Q for dog agility people

patandchickens

Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
12,520
382
341
Ontario, Canada
I know you're out there, you've popped up before
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I'd ask this on Actual Dog Forums except that a) I keep getting really, really helpful dog advice *here* and more importantly b) perhaps I am overly paranoid but do not know what if any forums my current instructors are on and I would just rather not get into a discussion of this with them because their strong advice will probably be "well just take a bunch of classes with us and don't do anything on your own first". Which is probably good advice except that I am really bored NOW and furthermore it is not clear when I will be *able* to take a bunch more classes with them and I truly honestly see no reason why I should not be noodling around with basic jumping and handling/flatwork type stuff myself.

So, my question obviously is, do you have any suggestions for relatively-foolproof basic jumping and handling/flatwork exercises
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I have trained horses for most of my life, mostly in jumping-based disciplines, so I have some general clue about striding and grids and jumping style and so forth, although some things are certainly different in dogs. I have done just a little jumping with Russie thus far, mainly at about 8-10" (he is a 24" dog) and mainly focusing on a) getting him to find the jump and go jump it, when I point and say 'jump', and b) being able to do it from all differetn geometries and sides and with a sometimes-rather-uncoordinated front cross before the jump.

Where would you recommend that I go from here, backyard-wise, things I can "reasonably safely" work on myself? Am thinking maybe simple jumping grids and couple-of-jump handling exercises...? Haven't been able to google up much for THIS basic a level.

(Mind you, I sincerely AM going to sign up for their most basic agility class (am currently taking a sort of sports-foundation obedience class with them, mostly because Russie needs the staying-focused-in-class mileage which he is really benefitting rapidly from) next time it is offered at a time I can make it AND if I have the money then. I just don't see why I can't be working on basic things myself, you know? And maybe my instructors would agree, I don't know, but am afraid to ask because of possibly pissing them off if they *don't* agree
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-- I am already the only yellow lab in a class otherwise consisting of border collies
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)

Thanks for any suggestions,

Pat, who was surprised to find a previous instructor on a forum where I asked a question that she turned out to be slightly miffed I asked online instead of waiting and asking it in class, so I do not think I am *totally* overparanoid
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Rusty Hills Farm

Crowing
13 Years
Apr 3, 2008
1,634
83
276
Up at the barn
Pat, who was surprised to find a previous instructor on a forum where I asked a question that she turned out to be slightly miffed I asked online instead of waiting and asking it in class, so I do not think I am *totally* overparanoid tongue

Could be that in class she gets paid for her knowledge and does not online, so that she why she was a bit resentful? Which is why I tend to avoid the kinds of classes where the instructors are profiting from their instruction. I stick to training clubs where the more advanced are helping the less advanced because they care about the sport and not because it benefits their pocket.

When I was first starting out years ago in obedience, I had the misfortune to fall into a class where the instructor actually gave me bad info because, being so much more experienced than I, he instantly realized I had a really GOOD dog and was afraid he would eventually have to compete against me. I, being a total newbie, did not realize what was happening until a k9 handler from the same base as me took me aside and explained the "facts of life" to me after a meet inwhich we did really, really badly. I stopped going to the handler's classes, started working with the k9 guys, and was amazed to see my dog blossom. During the classes he and I were constantly at odds and messing up. A couple of weeks working with the canine units and he was amazing. That is how I got started in schutzhund work, btw. I was invited into the k9 guys' private training club where they started their puppies and such. There were a bunch of military handlers and a bunch of civilian handlers and these guys taught me soooo much. They were in it for the love of the dogs and the love of the sport. For them it was not about money, class "fees" or any of that stuff. Made all the difference in the world.

Just something to consider.


Rusty​
 

RiverOtter

Crowing
11 Years
Nov 4, 2009
1,199
2,009
381
NY
First, I am SOOO sorry that you are getting such grief.

Second, ummmm, I'm not sure what you mean by "reasonably safe". LOL, I've never had a dog explode or anything. Agility should be fun. This is your first agility dog, right? So you're not ultra competitive and looking for a national title or will have to give up Russell to get a "better prospect" or anything, right? And, it's agility, no one's life is on the line here.

