How do I get into dog agility?

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How do I get into dog agility?

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Old 03-06-2013, 08:18 PM
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How do I get into dog agility?

Hi!

I've recently been asking my 3 year old female yellow Lab to jump small things for me. I've discovered that she has real physical talent. She looks graceful jumping and she can jump a 1.5 foot jump like it's nothing with no training at all. I think it would be super fun to get her into dog agility. However, I know virtually nothing about agility and so I have a lot of questions. Here are some of them:

1) How much training does a dog need before getting into competitions?
2) Do I need to consult a professional or can I train her myself?
3) What equipment do I need to buy?
4) What elements of the sport are there besides jumping?
5) What's the nature of the sport? Is it fiercely competitive?
6) Do dogs need to be selectively bred for it or can any dog get into it?

I'll post videos of her jumping as soon as I can, so ya'll can tell me what I need to teach her.

Thanks for your answers!
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Old 03-06-2013, 08:34 PM
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1) It takes a lot of training to compete successfully. You and your dog need to have a very solid set of foundation skills under your belt before you can really even begin working on the actual agility.

2) Since you are new to agility, yes it would be best to take classes. Depending on where you are currently with your dog, you might actually need to start with basic or intermediate obedience classes. Bare minimum you should be looking for an agility foundations course.

3) You may or may not not need to buy a thing. It would likely be best to wait and see if you and your dog really do have what it takes to compete.

4)The teeter, dog walk, A-frame, chute, wait table,weave poles, and tunnel.

5) I've dabbled in the past for fun but am actually preparing to compete now. Some people are super competitive. For others like me, having fun is more important than earning titles and ribbons.

6) Some dogs are purposely bred for agility and other dog sports, but any dog can do it. My agility girl was adopted from our local shelter.
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Old 03-06-2013, 08:49 PM
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Are you looking for agility for fun or competition eventually? Be warned, agility is addicting. Many people start just for fun then get bitten by the bug.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LabSmitten View Post
1) How much training does a dog need before getting into competitions?
Imo a dog needs good foundation work first. It needs to be well socialized in stressful environments and needs basic obedience before even starting training.

How much from training to competing? Depends highly on the kind of school you are going to. Some schools start you on equipment right away and they teach you everything then people start competing a few months down the line. The better schools will start you on foundations and work that heavily. They will build on this slowly. The obstacles are not the main focus, the handling is.

I was told by the most competitive trainer around here (multiple MACHs, student winning her class at the nationals, etc) that it is usually 2 years from start to competition for her students. It's a lot longer than most trainers but her students go out there and knock everything out. And WIN.

Remember, teaching a dog to jump over a bar is the EASY part of agility. I wasted two years training with the equipment only type trainer. It is not worth it. My dogs now are coming up on 1 year since going back to the foundation work. Well, one is more like 9 months in. They are not competition ready yet. But they are coming along nicely. Aiming for next winter to start entering.

Quote:
2) Do I need to consult a professional or can I train her myself?
If you have no experience I would highly highly recommend going to a trainer that COMPETES and has students that compete. Agility done poorly is not safe for the dogs. I see people all the time posting pictures of their dogs jumping WAY too high or they have bars that can't be knocked down... you're asking for injury.

Like I said, teaching a dog to jump is easy. Agility is much more difficult. It helps to have experienced eyes.

Quote:
3) What equipment do I need to buy?
It helps to have at least a few jumps and a set of weaves. Having some sort of contact obstacle is useful too. And I know several classmates built teeters for their noise sensitive dogs to play the bang game.

Quote:
4) What elements of the sport are there besides jumping?
Depends on the venue. Around here is AKC mainly. The 'standard' kinds of obstacles are the jumps, A-frame, dog walk, teeter, weave poles, table, tire jump, tunnel, and chute. (I feel like I'm missing something....). There are different games to play depending on the venue and they all have different rules. Typical courses are standard. Then there's things like Jumpers with Weaves that don't have all the obstacles. If you go to USDAA you see things like Gamblers and Snooker and they have some bizarre rules (gamblers requires distance handling, snookers requires you to rack up points on obstacles then complete a final sequence)

I have also done UKC training, that's where I started. UKC has many more obstacles than other agility venues. Sway bridge, crawl tunnel, etc.

