by Karen Gloor
My club, Good Dog Agility in Arizona, recently started their winter training session. I volunteered to teach a class (after taking a hiatus for a year) and I’m seeing things that I like, and things that I don’t like.
Agility class is meant to be a time for you and your dog to bond while learning something new and fun. All too often, people place a lot of pressure on their dogs, even though they are only in an intermediate agility class. Sure, you want you dog to perform the obstacles, but is it worth it if you and your dog are clearly unhappy??
Here’s some advice on how to enjoy your experience in an agility class:
While you are waiting your turn, play with your dog. Have your dog follow a treat or toy between your legs, as if performing the weave poles. Not only will this reinforce the weave poles when you work on them, but it’s also something fun and motivating for your dog to do.
If your dog is afraid of an obstacle, try your hardest to not stress about it or get upset. This is easier said than done, but if you make light of it, your dog will be more at ease and more willing to do something that they are fearful of. Realize that this is NOT rocket science and that the world will NOT come crashing to an end if your dog won’t perform a specific obstacle.
When all else fails, make a fool out of yourself!! Agility is a sport that allows us to be somewhat goofy at times…take advantage of that and let go! I learned long ago that my dog doesn’t care what I’m doing, just as long as we are both having fun together. Now other people may look at me kinda funny, but then again, I am doing this for my dog, not for anyone else.
Every dog in your class will have a different learning curve. This is inherent in all dogs and breeds. The herding breeds seem to learn quicker…accept that and realize that it may take a little longer for you and you Beagle to really learn something, but once he/she does, they’ll have learned it for life.
Try not to get too carried away. What this means is don’t push your dog beyond it’s limits. Many people bring a new pup to agility class and the dog learns quickly. The handler gets focused on the fact that this is going to be a GREAT dog and they are going to kick a** in competition. They end up pushing their dog too hard and too much. By the time they are ready to compete, the dog is burned out and no longer having any fun. Remember, your dog is not a robot.
There is a Beagle in my class and I was so happy to see her! It used to be that NEA was the only beagle in class and at shows. In 9 shows out of 10, she still is the only Beagle in attendance, but at least there are more Beagle people showing an interest in attending class.
Agility class is a great place to learn the fundamentals and to learn HOW to actually train. Your dog may never compete, and that’s fine. However, if you do want to compete, you must put in more practice beyond the class itself. This involves either training in your backyard or going to a park and setting up some jumps and maybe some weaves. If you need obstacles to train on, follow this link…http://futuremach.baka.com/equip.html…in order to obtain plans on how to make equipment.
As always, remember what initially sparked your interest in the sport and try to keep the enthusiasm level up…your dog didn’t ask to be trained, you determined that for them.