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We have a 10-week old female that we would like to get into agility training. Is there an age by which she will be ready to start? She's already learning basics, "come", "stay", "down", etc...


Also, does anyone know of any programs/clubs/trainers in the Southeastern MA area? Our local 4-h doesn't seem to have anything...


Thank you so much! Glenna

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First, check out the following web sites for info on local clubs; they can no doubt get you in touch with training places. www.usdaa.com www.nadac.com www.akc.org


EVERYONE is going to tell you that yes, you can do some training for agility at an early age. AND everyone is going to tell you to wait until your dog's growth plates have closed before you do full-height jumps, A-frames, etc. That might be 1.5 years of age! You can teach jumping at a very low height; believe me, everyone is tempted to go for higher, "because the dogs can do it." Of course, they can! Nobody questions that! But it can do severe damage to joints. Don't do it early!!!!!


But don't despair. In addition to teaching lots of "equipment" early,there are tons of things you can teach without doing any harm to your dog's bones and joints. I don't have the exact reference with me, but check the Clean Run web site {www.cleanrun.com) [bTW, they are based in MA!] for a book entitled something like "Tricks for Agility Dogs." It's small and not expensive, and has great ideas for things that will later transfer to agility - things like spin or twirl, which loosens the dog's back and leg muscles up before a run, etc. etc. etc.. Learning to play WITH you is also important -you have to be "more fun" than anything else around. Puppies can be so time-consuming, it's probably tempting to let them "play alone" a lot. Some chew toys are probably appropriate, but teach her that YOU are the center of the universe!


My other current campaign: I see soooo many very very good dogs blowing contacts. My next dog (ha!) is going to learn "Touch" as a position, much like "sit" or "down." That will be front feet on the ground, back feet on the contact. This hypothetical dog will know this position and this command so solidly that I will be able to dance around in front of her, throw balls, wave my arms, etc., and she won't BUDGE!! Then, and only then, will she learn the obstacle that comes before this position, starting part-way up, then driving to the bottom.


Can you tell - we didn't train this way! And most don't. It's too tempting to do the entire obstacle, then worry about the contacts at the end. Start with the hard part! The rest will be easy.


Same with jumps - Stacy Peardot-Goudy is teaching a young dog of hers to jump and turn towards her BEFORE learning to jump and go straight ahead. This will shave yards (and seconds) off tight courses at higher levels. So, I guess this all depends upon how competitive you want to be.


In any case, best of luck finding agility soul-mates. There should be plenty around you somewhere!


And don't forget to let the puppy be a puppy!



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