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Overwhelmed by Agility Options

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Hello everyone.


I was hoping since there are quite a few members on here who do agility, you could offer me some guidance or advice.


I'm very new to training in agility. So when I started, I ended up going with Susan Garrett's Handling360 program. Not only was it rather on the expensive side, I did it for a year and still not really feel like I could go to a trial and compete. It focused on handling and learning a lot of verbal cues. I finally was able to find an agility class where the instructor was also in H360 (I figured it would be smart to keep it consistent). I've taken the four classes now, and still feel like I couldn't do anything/I don't think my girl really understands what I want her to do. We've yet to do any contact equipment (even foundational stuff) or even the table. Just jumps and tunnels over the past 24 weeks. I've certainly since gotten over the whole Susan Garrett craze, and I'm not crazy about her techniques.


I've decided maybe I should start over with something different. So I started looking into other options, but there aren't any other classes near me (actually there is one, but they punish dogs when they get it wrong, and I'm not going to do that). So I started looking online. and there are just so many options. Silvia Trkman (I do think I want RC!), One Mind Dogs, Bad Dog Agility, Daisy Peel...


I'm feeling very overwhelmed, and I don't really want to waste another year with no real progress. Does anyone have any preferred methods, or optimism for someone who is feeling fairly dejected?


Thanks so much!

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I don't use a 'system' and I don't like systems. I think they're mostly marketing rather than teaching new behavior or anything revolutionary - mostly, and this is my only opinion.

I really think you need to just pick a class, in person, with an instructor and settle in.

Trailing within a year is, frankly, ambitious for anyone who isn't pretty danged established in agility and familiar with the skills and handling themselves - because you have to teach the dog but you also have to learn the sport and that takes time. Expect it to take you somewhere between 18 months of consistent instruction and probably 2 years before you're really comfortable with it.

DEFINITELY don't expect any class that is starting with beginner dogs to introduce equipment even remotely quickly. A lot of the very early ones don't even use jumps and tunnels.

Basically, hang in there. I think your biggest problem was trying to do it on your own and your biggest problem now is impatience.

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I'm by no means an agility expert, but can agree w/CptJack. I'm in at least my 4th agility class and there are SO MANY subtleties in dog & handler interaction. It seems to me that it's waaaaaaaay harder to train me to cue my dog correctly than it is to train the dog to take a jump, or sit on a table, or walk on the dog walk. Or go from one task to the next.


Most of the feedback I get from my teacher is what I'm doing wrong that is giving Gibbs the wrong signal. He pretty much goes where I send him, but I'm not as adept with training me as he is at being trained. I've got a great teacher, and she's not mean at all, but my learning is not even 50% as fast as Gibbs.


Sorry for your frustration ~ I feel it for myself, too.


Ruth & Gibbs

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I have been trialing for 2.5 years. I have been doing some kind of instruction for almost 4 - some classes, but also a lot of private lessons. ...I am STILL trying to figure out this game. In fact, I spent last weekend's lesson flubbing up a sequence and wanting to tear my hair out or cry because I could. not. get. the. thing. I am going to be learning things for a long, long, time.


Even something as 'basic' as a front cross - there's how to do it mechanically, developing the muscle memory to do it with speed, being able to adequately figure out WHERE both in relation to the course and in relation to your dog to do that cross for the best effectiveness, how to time the *when* of it so you're not losing time, or tripping over the dog or your feet or sending them to an off course obstacle- And that's one. cross. There are a lot of crosses. And a lot of other elements related to being a decent handler, separate from the training you do with your dog, including (but not exclusively) when to choose which cross.


and stuff like 'your hand twitched and your dog went out' or 'you stopped moving causing the dog to curl in', 'you weren't positioned right so you pulled your dog off the obstacle' 'your cue was late/early causing the dog to (stop and bark, off course, take an obstacle backward, insert other possibilities). 'your FEET (or shoulders) are pointed the wrong direction and sent the dog somewhere'


It just. Breathe. Practice. Stick with it. You'll get there, but there is a LOT more to it than it often seems from watching videos.

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Thank you both so much for your advice! I'm definitely impatient, she picks up on everything else (rally, nosework, tricks) so super fast, that I feel she is frustrated with my inability to be a good handler!


I'll keep at it in class and relax a bit and hopefully that relaxation will make it easier for us. My girl is still quite young (just turned 2) so we have lots of time.


Thanks again. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am late to responding to you, I am having an amazing agility adventure with my older dog currently. You have been given great advice, stick with an "real" person class for awhile it will help you immensely, agility is a really complex sport for the human, we can teach our dogs everything really well but if we have not figured out the game nothing will flow, it really is a team sport and both members need help learning their roles and a live trainer should help you make huge strides.

I take online courses and find them really helpful as I live on an island where I am one of the more experienced handlers, they are really helping me push my handling and training to another level, currently my young dog is taking a handling class with Shapeup agility who are brilliant world class handlers for Canada but I don't feel the classes are that good for beginners, I am also taking a running contact class with Anne Lenz who is German and the current world champion, the class is great and could be taken by a beginner but obviously you need to be confident that you want to go down that route.

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This may sound boring, but watch other handlers. I have found it particularly helpful to watch videos on youtube of things like Crufts etc, where you see multiple different handlers run the same course, one after another, to see how they approach the course, where they go, when they signal and how.

Also, I only got the courage to try agility because I went and was a ring steward at our local trial. Seeing how people stuffed up, even the best handlers, gave me the confidence to go in the ring and have a go.

Being a ring steward, you can also talk to judges about courses, where challenges are and why, and also see competitors doing their walkthrough and how the visualise the course, and work out what they need to do.

I know you are only training at the moment, and still in the beginning stages, but I have personally found understanding why something works or not helps in determining what to do.

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