Homework- Beginning Agility
Welcome! Here are the weekly handouts and my advice for each of the 6-weeks of your Beginning Agility class. You and your dog will get out of it what you put into it. Practice what you’ve learned every day but keep it fun. Don’t drill, play! If you are serious about doing well in agility, you need to consider making, buying, or having access to equipment.
I am very happy to have you in class! Let’s get started.
I know how challenging it is to keep your dog’s attention with so many distractions. When you are waiting for your turn at practicing or learning a new skill, keep your dog’s attention by doing little obedience exercises, or games such as hand touching or tugging. Give your dog brain breaks sometimes by putting your dog in a crate to relax. You can and should also work on your own on the different stations such as plank, weaves, and any other obstacles we have worked on. Practice ground work including come to side and turns on the flat. Be very generous in your rewards. All of things will help keep your dog’s focus on you.
It’s really important to practice in many different environments. If you would like to use the Lucky Dog agility field and equipment, please consider a membership.
Please keep me informed if you have any questions or I am not covering the things you are most interested in. I am here to serve you. If you need to reach me before class, please call 561-427-6700. Please let me know by phone or email when you can’t attend.
Read the article about jump training for collection (you start with sitting next to the jump). Please continue to work on these exercises in the attached Mecklenburg handout. It is extremely valuable to teach your dog your body cues and proper jump form. Next week we will continue to work on jumping, adding in the come to side exercises over a jump, as well as front crosses.
Please work continuously on targeting and contact training (see handouts). Contact training will come in later on the contact equipment: dogwalk, a-frame and teeter. Practice on stairs or a travel board (plank). You want your dog to quickly get into position leaving their back feet on the equipment and their front feet on the ground. Click as soon as their nose touches the target and reward low. They should eventually be able to maintain this position regardless of your body position or distance from the equipment.
I know that I have included a lot of handouts. Please print them out and at least skim them. They will help you keep organized on what you need to work on. Most important, keep training fun for you and your dog!
Learning the fundamentals in any sport is always the most challenging. Hang in their and continue to practice. If you have equipment (at least jumps) that’s great. If not, there is a lot of groundwork laid out in class and in the handouts that you can be working on (though everyone should have at least a couple of jumps).
Continue to practice your jump training; it makes up the majority of agility. If your dog does not understand his job at jumping, he will not be able to do the more advanced exercises in the coming weeks. We unfortunately don’t have time in class to practice as much as I’d like to, so read the handouts I send every week and work through the exercises. Your future agility star should be able to take a jump on cue no matter which side of the jump you are on (takeoff or landing side). He should be able to work a little ahead of you taking jumps that are in his path that you indicate (not only with your body language, but with a verbal “jump”). The work on the rear cross, as well as on multiple obstacle sequences, will be most difficult if this basic jump work is not done first and understood by your dog.
Though it’s not as much fun as jumping and running through tunnels, a strong target response, as well as the two on/two off (2o/2o) behavior are both very important since we want to work on perfecting our contact obstacles (a-frame, dogwalk, teeter). Continue to work on come to side to be sure your dog does not run ahead of you unless you cue him or her to do that. They should be ready to stop at your side and not do anything on their own at this point.
Practice your front crosses. Read and work the Mecklenburg article. She is awesome and always writes great articles. The Moving Control article is also very good and will show you how to teach your dog to follow your body and move with you. We will work on the rear cross over jumps as well as adding some short sequences next class.
Here are some things to think about during your practice sessions.
–Clues that you dog has questions when doing a sequence:
* head turn over obstacle (with no expected change of direction);
* slowing down;
* coming down hard after a jump;
* sniffing or zoomies;
* off course;
—Before starting, you need to get high arousal in your dog. Try different things to have the dog very attentive and excited:
* crouch down
* count 1-2-3-Go!
* audible inhalation or exhalation
* use phrases that excite: “Wanna cookie?”
* reward after single jump or short sequence.
I know some of the new skills, such as front and rear crosses, are confusing and difficult, but you have to trust me when I tell you that they will begin to come naturally after more practice. We all had to start at this point and eventually we learned to perfect these maneuvers; so will you. I think you are doing very well and are continuing to show motivation and a strong desire to learn. Don’t forget that you have a dog at the other end of the leash that requires a lot of confidence building (praise and food rewards given often). Your dog never knows when he or she makes a mistake and at this point you shouldn’t tell your dog. Don’t do a lot of drilling of the same thing that your dog keeps getting wrong. It’s demoralizing. Intersperse with easy things that are enjoyable and highly rewarding. It can be demoralizing to you as well, but list it under things to work on and stop being so hard on yourself (it rubs off on your dog)!
Read the article in the column on your left and be sure to keep these important training philosophies in mind every time you work with your dog. Here it is in an easy to read format to print and keep:
Here’s one more fun exercise to work on to increase speed and get your dog to move out ahead of you. Have fun with wind sprints!
You have graduated! Job well done. Keep practicing and learning. Continue to challenge you and your dog with new skills. Take another class. How about Novice Agility?