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Old 02-24-2013, 08:07 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Questions for those who do agility

We are moving later this summer, and may finally be in an area where agility classes are available. My spoo is currently 1 year old, so will be 1.5 when we move. He has soooo much energy, I think this would be great for him, but I have a few questions:

1) What basic obedience skills need to be rock solid before I think about trying a class? I know his skills need to be better, so I want to work on this over the next 6 months. Mostly, he knows the commands, but gets too excited to do them when there are distractions. He has a decent recall, even when he doesn't want to come, but that goes out the window window when there are a lot of "live" distractions (like multiple dogs at the dog park--dogs are the hardest distraction for us on walks, he breaks his heel all the time when we pass them!). I am thinking of trying to train his recall at the dog park more, so he gets used to more distracting environments, since this would obviously be an issue. I imagine "stay" is probably another one that has to be rock solid. What else?

2) Are there any skills that are easy to train that we can work on at home before going to a class? I'm not thinking of obstacle work, more obedience type things (that I can do indoors on rainy days!), but things I might not teach if we weren't planning to do agility?

3) I know this is region dependent, but in the US, what can I expect to pay for a class? Are they pretty expensive, or not too bad?

4) How long does it take to teach your dog enough where they can get some serious exercise (even if it is just on a few obstacles)?

5) Anything else I need to know?

Thanks for reading my long winded post, I'm excited about this! I have attended 2 agility events, and they were REALLY cool. Even when the dogs/owners made mistakes, both seemed to be having a TON of fun!
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Old 02-24-2013, 08:12 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Oh, and as a follow-up, I bet my mpoo would enjoy this as well. I think I would take my Spoo to the classes, since he has a lot more energy to burn, but is there any reason I can't teach my 8 year old mpoo similar skills at home? Or is that too old for some of the obstacles? I wouldn't want to hurt him.
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Old 02-24-2013, 08:36 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikey'sMom View Post
Oh, and as a follow-up, I bet my mpoo would enjoy this as well. I think I would take my Spoo to the classes, since he has a lot more energy to burn, but is there any reason I can't teach my 8 year old mpoo similar skills at home? Or is that too old for some of the obstacles? I wouldn't want to hurt him.
My opinion is, if you even think you might like agility, you will love it! It's so fun! I think you're well on your way with the commands you have taught your dog because they need the basics (sit, stay, heel, come, down, and directional commands) but most agility classes have a pre-agility to teach all the commands you need. If your area doesn't, well everyone has to start somewhere! And there will be lots of dogs (probably, every class is different of course) with less natural ability than your poodles In our trials we have an old basset hound that can hardly run, Chihuahuas, and lots and lots of cattle dogs who are excellent at agility. They adapt the course to your dog's size and just like human yoga, you only do the stuff that's safe (for your dog). If you end up wanting to compete, that's a ways down the road and you will know a lot more about whether you want to pursue it by then. Anyway I find agility is a lot of exercise because the mental stimulation is fantastic for really energetic dogs! They will come home and just collapse in a heap for a nap
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Old 02-24-2013, 06:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I am in similar situation with Hudson. I started watching Susan Garret' s free webinars on her website and they are dealing with these very issues. So far there are only two available but each week is the next one. I will admit that I got this info from her when I was at her recent workshop so may be a bit biased. But the stuff she talks about is so relevant to teaching the basics before any other skill (like agility) it may be worth watching. These freebies are the beginning of the next Recallers class which I plan to take as Hudson has recall only when he is all alone and there are no distractions anywhere.
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Old 02-24-2013, 07:16 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Like Indiana said the basic obedience is good to know. It is helpful if your dog can heel on both sides (heel, side). The beginner classes take it from there. Poodles are so great because they take well to training. Beyond that they just need the confidence to take the obstacles. In the Chicago area I pay about $15 for a group lesson.
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Old 02-25-2013, 03:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Agility is fun, fun fun! I bet you and your dogs will love it. In addition to basic obedience training target training is very helpful. I use the lids for cans of tennis balls. You want the dog to run to it and keep their nose on it till you give them a release word. This is very helpful for contact training. I also taught on and off. You can also have him "walk it". Walk a flat board, walk a ladder lying on the ground ect. I also taught paws - I point to something and he puts his front paws on it. This is helpful getting him started on an unfamiliar obstacle.
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Old 02-25-2013, 04:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Is the target training used to get the dog to touch the colored areas on the agility obstacles, or for something else? How would you translate having his nose on an object to having his feet on it? Or does the nose on the tennis ball lid have some other application? Sorry if this is obvious, I don't know anything about how people train agility.

Also, when we are working on heel, do I need to teach a true heel (a la obedience glued to your side kind of heel), or do they just need to be able to keep pace, sort of next to you? Should I have a different command for heel left and heel right?

I love the comparison of agility to yoga...I do taijiquan, which is similar in that you do what fits your body. Love it!
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:16 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Target training is primarily to get your dog to go somewhere. For instance, you will be at one end of the weave pole with your dog and the trainer will be at the other end with the target. On command, you will walk your dog as he goes through the weave pole to the target touch is nose and get a treat! It is also used to get your dog to cross other obstacles in similar fashion.

Agility heel is much less demanding and is used for training. In actual agility, your dog will be working at a distance following your directions. I use "heel" for the left and "side" for the right.

Another thing you can work on is an agility stay in which you put your dog on a stay and walk a few feet in front of him with you back to him. This is used to lead out your dog at the start of an agility run so you can stay in front of him on the course.
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Old 02-26-2013, 04:06 PM   #9 (permalink)
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As most of agility training is done off leash that recall is extremely important. I am working on this with my dog as she is extremely distracted by scents and is not completely reliable which is a problem in class. Also the stay mentioned by Specman was one of the first skills checked in my recent class and can be tough for lots of dogs especially before an obstacle.

One word of caution... agility is very addicting... once you start you won't want to stop :-D
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Old 02-26-2013, 04:49 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks! Yes, we will definitely need to work on basic skills and focus in a more distracting environment before we try any kind of foundations class. I plan to work on this a lot before we move. I know we aren't good enough for an off-leash group class just yet...do you think 6 months is a good goal to work up to this?

I may use the targeting as a rainy day game, since my spoo gets a little nutty when he doesn't get his walks/fetch games in. It sounds like a fun thing to try. Same with the off-side heel, which we haven't done before. Not sure about recall...I suppose we'll work up to it at the dog park, which is pretty distracting.
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