Originally Posted by bodzcampers
Question: re: agility.
I have a 6 mos. puppy (5 pounds) who just loves to run! She just tears around at top speed in the house and outside. She's so fast! I've never seen anything quite like it with my other dogs. What age should I consider agility training with her? Seems a waste not to let her enjoy her passion of running. I heard you have to wait a year to avoid hip problems with the rigors of agility.
Ready for a lecture?
You can start now, with obstacle familiarization and basic handling skills. Agility is not just about the dog running around with great speed. You have to know how to direct your dog, and your dog needs to understand your direction, if you are not fast enough to run by your dog's side for a full minute with many changes in direction and little loss of speed. "Stay" and "come" need to be rock solid and instantly heeded. I don't know any websites that teach handling, as I go to an agility school, but you can work agility skills such as front cross, rear cross, post turns, "two on, two off" (2o2o) contact training and sends ("go out" or "out") without obstacles. 2o2o can be done at the base of a set of stairs. Use a different word for a command for 2o2o other than "stay."
For the obstacles, you can make a lot of them at home, or buy some cheaply online, or look at them online and then copy how they are made
. I have a 5 month old puppy, and I started obstacle familiarization with her when I got her home. Actually, her breeders did by having some homemade tubes (tunnels) laying around for the puppies to go through as they wanted. At home, I just lay obstacles around my house for the puppy to see and not be scared of, as my first dog was petrified of these things when I started training her at 3 years old.
I have the Pac N Go Rec five foot normal width tunnel and the two foot mini tunnel. These can easily sit in the house or outside. They fold up easy and are light. You can make either of these into a chute by clipping a sheet to one end. Start with a very short flap so the dog does not get scared in case of entanglement in a long sheet.
I have the plastic seesaw base from Arf and Running. That is super cheap for a teeter base. For in home practice Max200 sells a tippy board, which is just a short plank with a PVC pipe screwed to the center of it. That is easily made at home. Remember to treat all wood with a layer of paint mixed with sand. Dogs cannot grip smooth wood straight from the hardware store very well. The sand creates a texture that increases your dog's safety.
I also have the cheapo tire from Arf and Running.
Weave pole training can start now as well with "stick in the ground" weave poles in a 2x2 set up. Max200 sells these as well. I just staked skinny PVC poles into the ground with a mallet. The 2x2 is just a set of 2 poles at regulation distance of whatever venue you plan to run, usually 24 inches apart. The most difficult part of weaves is the correct entry, with the first pole having to be on your dogs left shoulder, followed by completed forward motion around the second pole with it on the dog's right shoulder. This can be taught to puppies without being detrimental. The worry with weaves is making puppies do a full set of 12 repeatedly. This can mess up their shoulders.
Finally, jumps. My puppy is already doing them with the bar on the ground. sure dogs have to go over the jump, but they really need to know what to do with the jump, how to find it, to look for it themselves, realize it's there, see it and do it. Too many people just have their dogs heel by their sides, the dog staring up at the owner, not actually looking where they, the dogs, are going. The jump is just as important as any of the fancier obstacles. Depending on the height of the dog, the bar can be raised once your dog is confident about going between the jump standards (the things that hold the jump bar up), but only a little bit, just enough for the dog to recognize that they now need to put effort into lifting their feet up. Full height jump training should wait until the dog has finished growing. Max200, and many other agility vendors, sells jump cup strips that can be attached to homemade jumps.
And then there is distance training. Once your dog recognizes obstacles and can do them on command, mostly, you can start moving yourself farther away while telling the dog to do the obstacle. Farther away means progressing in inches over a period of days or weeks.
Did I wear out your eyes? Ha!