So relax, make it fun.
Me, personally, I think the worst thing they did for the sport was take out the down table. Everyone wants speed and dogs AND handlers are getting too very hyper. If your dog is happy and relaxed at the sight of an agility course and not foaming at the mouth to start flying around it will pay off in points. "Cause honestly, you're not beating the BCs for speed and if you mark Russell's progress against them he'll seem to come up short. Other breeds tend to "burn out" because their handlers are trying to race them to be faster then the BCs. Don't, just have fun.

Just as with anything, if you work on precision, speed will come.
Jumping is very easy. I had it recommended to me when I first introduce a pup to jumping (and waaay back when, before there were official agility trainers and it was just folks having fun with their dogs - y'know, 10 years ago- you did not jump them till they were 10 months old, we worried about bone development and the tendency of pups to fling themselves at things) Was to walk the dog up to a jump about level with their elbows(generally 8 to 10 inches), sit them right up on it and toss a bit of bacon on the other side.
Have you seen those kids toys that look like half a ball and you turn them inside out and they fly straight up?
That's what the dog does.
The theory is that them "popping" over teeny jumps like that is a good way to strengthen the dog's hind leg and back muscles without stressing the landing joints as in agility the elbows/shoulder/back can take a pounding.
Also, the dog has no opportunity to associate jumping with working up enough speed to flatten out and fly at it. Like with horses, rounder goes higher.

Do you have equipment at home? Play with it. If you don't have equipment, make a balance beam. Paint the ends yellow and play with it. Not like an agility competition. Walk on it with him - go on, get up there girl!. Have him Down and Sit on it. Do Sit-Up and High Five on it if he knows those tricks. Go to the end, turn around and go to the other end and then do more agility stuff.

Work on having him concentrate on you. Do fun, silly things like this. Set up 2 jumps. Take him over one and NOT the other, signal him to turn around and go back over the first one. He won't. When he tears off to the "next" jump, fall down on the ground and lie there. Wait for him to realize he's lost you and come sniffing over to see what happened to you. Give him a good rub and repeat.
It won't take long for him to keep an eye on you when he realizes he "kills" you whenever he goes tearing off on his own. That makes The Game into Monkey See, Monkey Do rather then Can't Catch Me.

The see-saw makes lots of dogs nervous so rig up a little one and play on it a lot. Get a 4 to 5 foot length of 2x8 or 2x10 if you can find it, put it over a 2x4 on the ground, give your kids a handful of tiny treats each (cat kibble works great) and tell them to go play in the yard with the dog. They'll find the mini see-saw.
 

Brindlebtch

Songster
10 Years
Apr 15, 2009
5,539
11
248
Texas
I agree with River Otter. Unless you have your sights set on the World Team or want to kick everybody's butt, agility should be fun fun fun for both dog and handler. Tell your current instructors to get a life, in the nicest possible way, of course. The best way to train is to take bits and pieces of various training "methods" that fit into your universe and use them.

I agree with the see-saw assessment and you might want a set of sliding weavepoles at home. There is all sort of info out there - Linda Mecklenberg (sp) is the latest fashion in our area. If you can handle from the nose that is the way to go. She has DVDs and books you can buy. She'll take you from day one on. 2 by 2 weaves is also in fashion (by Susan Garrett) and you can buy DVDs and books and sets of 2 weavepoles, too, for an unreasonably large sum(!).

I have the opinion that I'm old with 2 fake knees and I want to have fun and am not so carnivorous that I am out to beat the border collies with my AmStaffs. I want me and my dogs to have fun and feel that agility should be a fun activity. Been there, done that, don't need to anymore.

A lot of people in the Houston area don't feel that way and are very, very competitive. My current boss at Leaps n' Bounds is like that - but she does have her sights set on the world team and does strictly Mecklenberg agility and doesn't do anything else with her dogs except agility. Got her current dog specifically for agility. Lives and breaths agility. She can tell you what all her's and her competitor's times were at any given trial. It's like professional football. It's insane.
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My dogs are pets first and also do obedience and tracking and get their CGCs and I finish their championships if I can etc. We take them on vacations with us, not just to dog events. I'm older and have 2 fake knees and do the old fashioned Flashpaws steer from the rear because it is comfortable for me - and people are critical of me for it. Well, I know you know what I think they should do.

