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Thinking of starting Agility


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As a former flyball participant, I know the danger of addicting dog sports, yet I think I may try agility! :P Perhaps I'm crazy, but I need something to do with my second dog as he does not participate in herding.

 

The only thing I'm concerned about is the lack of equipment at home to practice with. We have a very small yard, and it would be virtually impossible to set anything up other that maybe one jump and a few weave poles. Plus the equipment seems to be very expensive! The facility I would go to offers the classes once a week. I am not looking to compete, mainly I want to use it as a way to keep my dog in better shape and more mentally stimulated. Will lack of at home practice equipment really make that much of a difference for a beginner dog?

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no, having no equipment means naught to a beginner dog. and why spend a bunch of money on a sport you're not sure about yet. somewhere in this forum(agility, obed, etc) there is a thread on building your own inexpensive equipment, so if you do get into it, you can experiment. my dogs and i competed for years before i started building my own stuff. weekly classes and at home handling practice was plenty enough. think hand shadowing games-when my hand is away from my body -move away, when my hand is close to my body-come in. all that can be done at home with no toys. so unless you plan on being a world class competitor- get out there and play!

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I think your money would be best spent on a videography class. Then you could just make a few quasi obstacles out of some cardboard boxes, painted spare tires and sprinkler lines ... and with some creative videotaping ... you can compete right from home! Who would be the wiser? You could have all kinds of fancy titles in a very short time!

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Will lack of at home practice equipment really make that much of a difference for a beginner dog?

 

No, it won't.

 

There is a ton of flatwork that you can train at home, and if you get more into it later on, there is a lot you can do with small, home made training pieces.

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I have a really small yard, I can have 12 poles, 3 jumps. When starting out you need very few peces of equipment. You can do lots of jump exercises with 2 & 3 jumps, I work on small sequences, areas we both need work. If you make jumps etc your self the cost is not to bad. The only item ht you need to get a decent one, is a tunnel, flimsy tunnels do not work for driven dogs. That said I do not have one, and it is not a problem.

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When I started agility I lived in a one bedroom apartment. After my very first class I knew one thing -- we weren't going to learn to weave (fast enough for my liking) by only practicing them once a week in class. So by week two, I had gone out and (with my dad's help!) built a set of 6 PVC weave poles and set them up in the living room. Eventually I added a jump, but I really couldn't do any more than that in my little apartment.

 

I was well into the Elite level before I bought my house and all of my equipment so that I could train at home. So yes, absolutely you can succeed in agility without training at home. But I do feel weaves are pretty important and can be made relatively cheaply.

 

As I've moved forward with agility, I find each piece of equipment I acquire is related to something my dogs find challenging. When Kaiser started TDAA I had to build a teeter and get a chute & tire. Eventually a table joined the collection because I tired of him ping-ponging off it every time. Last week I built a broad jump because Secret had never seen one.

 

If you have a good training center in your area this is all a non-issue. Those of us who live in an agility wasteland are forced to make these investments. :blink::D

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...but I need something to do with my second dog as he does not participate in herding.

 

The only thing I'm concerned about is the lack of equipment at home to practice with. We have a very small yard, and it would be virtually impossible to set anything up other that maybe one jump and a few weave poles... Will lack of at home practice equipment really make that much of a difference for a beginner dog?

 

I have fun, and keep my dog and myself mentally/physically fit using small orange plastic cones (scaled-down versions of orange cones seen near construction sites can be purchased at many hardware stores or online), and a light 18 in x 18 in piece of plywood. Great thing about them, they are easily portable, and can be set-up in moments in a park/field, backyard, or livingroom. Your imagination is your only limit regarding patterns, distances, and games that you and your dog can play. Weaving a dog through widely spaced cones set-up in a triangle while standing nearby, is wholly different than standing off at a distance guiding your dog through a tightly spaced square pattern. You can change the distances/patterns with ease, so that dog does not simply get into a stale routine.

 

A serpentine pattern is fun for a dog, as handler jogs down the center, lines of cones to left/right, sending dog out left or right to pass around a cone, dog crossing in front or behind, and off to the next cone on the other side. This game scales up quickly to quite large distances, thereby almost effortlessly training distance. Use the words "here" and "out" appropriately as dog runs toward or moves away from you, and in that way he/she learns commands for almost every exercise you can set-up.

 

A small square of plywood makes a contact point for front or rear legs, or perhaps a "table" command. Parks in this area are virtually unused on weekdays for 7-8 months of the year, so (assuming dogs are welcome, and park is not heavily used), you can incorporate natural/man-made objects at the parks for all kinds of games. Football goal posts become figure-eight weave poles, for directing dog from greater and greater distances, to figure-eight first left and then right through the poles (changing direction on-the-fly), using only "here" and "out". Low fences (height appropriate for dog) make nice jumps, using the posts to separate hurdles, as dog leaps away from you ("out-jump"), and back toward you ("here"), developing a regular cadence, as you move with dog down the fence-line.

 

Having fun with their dogs is the main goal (in my view the best goal) of many folks. It doesn't have to be expensive or overly time-consuming. -- Best Wishes, TEC

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