - Foundation for Agility" by by Barb Levenson (http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fu...&ParentCat=261).

    6 - Teach 2 On 2 Off: Using the same plank as above... once he can walk across with all 4 paws on the board, start requiring him to stop at the end with 2 paws on the board and 2 on the floor (2 on 2 off or 2o2o). If you want to make this a little more difficult, raise the board off the floor by 6 inches.

    7 - Wobble board: This helps the pup learn to get use to movement under their feet and helps prepare them for the Teeter. I've made an "at home" wobble board with a 3x3 piece of plywood and stuck and tennis ball under it. With a pup, you can get a smaller tennis ball at a pet store and start with that and work up to a full size ball. The idea is to have something move under under their feet.
     
  5. Simba13

    Simba13 Forums Enthusiast

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    Thank you very much for linking these videos.

    I have been doing some basic obedience training with simba since he was 8 weeks old. He has the sit, down and wait commands perfected (along with a few fun tricks like high five and speak). But I am having trouble with recall.

    I'm going to get started on some of your ideas asap!!
     
  6. Simba13

    Simba13 Forums Enthusiast

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    Thank you!

    I started my 5 year old collie in beginners obedience in January. She has been to about 12 classes so far (we had to take 6 weeks of when she was in heat and then 2 weeks of when she got neutered). Any tips on getting started on the teeter? Also any tips on how to keep her on the side I need her on, she has an awful habit of coming of an obstacle and then running to the opposite side of me.
     
  7. Simba13

    Simba13 Forums Enthusiast

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    Thank you so much for all of this information. I went out and bought a kids play tunnel and also got a floppy tunnel from a pet shop (I'll hold of on that until he is comfortable with the tunnel). Do you have any tips for teaching target training? I'm looking forward to starting him in an agility class in 8 or 9 months time and so all of these basics should be great preparation.
     
  8. Toffee's Mom

    Toffee's Mom Forums Sage

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    That is where your foundation has to be on par BEFORE you ever try to send her on to a contact...
    for the teaching no 'butt passing' lol I always reward from the side you want her to be on, start by taking a step and reward from the side with the hand, try to never cross over your body to reward with the other hand.
    take two steps-- reward, reward even while walking, always from the leading hand... work that on both sides of your body.
    I also get the dog targeting my hand with their nose, and always reward for following me.. Third exercise I recommend ask the dog for a sit stay, walk a few steps away stand with your back to dog , look over the shoulder you want dog to come to and then name call to that side, feed from the side with that hand where you wanted her to go... always do that from both sides

    teeter is a complex sequence I teach different dogs differently, depending on confidence of dog. One of the MAIN things is to get the dog accostomed to the 'BANG' so I play what is called the bang game... I also teach a 2 on 2 off FIRST on a board on the ground so that dog knows end behaviour is two backpaws on contact, two front paws off
     
  9. danisgoat

    danisgoat Moderator

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    Oreo started "agility" training as soon as we got him at 8 weeks.

    He plays on a baby wobble board.

    We are teaching him his name by saying "Oreo" and then treating him when he looks.

    We are teaching him to sit and stay.

    Silaria's post is pretty much exactly what we follow.
     
  10. Mom2Melli

    Mom2Melli Forums Enthusiast

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    I am also starting some agility training at 7-1/2 weeks. Stairs, standing and walking on the arm of the couch, look/watch, touch with nose, touch with paw, tug. I will be taking agility foundation courses early on with him, but those are pretty non-rigorous and more about fun, confidence, and foundations. We do have an agility trainer that perhaps someday I will work with, but that is 1-2 years away. We may not choose agility but rather some other direction and aptitude, but we are definitely going to have some classes.
     

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