I've been teaching agility for 23 yrs now, and have seen a lot of training and handling fashions come and go. All of a sudden a "new" way of training comes around and some seminar giver charges big bucks so they can grace you with their knowledge, when 15 years before there was a book published on it by somebody else - but most of the current folks haven't been around that long and the 1st book writer retired or died or no longer does agility for some reason. Same with a lot of the obedience stuff, I swear. 20 years ago at Flashpaws (when I could run a lot faster), I tried to innovate a maneuver called the cross-in-front and my boss told me to quit it because it wasn't really a viable option. Go figure. I bet Jane doesn't even remember saying that, either, just dismissed it. Somebody on the west coast also invented it and ran with it!

Something to remember is there are at least 10 different ways to train all this stuff. Some work on high drive dogs better, some on low drive dogs better - but it all works. There is no one right way - I don't care what anybody says.

I commend you for your curiosity. (I always like to say that curiosity is a sign of intelligence!
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) A great source of info on training articles is Clean Run magazine. They have on line resources if you want to subscribe, and a great archive. I believe all the Mecklenburg puppy stuff is in there, and a lot of other stuff that is really interesting.

Another thing to remember when dog training - the only thing 2 dog trainers can agree on is what the 3rd one is doing wrong. Believe it!
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Have fun!
 

WriterofWords

Has Fainting Chickens
13 Years
Dec 25, 2007
13,212
66
406
Chaparral, New Mexico
I got plans for free for all the agility equipment needed offline. I've built a lot of jumps and weave pole out of lightweight PVC pipe, a stop table, an small A frame and a tire jump,, it's all out there for free and I play with the Blue Heeler and BCs with all the time, they love it!!
 

Brindlebtch

Songster
10 Years
Apr 15, 2009
5,539
11
248
Texas
Oh yeah, taking out the sit or down on the AKC table? Are you kidding me? People don't want to train their dogs to down or sit stay for 5 consecutive seconds? What a joke. USDAA still has a down only on the table, so I would teach an immediate drop on the table, if I were you. Down is a much more stable position. Try to remember you are not just training for agility, but for an all around well behaved dog. There are a lot of useful commands that really aren't taught much anymore because they have fallen out of fashion or take a little more time to train.
 

patandchickens

Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
12,520
382
341
Ontario, Canada
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I don't think I actually have any sort of non-class 'club' available within acceptable driving distance so it is kind of a moot point.

I don't think that her issue was a financial one though. I mean, I was *in* the class already, she had already deposited my check and all that
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I think it was more along the lines of "you could be asking ME, why would you want to collect a variety of other peoples' opinions", and/or maybe she felt I should have asked her *first* rather than posting the question to a forum. Honestly the only reason I didn't ask her first was that her class always ran so darn late that I could not possibly stay to ask questions afterwards because as it *was* the kids were long since in bed by the time I got home.

<shrug>, who knows, life is like that. It just makes me want to be a little careful this time, because I really *like* this set of instructors and they seem to have pretty much the kind of agility-oriented competitive-but-not-overcompetitive program I am looking for, and I get along wll with them so far.

Quote:
LOL I just mean "that I cannot screw up the dog's training too permanently".

Like, I mean, as a rider and trainer I vigorously believe that nobody should ever try shoulder-in for the first time at home, it needs intelligent eyeballs there to advise you when you are new to it. Whereas trotting correctly-spaced cavalleti is relatively hard to mess up and perfectly fine to fool around with on your own. I am sure there must be dog analogs.

Agility should be fun. This is your first agility dog, right? So you're not ultra competitive and looking for a national title or will have to give up Russell to get a "better prospect" or anything, right? And, it's agility, no one's life is on the line here.

Well of course... but I would still rather install as few gratuitous problems as I can
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honestly, you're not beating the BCs for speed and if you mark Russell's progress against them he'll seem to come up short. Other breeds tend to "burn out" because their handlers are trying to race them to be faster then the BCs. Don't, just have fun.

