Monday, March 23, 2009

Beginner agility classes

We all have to start somewhere, and when you're new you don't even know where you should be starting. I know I made a lot of mistakes with my dogs when I first started, and the way we trained things makes me cringe....pushing too fast, luring too much, not building real value or understanding for each and every element of agility.

Just look around on a site like youtube and you'll see it, dogs are running sequences before they have any real understanding of what's expected or any real drive to do what's asked.

The way I train has changed slightly with every dog. Kittie, Rudy & Willy all started within months of each other, we were all clueless together. Even though Kittie has had some success, she really has very little criteria.....

agility according to Kittie
* weave poles- stay in as long as mom is right with me, if she pulls away or runs too fast, do what you can to weave faster, but if you can't keep up just come out of the poles

* A frame & Dogwalk- Just run like heck, mom usually turns in to me, which makes me collect just enough that I usually hit the contact

* Teeter- Run to the pivot (like she was taught way back when) put all your weight in your front and get ready to launch as soon as it hits the ground, Usually hitting the yellow and safely getting on the ground, but once in a while getting called for a fly off, or even worse being hit by the board as it starts to come back up while I'm flying in the air over it

*Jumps- just fling yourself over them, if you hit a bar, oh well

*Table- Boring, do what you're told, but as slowly as possible...Kind of scary too, when it's a down with all those dogs and people around everywhere.

I trained Abby very differently, my focus was all about speed and independence. Which I did get, At least initially. Abby has always loved agility. I did a lot of baby sequences with very low jumps with her, she would just fly and was really flashy and fun to watch. Give her an open, flowy course and still today that's where she shines. I taught her to get out in front me and not need me to be by her side, so she has independent weaves and contacts.......I did not however teach her that it was okay for *me* to get out ahead of her, she worries about where I'm going and just looks for the fastest way to get by my side, I did not teach her collection either, so tight courses typical of AKC excellent are very hard for her and that hurt her confidence quite a bit and for a while I lost a lot of that speed I worked so hard to get.

I'm taking things really slow with Indy. The only actual agility she's done is the teeter ( I hold the end and she runs out and I gradually drop it) and the table. We're also doing some flat work, just recall to heal at this point and lots of trick training and skills for developing body awareness. We're doing some work at training directionals, mainly to use at the end of the contacts (something I didn't do with Abby). We will spend a lot of time on jumping and foundation skills. Haven't decided what method I'll use for weaves, either 2 X 2 or maybe I'll try channels this time, but it'll be a while. I may start working on some entries in the near future, but no real weaving. We'll probably use Silvia's method for running contacts.

My main point in this long rambling post, is it's important to have an educated plan, even if you're just doing agility for fun. Dogs will have more fun and stay safer if they know what their criteria truly is. Many beginner agility classes try to be all things for all people and end up doing a huge disservice to all involved. Educate yourself and stick to your guns about what's right for you and our dog.

Do I have all the answers at this point? Probably not, our ideas change all the time, the sport changes all the time, our goals change and the unique personality of each dog you work with changes things.

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