View Full Version : Canine agility

05-08-2007, 01:17 PM
I am wrapping up a move back to my hometown of Atlanta, and I return with a dog who's now about a year old. I really want to get involved in canine agility as a way for him to get some extra exercise and for us to do some fun things together.
I have a few questions for any of you who may have done this kind of thing before. Walter is still in the "everybody's my best friend" stage, so I think it may be best to wait a bit longer until he settles a bit more. But will this cost him/us anything developmentally (that is to say, can you teach an older dog new tricks?)?
Also, are there things we can do to start practicing before we hit the real thing in earnest?
Lastly, does anyone know anything about specific organizations/training places in the Atlanta area? Those of you with experience in other locations, what kind of things do I need to look for with potential trainers/facilities? How much should I expect to pay for a course?

Any comments or suggestions are, as always, appreciated.

05-08-2007, 07:27 PM
grab his head with a stylus, scroll down, and click on the little light bulb, and say "sit down!"

... oh wait, you mean real life doesn't work like Nintendogs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendogs)? ;)

05-08-2007, 09:57 PM
We trained our dogs in agility for a number of years. It was a ton of fun and great for everyone to get some exercise. I absolutely recommend your dog be well trained in obedience before starting. Our trainer required at least basic or "puppy" obedience and strongly recommended a "focus" obedience class. The key really is that while training, your dog needs to be completely focused on you, and not being distracted by people or other dogs. We had trouble with this - we never had our dogs totally perfect with this and at our first agility trial, my wife was running one of our dogs and in the middle of her run saw me behind the fence and came running over to me.

We had a bunch of dogs in our class learning agility late in their lives. I think it depends on the disposition/trainability of your dog, but in general I wouldn't worry about waiting a bit and working on focus obedience first.

I think we paid $60-70 for a 6 or 8 week class.

Here are some pics for fun. The first is my agility class. That's me kneeling in the middle with our little chihuahua/poodle/terrier mix.

Here is our bichon coming out of the tunnel.

Here's my wife guiding our bichon down the A-frame.

It was a ton of fun, but unfortunately we've been so busy we stopped doing it. Hopefully when things settle down, we'll have more time to take them back.

05-09-2007, 07:08 AM
I currently compete in agility (note the default picture) and I teach it in the Tampa Bay area (a little far from Atlanta for you to come to class) If you let me know approximately where you are going to be living I'm sure I can get some referals to good places. There are, in general, two flavors of training schools for agility.

1-Private 'for profit' trainers. Generally more expensive the training tends to be focussed more on high end competition and most places have at least one 'name' handler (name = someone who has competed successfully at high level in one of the venues, usually making the nationals and beyond)

2- Not for profit dog training clubs -(this is what I belong to) a sanctioned (usually by AKC) club where classes are tought by members - generally the instructors are volunteer or are compensated in free classes or discounts on classes. These classes tend to be less expensive and more geared to John Q Public.

I would visit some training facilities. Agility training must be positive training - I can compel a dog to do obedience but in agility they are off lead and they have to WANT to do. Run from any place that doesn't welcome you as an observer to their classes. At the beginner level you want to see small equipment - A frames, teeters and dog walk should start almost flat on the ground - 'beginner' sized equipment is better yet. Look for classes that have a variety of breeds and seem to welcome all - there are places that will turn their nose up if you don't have a screaming fast border collie/sheltie/jack russell (aside: I can particular joy in watching my standard poodle blow BCs off the course!) Almost all dogs can do agility, each breed has strengths and weaknesses. You can't train a bulldog like a sheltie.

There are plenty of things you can do before you start. If you contact me privately I'll be glad to give you some on the flat excercise you can start with.

If your dog has a reliable 'come' (and that means he comes to your general vicinity so you can get hold of him not an obedience sit-front) a down, a sit, and a stay and is ok with other dogs you are ready. Depending on the breed jumps should be kept low until growth plates are closed (in a sheltie they are closed by a year, my lab puppy will be nearly two before he sees anything close to full height jumps)

Beware - agility is addictive. trust me. It is also great fun.

Run Fast, Run Clean!


05-09-2007, 12:27 PM
You can't train a bulldog like a sheltie.

That probably reads closer to "you can't train a bulldog."

My big guy, now at age 4, has finally learned to "shake hands" without biting the proffered hand. He'll lift up his paw no problem, he just likes to gnaw at yours in the meantime.

I've never met a dog who is so not food-oriented. I'll be holding the tastiest morsel, and he'll still find the non-existent boogeyman out the front window just that much more exciting.

Still, I like to dream of the day where he weaves (waddles?) his way through an agility course like your avatar pup. ;)

05-09-2007, 01:22 PM
There is a woman locally who runs a bulldog...not swiftly because that's not what they are built for, but they do pretty well. Every dog has its challenges. Your dog will never run as fast as Dylan (the standard poodle in the photo) who maintains an average speed of just over 4 yards a second on a standard course (with the a-frame, the table, the teeter etc) and close to 7 yards a second on a jumpers course (jumps, tunnels and weave poles) He does a set of weaves in just over 2 seconds. HOWEVER I am pushing 50. I am not svelte. I am not fleet of foot. His balance point when working (the distance at which he is comfortable...if I get too close he'll push out away from me too far and he'll curl in towards me) is about 25 feet. So here I have the demon poodle cooking along at 6 yards per second 25 feet away and there are two jumps side by side...I have to get him over the correct one at speed at a distance....not surprisingly my favorite agility t-shirt reads "Some you win, Some you lose, Some you wreck" . I have been flattened by him more than once because I ended up in his flight path (nice dogs will altered their course not to hit you...mine is not a nice dog!)
He can also vault from the top of an a-frame (6'2") and loves to fly through the air (it is unsettling to have your dog sailing over your head!).

Its a safe bet your boy won't level you, won't launch himself from the top of the a-frame and you might actually be able to keep up with him enough to direct him. Some days that sounds awfully good to me! Tight courses will be much easier for you than for me...even against a sheltie of the same size your dog will land shorter (Dylan lands about 12-15 feet beyond a jump) allowing him to turn tighter and take a shorter path...that makes up for the lack of foot speed. As long as your goal isn't the World Champoinships you'll be fine.

A word on motivation...I have found all the bull breeds I have trained to be more motivated to tug than to eat. You can use either food or a toy as a reward in training (and many top flight handlers prefer the toy). You can make a dog toy motivated. Really. Yes, a bulldog is generally harder to train that a sheltie. All the herding breeds have had their work ethic bred into them for generation upon generation. A good trainer knows his/her breeds and works with their natural abilties. That's why you'll need to be careful in selecting a trainer.
I'm working up a list of things to practice and some links for you which I'll send along when I'm done.

Run fast, run clean.


05-09-2007, 03:07 PM
I wish I had Canine flexibility. I'd never leave the house.