Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Puppy Agility?

It's time for another Dog Agility Bloggers Event Day! Today's topic: Starting Your Puppy!

Let me preface this blog post by saying that I’ve really only started one dog in agility as a puppy. And the outcome is still… well... he’s a work in progress  :)

But I don’t think that it is due to any of the things that I am about to tell you. I think I failed to bridge the gap between training & trialing. And a lot of other things… But that’s for another post!

Stout at his first agility trial  :)

 Anyway, I hesitate to include the word “puppy” with “agility.” For us experienced folks, we understand the “puppy” part of agility (foundation, foundation, foundation!). But for novices, if you put “puppy” with “agility,” you may end up with dogs doing full height equipment by the time they are 6 months old!

Equipment is the last part of agility that should be taught! There are so many things that need be done first! And actually, if the foundation part is taught well, the equipment part is fast & easy…

But even before you teach the foundations for agility, you need to teach a foundation for learning & your relationship. You need to get to know your puppy, love your puppy, and respect your puppy. Respect them for who they are, not who they aren’t, or who you wish them to become.

So how do you do that? Time & training.

Talk to your puppy. Cuddle your puppy. Play with your puppy. Treat your puppy. Walk your puppy. Develop that relationship! Become the center of their universe!

Once you start to train your puppy, you’ll develop that relationship even more. Now, I’m not talking formal obedience or even agility handling. I’m talking the simplest behaviors.

Crate training. Potty training. Leash training. Basic household manners.

And don’t forget about socializing your puppy! Take that puppy everywhere with you! Support them if they are worried or unsure. This is all building that relationship.

Puppy class graduation

From here you can start actually teaching simple behaviors. Stupid behaviors. Useless tricks  :)  I still don’t call this training necessarily, you’re simply continuing to learn who your puppy is. And you’re teaching them how to learn. This is where they learn a work ethic. And learn about failure. And stress. And expectation. And most of all: They learn that training is FUN!

And what do you learn from this? Because you should be learning just as much as your puppy when you are doing this  :)  You learn how this puppy thinks. You realize what their motivations are. What rewards work best. How much failure they can take. How to tell when they are frustrated. What the best method for learning is (shaping, luring, etc.).

Don’t skip these steps! Not only because they are fun, but they will give you something to fall back on later.

Example: 9 months later, your dog cannot hold a 2 on / 2 off on the dogwalk. They “know” the position. They “know” the cue. But do they really?

Go back & think about how you trained it. Did you shape or lure it? Did you work duration? Did you work speed? Distance? Release? Is it on verbal command or body cue?

Now think about how you trained even before that. What way did your puppy learn tricks best? What really motivated them? Did they understand verbal commands back then? Did they understand duration? Distance? A release?

It all goes back the very beginning  :)

For more thoughts & ideas on this topic, check out the other blogs participating today by clicking here.

If you’re looking for online classes for puppies, here are a couple that I highly recommend:


  1. I'm sorry, but the kitty bloopers had me laughing out loud. Thanks for laugh! I also agree with the foundation training. There are so many things to do with your pup before you do agility.

  2. Great post. Agree with the relationship building 100%. Agility is secondary to a great relationship, trust and a great bond. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great tips! I also thought kitty was hilarious! I loved teaching "useless" tricks to my pup, and they're not useless at all. Just another step in relationship building, like you said.
    Diane and Rocco

  4. I love this! So true: "From here you can start actually teaching simple behaviors. Stupid behaviors. Useless tricks :) I still don’t call this training necessarily, you’re simply continuing to learn who your puppy is."

    I'm guest handling a Cardi these days--he's an awful lot of fun!

  5. Stout looks so small (and innocent) there! Thank you for helping me with the foundations for LaMesa when she was a puppy!