Quote:
5) What's the nature of the sport? Is it fiercely competitive?
Depends on the venue and the people. It can be quite competitive. I am going to AKC nationals next weekend to watch. Should be awesome competition. On the other hand, we had a fun small USDAA trial recently and it was very laid back. For some people it is a lifestyle and they travel every weekend to competitions. I do agility for fun but would like to be decent at it.

Quote:
6) Do dogs need to be selectively bred for it or can any dog get into it?
Any relatively sound dog can do agility.

Last edited by Laurelin; 03-06-2013 at 08:59 PM.
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Old 03-06-2013, 09:59 PM
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1) A lot. My friends who compete would tell you that a dog needs at least a year, usually more, of training. And that means practicing almost every day, not just taking lessons on the weekend, actually practicing in your home or backyard for most days out of the week.

2) Get a trainer and get weekly lessons, participate in agility workshops or seminars. If you are serious about competing, that's not an option, it's a requirement. There's a lot of groundwork that needs to be laid, and if you don't know what you are doing, a lot of things can go wrong. You could accidentally put your dog at risk for injury. You could train in a way that develops bad habits, which would hinder you. You might be able to get by in low levels of competition training by yourself if you put in a lot of research. But if you want to be the best you can be, and compete at higher levels, bad habits will impede you. You have a lot to learn, and you will miss out on a lot if you don't have a trainer. Look for somebody who has earned high level titles on their dog, who compete at national level, who has students who compete and do well. You may have to drive a ways to get to somebody good. And expect the charge to be fairly nominal.

3) Starting off, my trainer and my friends who compete recommend at least 4 jumps and a set of 6 weave poles. These are actually fairly easy and cheap to make yourself with PVC. I made one jump for about $10. You may not need to make equipment if you have an agility field close and available to you to use daily. But chances are, you won't, and you will need some stuff at home to use for practice, especially as you get more advanced.

4) Dog walk, A-frame, tunnel, chute, teeter, long jump, wide jump, tire jump, table, solid wall jump, weave poles...It depends on the venue. Some use equipment that others don't, some pieces of equipment you won't see until certain levels, or you'll only see them up to a certain level.

5) It more depends on you and your attitude and what you want out of it. It can be a highly competitive sport, and for those who do have the competitive edge, speed is really important. Some people buy performance bred puppies, and they begin laying the foundation work as soon as they're brought home. Everything is trained in a way that maximizes speed. There are levels of competition and awards that you can't get to without speed and really getting competitive.

But the venues still design most of their competitions in a way that allows even your slow corgi that waddles along to earn some fairly high titles that aren't based on speed. You earn most titles with clean runs, which basically means you can get through a course without getting disqualified. Your dog stays on course, doesn't miss or refuse obstacles, doesn't knock bars, basically doesn't make any major errors. Your clean runs get you Q's and points, which add up to get you titles. Different titles require different amounts of points and Q's.

You can think of trials as competing against other teams, beating their scores and beating their times, or you can think of it as competing against yourself. Each trial you can strive to do better than you did previously.

6) Any dog can get into it. But you will need to be mindful of your dogs structure. A dog with poor structure is going to be more prone to injury, so you may be limited. You can still do agility, but you may need to train certain obstacles differently in order to avoid stressing your dog's joints, or you may need to limit your dogs maximum speed or keep jumps lower than standard during training. Avoiding injury is always more important than winning. The trainer you hire should be knowledgeable about structure and should be able to coach you on how to do agility safely with your dog. Also, certain breeds like bulldogs and pugs may be limited too because their smushed in noses make them prone to heat exhaustion. Those who are very competitive do tend to buy performance bred dogs because they have good structure and drive, and they often stick to certain breeds that are known to be very athletic and fast. But you can compete and have fun in agility with any dog.

Also, your dogs physical talent means little in the agility world. Virtually any dog is capable of gracefully completing the obstacles. What matters more in agility is communication. That's the challenge!
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Old 03-06-2013, 10:32 PM
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I know many people that go very far with so called 'off breeds' or rescues. A large portion of the dogs at our club are mixes.
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