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It's me again! :) I signed up for Recallers and very pleased with the information and techniques/games. BUT, I learned something about myself, I needed to become a better trainer since I am with my dog every day and everything I do is "training". I also learned that even though Susan Garett gave so many resources and information, I need the structure that formal classes create. That said, I signed Rudy, 9 mos. old, up for Obedience 1 at a facility. My first thoughts in getting him were that I would love to have a therapy dog as there are many nursing homes close to me and I'm not that young either! Ha! However, during my eleven day winter break and watching Rudy outside playing I realized that he LOVES to run and jump! He has drive that was very evident yesterday when I didn't let him be outside except for potty breaks with me because it was sub zero.
Question: How do you know what fits your dog's personality and talents? I'm hoping the new training facility, which offers barn hunt, nose work, agility, obedience etc. etc. will lead me after meeting Rudy but wondered what all of you have done and think about this topic. Thanks in advance!
 

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This is an interesting topic. Personally I love the precision and elegance of beautiful obedience work, but we also love rally and I do wish I could still be doing agility. A dog that is very soft may not really enjoy many of these activities, but some sports are actually really great confidence boosters (tracking and other scent work, agility seem to top this list for me).


We do have to remember though that we choose to concoct these sports, not the dogs, so I do think it is important to acknowledge that if we see our dog worrying or stressing. Any sport though can be the right sport if it does the following: boosts the dog's confidence, improves their social experiences of the world, expands their world and most importantly builds a deeper bond between dog and person.


Some training sites have sampler classes so you can try out a number of different sports, but your obedience instructor should be able to help you make some suggestions once they get to know you and Rudy a bit.
 

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If you could take a sampler class, that would be great. For me, I've kind of tried a bit of everything to see what the dogs are good at and enjoy (and what I enjoy teaching them). Overall, I have found rally to be the most fun, but I hope to try obedience this year too.
 

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No matter what sport you choose, obedience is where you begin. You can't do agility if your dog doesn't listen and follow directions. You can't really do any sport without it, so obedience was a good choice. After that, figuring out a sport depends on what feels right. I wish there was a sampler around here, but I couldn't find one.

Noelle and I started with a traditional competition obedience class. Neither one of us flowed in this class. We did it for almost a year. Then the class let out in July so I took a rally class at another school for something to do. Rally connected with Noelle and me. I knew it within the first 10 minutes of class. Instead of silently heeling beside me, I was able to verbally cheer Noelle on and she lit up. It was as if Noelle said, "Ah! That's what I like."

After a year of practicing traditional obedience, we NQ'd twice in our first obedience trial. Six weeks after our rally class ended, Noelle had her RN. It's not that Rally is "easier." It's that rally obedience fit our communication style better than traditional obedience. We enjoy the teamwork aspects of rally. I'm trying to bring that fun teamwork attitude toward traditional obedience with mixed success.
 

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Click is right - obedience is the basis for everything so it's the best place to start.

You asked a really thoughtful question but I'm not sure how to answer it for YOU. I can share my thinking of what we've ended up doing.

I ended up in dog sports by accident, I didn't know they existed and this was my first dog I was training.

When I brought Babykins home she was almost a year old and had never been taught to sit or lay down, all she knew was conformation from the professional handler. I signed up for the nearest and earliest adult beginner basic obedience class (sit, lay down, come etc.). Loved training my dog, hated the trainer (private place, trainer was a nightmare so even with the worst start I still loved dog training). I wanted to train my dog for therapy and discovered the team (handler and dog) had to pass certain exams so I searched around and took the class that prepared us for the AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and TDI (Therapy Dog International). Loved that trainer, learned so much that I also took the next class which was CGCA (Community Canine Good Citizen). This was also a private place and he didn't offer anything else so I hunted around and found my first members owned training club which was AKC affiliated and called there and they fit me in the advanced basic skills obedience which was the prerequisite for competition obedience. As you can see I just drifted from one thing to the next without any goal, however I was lucky because everything was leading to a real goal in a meaningful way. We then ended up in our first competition obedience class. I was warned that both the advanced basic skills obedience and the novice obedience were classes where people can stay for many sessions - some people have been taking the novice obedience class for a couple of years. I mention it not to get you depressed or upset, but in addition to just learning the obedience routine for the trial, we work on proofing as well as do all kinds of other things that help strengthen our obedience skills.

While I was working my way through obedience, my daughter living in another city has started agility with her dog. I decided that it would be fun if I trained my dog she could run my dog in agility when we visited. So agility was our next sport. I'm so glad I had a good amount of obedience under our belt. You could tell in the beginning levels of ability my dog was trained unlike all the other dogs. The trainers never had to hold my dog at the start line because my dog would sit and wait till I gave her a release. There were so many advantages early on, it was just easier working with her in class. We are often the demo dog because the trainers knew my dog would do something. We got held up because my dog was extremely fearful of the teeter and had some issues with the dog walk and A frame that we had to work through (movement, height and texture of surfaces all of which we have overcome). She loves the weave poles, tunnels and jumps - she adores agility - including the teeter. For agility I found a closer members owned training club which is affiliated with several organizations, not AKC (if you are AKC you only do AKC, if not AKC there's lots of organizations and some different sports). I discovered that I really love agility too. Most of the people I started out with quit because they didn't understand that you had to train your dog for this dog sport. The few that continued - they trained their dogs to stay and to follow their directions over time and learned that it's an ongoing commitment. As a team you are always looking to improve your skills so you can do more.

At my agility club I noticed that my obedience trainer at the AKC club was giving classes so I signed up. She had a rally class after the obedience and most people from obedience stayed for rally. Because the people in this class were so friendly, they encouraged me to join up next session for rally. And I'm glad I did. This is WCRL rally, similar to AKC and it's fun. Like Click said - here you can talk to your dog in a way that you can't in obedience to encourage. I also felt it was the first place to start competing since the people involved were so supportive and WCRL allows some food treat in the ring. It's a small group between two different clubs who put on 4 competitions a year. This is the most friendly and supportive group of people - very welcoming.

We then added nose work when my rally class took the summer off. I thought nose work was easy - dog sniffs for a smell, indicates and gets lot of treats. Well the concept is easy but it's a lot more sophisticated and tricky. I'm not sure if we will continue - it's hard to get into some classes and where I take it now it's on the weekend which means I miss class when I'm competing in other sports and the classes get cancelled when my training building is used for trials.

I'm so glad I started with obedience. It's my favorite because it's the most challenging and the skills learned in the early levels are important to all sports. Your dog needs to learn impulse control and to follow your body language. You need to learn how to train your dog...... every sport starts at this level. I do approach rally more like obedience, less talking, hand signals for obedience etc. You can tell I do obedience when I do rally compared to the people who only do rally. It's subtle but I call my dog front with my voice and she comes in straight - I don't use my arms to swing my dog from my side into front. Agility is my second favorite - probably my dogs favorite. I say obedience is most challenging but agility is a close second, and perhaps first on many levels. Both require lots of training and a high level of team work between you and your dog.

All these sports will challenge your brain - not just your dog's brain which is a good thing.

I also found that at first people weren't too friendly. I discovered as I kept going that I slowly made friends and eventually when I started to compete in obedience they because very supportive. Over time with each sport you will find friends and support - you might not find it early one, but your relationship with people in your classes and your trainers will grow into real friendships.
 

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Skylar you made a very good case for a big part of my thinking which is that you need to use obedience as a foundation for everything else. I have been at many agility trials where even excellent level dogs don't have start line stays and such. It doesn't have to be at the level needed for an OTCh, but since obedience improves connectedness to your dog it does make everything else easier to be successful with.
 
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