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Aed is five years old now, and, albeit a little late, I want to get him into agility. Ideally I would just do all the courses with him, work my way up, etc, but I'm still a student and spending a thousand dollars getting there isn't really feasible. I also don't have any equipment or room to realistically use anything like Fenzi.

I did an introductory agility course with him when he was 2 or 3, and like most introductory courses it was basically just going over obedience and introducing them slowly to each obstacle. My problem is, Aed has no issue with any of the that. His focus is good, his recall is good, he'll happily jump on or off anything I ask him to (totally fearless of the frames and teeters), he understands hand gestures to send him certain directions, he knows how to freeze and target and jump and "go around that thing over there".

The thing is, I know nothing really about agility. I tried to teach him weaves at home once using sticks and my main take away was "getting the basics down is way more nuanced and important than I thought". So no matter how good all the things I listed are I'm really worried if I skip steps he'll be set up to fail. Has anyone been in a similar situation before? Any insight you can give me? If I have to I'll just do the tedious 8 week intro course again and I'm sure it'll turn out fun, it just means we probably won't get to do the beginner course this year.

Thanks guys.

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Please forgive me if I am wrong about this, but it sounds as though it is not so much that you don't think Aed can do what you need him to do, but that you do not know what to do with him.  The only way you can learn is to educate yourself.  Try going onto the website CleanRun, and having a look at their magazine.  There are a range of free articles on various topics.  This can start you learning the language of agility (which is challenging enough!) but also what is important to know about a course, handling, training, conditioning etc.  There are also blogs, and agility forums etc.

The next thing I would suggest is to go to a few trials just to watch.  I found it strange how sitting and watching different people handle their dogs through the same course really showed me how the things I had read about worked in real life, but also gave me confidence that it was okay to stuff up, because that happens to everyone - and I mean everyone!  Seeing how different people approach the course, even just how they work out what to do while walking the course, can also teach you, once you know the basics.  I have also found that agility people love to talk agility, and will often be willing to educate you about what is going on in the ring.  You can also learn a lot sitting and watching videos of the big competitions on Youtube, eg Crufts and Westminster etc.  Watch the qualifying rounds, watch the finals, all sizes etc.  Watch how each person handles the course, what works, and why or why not.  Did they push their dog out too far, did they turn away too early, were they too slow to get into position to show their dog where they were to go next?  How did they get from one obstacle to the next?

Agility is not something I think you ever stop learning, but do not let you not knowing what you are going to be doing on a course stop you start training Aed.  You won't get on a competition course for quite a while when you start training for real, and you will learn about stringing obstacles together at the same time as Aed learns. Agility is a lot about the bond between you and your dog.

I would see if you can skip the intro course, given you have done it before, and go straight into beginners.  He is old enough that there is no worry about joints etc, and if you have the obedience base, then lets try to move beyond.  They may want you to show them he can do the basics, but I wish you luck!

 

 

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Thank you for the advice and the confidence boost :) We have been doing lots of training in preparation for sure! I guess I was /am just worried that even following training material trying to diy it (as someone who has never done agility) might accidentally cause problems in his basics.

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I have only had one agility dog, and he was for sure a much better dog than I was a handler, but we learned together, and in the end the important thing to me was that he had fun.  Every course we ran, he came off grinning!  In fact, I have so many photos to prove he had the biggest grin on his face around every course we ever ran.

No one will expect you to be perfect with your first dog (other than maybe yourself!), but if you are willing to learn from your mistakes, don't push yourself or your dog too hard, listen, watch and play agility, things will be fine.  Unless you are aiming to compete on the higher levels of competition.  Then you will want to be fully focussed on doing everything right from the start, and foundations, training and perfection count.

But if you just want to go out, have fun, run some courses as best you can, keep learning and improving and building your bond with your dog, dig in and have a go!

BTW videoing yourself and your dog is THE MOST USEFUL THING IN THE WORLD.  Watch the videos.  Watch them over and over.  See how he responds to you, especially the things you did not know you were doing (E.G. turning shoulders, dropping arm, slowing down).  See where things went right, see where things went wrong.  See where surprising things happened and work out why.  You can see how Aed is jumping (early, late, or in good time), is he getting good clearance, landing awkwardly, where is he looking?  How much space does he need to turn?  Is he focussed on you, or is he driving ahead? Do you need to work on drive, or bringing more control back to him?  Videos will tell you what you need to work on for your dog especially, and for you.  USE THE VIDEO!

 

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I'll take the advice to heart then. Thank you, I really appreciate it. I was expecting to hear "why are you trying to take shortcuts you have to get the fundamentals perfect or nothing else will work". Hearing that you don't have to be perfect and that it's about having fun is the reality check I needed I think.

I feel bad sometimes, Aed is one of the speediest, driviest dogs I've ever seen and he probably would have been a great agility dog with an experienced handler, but oh well, he'll never know the difference between competing and just having fun, and all I really want is for him to have an outlet that works him hard and gives us both something to do.

Anyways thanks again Lawgirl,

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Take a look at Dave Munnings Q-me agility classes. He is one of the UKs top handlers (might be the best) his online classes are very affordable and don't require a lot of equipment or space, you can do masses with one jump. (as an aside I used to take my stuff to a local park before I lived 10 minutes from my club) I would recommend adding his facebook support as it well help you learn. 

I am a committed and dedicated agility competitor, my youngster is agility partner #3, the most important thing to remember is that it is a team sport it goes way beyond dog training, there is loads for you to learn, I have been competing over 10 years and I am still learning all the time. 

The fundamentals are important for both of you to be successful and learning those fundamentals doesn't have to be boring. You say he knows hand signals for turns etc but applying them in the fast moving environment of an agility course is very different. When we teach foundations we want to make sure that the both team members have the fundamentals down so that neither gets frustrated and have long term problems as they advance. The other aspect is safety, the contact equipment can be unsafe if not taught correctly, the same applies to jumping you can hurt a dog if you are not careful. 

As a sport agility has changed a lot in the last 10 years, its got faster and more complicated which is why good teachers put more emphasis on the basics, but fundamentally its still loads of fun for both team members.

 

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