Yup that's exactly what I want. I *would* like to be able to compete someday, soundness of body and mind permitting (as pertains to dog *and* me both <g>), but only competing against the standard of "how efficiently can we do a course", not for placings and "what if he were a border collie and I were young, fast and coordinated".

Set up 2 jumps. Take him over one and NOT the other, signal him to turn around and go back over the first one. He won't. When he tears off to the "next" jump, fall down on the ground and lie there. Wait for him to realize he's lost you and come sniffing over to see what happened to you. Give him a good rub and repeat.

Hahaha, I get your general drift but this morning we have about 2" of waterlogged snow sitting on about 1" of icewater, so I do not believe I will be doing exactly that at this precise moment in time LOL But, yes, I do get your point, for a different day
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Thank you for the encouragement and suggestions, anyone else has suggestions too they'd certainly be welcome as well,

Pat​
 
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patandchickens

Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
12,520
382
341
Ontario, Canada
*What* did the AKC change the table to, then? (Surely they still do *have* it?) Is it just that they no longer specify the position, or what?

(Asking only out of curiousity since the only thing there appears to be in Ontario is AAC and CKC, the latter of which would require me to do the fees-and-photos thing to convince them Russell is an actual if unpapered lab and I don't know how likely I am to bother with that since there are a good number of AAC trials around)

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We have a little, I dunno, probably 4' long 12" board with a maybe 3" fulcrum, I seldom actually bring it in the house b/c the kids get to doing Bad Things with it when it's in the living room, but I have been working on clicking him for banging it from side to side, when the weather improves I do intend to make an Actual teeter for outdoors (will need to be reasonably childproof
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)

I ordered the Sue Garrett 2x2 dvd, which yes really is egregiously expensive, but still waiting for it to arrive. Will probably use step-in fenceposts for the foreseeable future, til some more cheap pvc comes my way anyhow.

A great source of info on training articles is Clean Run magazine. They have on line resources if you want to subscribe, and a great archive. I believe all the Mecklenburg puppy stuff is in there, and a lot of other stuff that is really interesting.

Yeah, I would like to, but paper-copy subscription is too expensive (at least for husband
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) and I do not think I can do their electronic subscription due to slow-and-unreliable dialup (trying to access their trial copies online did not work, anyhow). It may have to wait til some other time when things ae different.

So anyone have any SPECIFIC exercises, either just-flatwork or with jumps, to recommend to me for just starting out?

Thanks muchly,

Pat​
 

Horsefly

Songster
10 Years
Jan 11, 2010
328
7
144
Virginia
I'm glad you posted this because I have been looking into doing some for fun agility with my dog. What I have done so far is start training my dog to jump on comand. I've started with the bar really low and every few successful jumps she made raised the bar some. If she knocks the bar down I just put it back lower and try some more. I haven't done much with her yet so she isn't jumping her right hight either. I also have been working on her tunnels, I used a word she already knew and changed it for the tunnel command. When I put her in her crate I point and tell her "kennel" and it sends her in. I figured I would try using a comand she knew and applied it to a new situation. So I pointed at the tunnel entrance and said kennel. I got a funny look at first but she figured it out and now will go through the tunnel when I say kennel. I plan on changing the word to tunnel eventually once she has it down because it sounds weird if someone else is around and I'm telling her to go kennel every time I do a tunnel. This is my first time ever trying to train a dog to do agility and I'm planning on enrolling in some classes soon. I had a question if anyone could answer, but should I have the vet make sure it is okay for my dog to jump before intensiveish training? She is a lab mix and her brother has a luxated pattella (slipped kneecap) in one knee so I don't know if her risk are higher.
PVC is definately the way to go to make your own weave poles and jumps, way cheaper than trying to buy them already made. It isn't hard to figure out how to make them and there are plans you can find online.
I held at the state agility trial here in town every year and I love watching the owners and dogs compete, you can really tell who is the most competitive ones going for speed. A big tip I picked up last time I was there is to not flap your arms around telling the dog here and there. Limit your movements so the dog gets clear signals and isn't distracted. There is a lady who competes and she doesn't have arms. Her dogs are amazing and she directs them with her shoulders.
 

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