Getting Ready for Agility
There you are with your new puppy, the one you have always dreamed of training, the world’s next agility superstar. You are just filled to the brim with excitement, even cleaned off a place on the mantel for all of his future awards.
We all do it, get overexcited about the future, but then just as quickly as we get that emotional high, reality sets in and we realize that he is only 10 weeks old. You certainly know that you cannot under any circumstances do any type of training utilizing most of the equipment used in agility. Remember, he is a baby with a baby’s set of very delicate set of parts that need to mature and strengthen.
But you want to start now, and you can and you should start now. Even though he won’t be leaping over any heavyweight jumps for quite some time, there is much you can and should be doing to ready him for the fun but strenuous activity of agility.
Of course one of your first orders of business with puppy is getting puppy out and about, seeing the world and learning new and exciting things. What better time to start to incorporate your agility training than now, when he is young and impressionable?
Of course your second task is to start a routine of positive reinforcement training. I think it goes without saying that until the basic commands are instilled, you should put off agility, but not some of the puppy pre-work.
Who is to say, that you cannot do the basic training, and at the same time incorporate some rudimentary agility stuff? What reason would anyone have to not want to start adding some exposure for agility? You already have treats and clicker in hand. (If you don’t know about clickers, please see my feature article on this Home Page.)
Let’s start with the table: There are literally hundreds of things that you can find when out for a walk to use as a table. Get him used to climbing up on anything that is low and sturdy enough for him to step onto. This simple thing can and will do so much for pup in building confidence later in life when he needs to get up on some unknown table. It’s no problem; he has put his paws on plenty of tables already.
Usually getting a puppy on a table is simple enough. Just lure him on with whatever he considers his favorite treat and he is there. Get him used to stepping up on all sorts of sizes and shapes of all kinds of surfaces. Once he lures on to the table easily, start adding the cue, “table,” or use whatever word happens to strike your fancy.
Now we have one obstacle down. How about the Buja? Getting him used to this one at a young age will do wonders for his coordination and confidence. Just make sure he is not too young for this one. Those little bones, muscles etc. still need time to develop.
Start off on the Buja, nice and slow (push him on this and you could set back things quite a bit.) You have nothing to gain by pushing him too fast. This is a scary thing to most puppies and dogs. Learn to like this use luring, his clicker, and treats.
Start off with a click and treat for just one paw on that board. When that is solid, up your requirements, to two paws on the board. Then work on luring him to all four on the board.
Remember, work with your puppy or dog and go at his pace, not yours. You are working on a partnership, not a dictatorship.
Another exercise is working on the perch. This also is of sufficiently minimal risk, so you can start at any age. Not to mention the added benefit of making puppy aware of his back end.
Training for this is exactly same as for the table or the Buja.
Just to recap:
1) Always do each step in small pieces.
2) Click and Treat for each individual step.
3) Lure a paw, then both front paws. That’s one command.
4) Then lure for getting all four squarely on the perch, two separate commands.
These are some ideas to get you started in developing that future agility superstar.
Best of Luck.