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Thread: Late-Starter Agility?

  1. #1
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    Default Late-Starter Agility?

    I've decided I want to do agility with one of my dogs - Rebel. He's nearly 3 years old, very VERY athletic and full of energy. I've never seen a dog jump so high in my life! He's also very intelligent and gets bored with regular tricks, plus when I plan on breeding border collies seriously in the future I want to focus on agility so I'd like to learn early on rather than later (as well as using him as my foundation stud if possible).

    I didn't have plans to do any agility or anything with him when he was a pup, and I know that's when the best time to start them is, but I still plan on going ahead with light agility since he's not old, nor even approaching middle age.

    Would the best way to start training him just be to build temporary agility course in the back yard? The local fenced dog parks have some agility courses so obviously that would be a good place to start, and he's also shy around other dogs, so might double as a confidence booster. I would like to do some light competitions with him - like I said, nothing too serious but still minor showing.

    This would be my first time trying showing of any sort - has anyone got any tips for training him and helping him build tone? I take him to forests and other areas where he has to negotiate steep terrain, large boulders and logs - he's gotten quite good at it so would it help if I kept that up? Would it help to reinforce in his mind that agility = fun? I want him to enjoy both the mental and physical challenge.

  2. #2
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    Best to start with foundation training, so handling on the flat without obstacles, turning around poles, understanding front, rear and blind crosses on the flat. Teaching backend awareness with perch work for example. Running over low planks, contact work etc. Building value for reinforcers and teaching him the concept of working for a reinforcer. I would find an agility club that does foundation training classes and start from there.

    Is he working bred or showbred? There are a lot of Border collies being bred out there so I guess it will depend on what your goals are. Over here many agility dogs are working bred from well known working lines. There are some showbred Border collies that also have a flair for agility and are bred by very experienced breeders who either compete in agility or are associated with top handlers. Occassionaly the top handlers will breed their best dogs and a lot of thought goes into the matings and the pups are usually booked well in advance. Experienced agility handlers tend to be highly selective with their lines.
    Last edited by Kalacreek; 04-16-2015 at 12:48 PM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalacreek View Post
    Best to start with foundation training, so handling on the flat without obstacles, turning around poles, understanding front, rear and blind crosses on the flat. Teaching backend awareness with perch work for example. Running over low planks, contact work etc. Building value for reinforcers and teaching him the concept of working for a reinforcer. I would find an agility club that does foundation training classes and start from there.

    Is he working bred or showbred? There are a lot of Border collies being bred out there so I guess it will depend on what your goals are. Over here many agility dogs are working bred from well known working lines. There are some showbred Border collies that also have a flair for agility and are bred by very experienced breeders who either compete in agility or are associated with top handlers. Occassionaly the top handlers will breed their best dogs and a lot of thought goes into the matings and the pups are usually booked well in advance. Experienced agility handlers tend to be highly selective with their lines.
    He's mostly working bred but his breeder competed in conformation as well I believe. His breeder trials agility / sheep-herding / obedience so I would class him as from working lines (very high drive also).

    Thanks for the tips!
    I'm not after 'top' performance out of him, rather something to keep him busy and for me to get a footwork in the training of an agility dog.

  4. #4
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    Hi Striker

    good to see you back.

    Agility training - what Kalacreek said.

    You need to do a bunch of things before you go near the fun agility equipment or you just teach a dog bad habits in front of the agility equipment which you don't want.

    So some of the foundation stuff is about strength and conditioning so a dog can turn tight, jump, land, change direction - without injurying or stressing his body. It also builds the relationship with you - tho with border collies - usually all they want is to work.

    but if he's getting bored and leaving to go sniff, or scratch or bark or do zoomies - you need to build up his peristence and tolerance to frustration (not being able to figure out what you want straight away). That's also foundation.

    The main thing you want before you go near an agility course is a really solid "start line stay" - especially in front of anything exciting. So I play something I call the hat game... cos the reward is the hat off my head...

    I put evil hound in a stay - in any position (sit/stand/drop), and try my best to fake her into breaking position. I run past her waving the hat, I say turkey at her. I lift an arm (which is part of the signal for which direction to go), I run behind her and then back in front, I jump up and down, I pretend to lose interest and walk away... all those things - usually just one at a time. If she's doing good I tell her "go" which is the signal to run - to me unless directed otherwise, and get the hat - which I put out and let go just as she gets to me. Unless we're at the beach in which case I might encourage her to turn back and get it without me letting go (otherwise she runs in the water with it and gets it all wet).

    Next thing you want is a really solid recall, ie no matter how many other exciting things are around - your dog comes when you call.

    And then for training ease (and I don't have it exactly), you want the dog to be super excited about the toy you have, and chasing to it, and fetching it for a game of tug. And not fetching it if you call him back before he gets there (cos he didn't do what you wanted - he can't have the reward).

    You want to do body awareness games,
    stretch games,
    strength games
    and handling games (how you signal the dog where to go)

    you don't need or want any agility equipment for any of this, but it all makes when you start with the agility stuff - super easy.

    All agility equipment you use - should fall apart if the dog crashes into it - which is why it's generally a bad idea to use the fixed in concrete stuff at the park. You can really cause an excited dog a serious injury using that stuff. Or have a super slow bored agility dog with no risk of injury.

    Contacts - you start with a plank on the ground - and teach the dog to run along it without jumping off.
    You can also teach backing up stairs - for strength and body awareness so he can do the scramble and keep his balance without jumping off (they have to touch the yellow on the way down).

    Google Susan Garrett, Greg Derrett, and maybe Sylvia Trkman, The Derrett style handling involves the dog running towards the line that your arm and shoulder make and staying on the side that he starts, and jumping all the stuff in front along that line and then you change directions by changing arms - so that the new arm is on the same side as the dog (usually involves a 180 turn by the handler which my knee hates) and then you can do an arc in the opposite direction eg left arm gets clockwise arc, right arm gets anti clockwise arc and you build your courses out of that.

    But you might want to watch a bit of youtube slow mo so you can see how handlers use their shoulder and arm to signal where next, and spoken cues to get weird things like round the back of the jump...

  5. #5

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    your dog's ability to jump high is irrelevant to agility sport, the agility jumps are so low any random mutt or dog of any breed should handle them easily without training.

    agility is imo a competition of training ability. it is super fast with lots of instant decisions and non-verbal communication. aalso the trainer needs lots of experience to best know how to get their individual dog around based on the dog.

    the full of energy bit is important however.

    3 years imo is an excellent age for a new person to start their first dog, most newbs ruin their first dog by over-training a good dog when it is physically to young, the dogs are prone to injury and chronic pain when they mature, a lot od them lose interest as well due to over-training to young.

    the muttboy law of the cosmos is that when you train you first dog to be anything more than a pet you will screw it up.

    a 3 yo dog will be more forgiving and robust than screwing up a pup.

    please do not breed your dog no matter how much you love him and how cool you think he is.

    there are so many border collies already, why do you think yours is so special to the future development of the breed, the best agility dogs are sitting in a pound or rescue right now.

    "when I plan on breeding border collies seriously in the future I want to focus on agility "

    this is really quiet offensive to the breed, breeding for sports like a agility is ruining the breeds nearly but not quiet as much as breeding for shows.

    if you do not understand that last comment proves you have no business breeding dogs.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by muttboy View Post
    your dog's ability to jump high is irrelevant to agility sport, the agility jumps are so low any random mutt or dog of any breed should handle them easily without training.
    Actually jump training is important. The top height in ADAA is 65 cm and although low as a single jump, when you are sequencing 22 of them on a twisting turning master course at high speed the dog does indeed need training on acceleration and deceleration and on correct jumping technique. They also need training on turning and the dog needs conditioning to handle this typ of sport safely. The dogs build and structure will also be important in how you train and how well they handle the jumps. I have seen plenty of dogs struggle on the top height for various reasons, some of the little dogs can also struggle on the lower heights.

    I do however agree that it is possible to overtrain a dog and also to train it too young. My dogs never see the weave poles or full height jumps before they are 16 months old. Foundation exercises without obstacles are key to handling on course.

    Yeah sure on cam makes lots of mistakes when training a first dog, but as long as you keep the health of the dog in mind, if you and the dog are having fun and getting out there and doing stuff what the heck.

    I trained my first agility dog when she was nearly 6 and she absolutely loved it. Her eyes would shine like diamonds when we ran together and that was more important to me than any ribbon, although she did do quite well despite my beginner handling.
    Last edited by Kalacreek; 04-17-2015 at 09:22 AM.

  7. #7
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    Muttboy

    I think we suggested ages ago - that getting some success in agility with Striker's dog before considering breeding - would help find homes for the puppies. Striker would know a lot of potential homes with the other competitors... it would help. But ideally, need to be successful at the top level (ANKC that's called Masters).

    And you don't need to be able to jump high to play netball either or hockey - but you can still rip your knee to shreds on a tight stop and turn. Part of the foundation is training the dog to collect itself, slow down, make the turn with the least risk of injury.

    It's a bit like how they train horses to jump with good "form", start with trotting poles, then have a jump bump ahead of a low height jump, only reward a smooth jump, and not standing cat leaps - like my dog has been known to do.

    agility isn't about "high jump". But there are high jump competitions at rural ag shows. My cousin's whippet won such a comp with a standing leap up about 2m into his mum's arms. Beat a whole bunch of kelpies and GSDs... No run up, nothing. Just "BOING"...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Muttboy

    I think we suggested ages ago - that getting some success in agility with Striker's dog before considering breeding - would help find homes for the puppies. Striker would know a lot of potential homes with the other competitors... it would help. But ideally, need to be successful at the top level (ANKC that's called Masters).

    ..
    Over here the top handlers either get their prospective puppies from well known working breeders or well known show breeders who have lines that have proven top agility dogs. The occasional handler with a top dog will sometimes breed that dog but they go to great lengths to find a stud dog. If the bitch is working bred they will find a stud from a working breeder. All the relevant health tests are done.

    Pups sired by a random dog handled by an inexperienced handler are less likely to be in demand, there are too many proven options out there from well established kennels. Top handlers will wait a considerable amount of time for a dog from the right lines and they will import dogs as well if they are the right lineage. People are very selective to avoid ending up with an unsuitable dog.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    Muttboy



    And you don't need to be able to jump high to play netball either or hockey - but you can still rip your knee to shreds on a tight stop and turn. Part of the foundation is training the dog to collect itself, slow down, make the turn with the least risk of injury.

    It's a bit like how they train horses to jump with good "form", start with trotting poles, then have a jump bump ahead of a low height jump, only reward a smooth jump, and not standing cat leaps - like my dog has been known to do.

    agility isn't about "high jump". But there are high jump competitions at rural ag shows. My cousin's whippet won such a comp with a standing leap up about 2m into his mum's arms. Beat a whole bunch of kelpies and GSDs... No run up, nothing. Just "BOING"...

    my point is just that ability to jump high is completely irrelevant for the demands of agility, nothing more.

  10. #10
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    I agree.

    I was hoping Striker would have started on the agility training (or herding or tracking or whatever) way back when we first suggested it. And then learn what goes into a good dog and handler team. Plus the training is a blast - even if you don't compete.

    But if you don't do the foundation - you have a dog that nicks off to say hello to their friends or go possum poo hunting the second you make a mistake and the instructor starts giving you advice.

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