We all get to a point in our agility career where we realize we would like to have done things differently with the dog we are currently running. It seems to be a blueprint for agility competitors. You have a dog you think you’d like to do agility so you take some classes. At first it seems fun and you aren’t too serious about the game. You train but you really don’t know what you are doing. You have some success and then you realize your training could have been improved and your team would be better at this sport if you had only known more when you started. That, my friends, is when the agility bug hits you. Lisa Pertile warns “Be careful, it is VERY addicting.” She is so right.
We all wish we knew then what we know now. We wish we could start over with the dog we have now and get it “right.” So, I asked competitors who made it to the 2013 AKC National finals what advice they have for new comers to the sport. Here is your chance to get a little head start on the game of agility. There is some great advice from top agility handlers that we can all benefit from.
1. Play Motivational Games.
Appreciate the dog you have. Don’t try to make them fit a certain mold just because that is someone else’s idea of an agility dog. Pay attention not only to the technical skills you are teaching your dog, but also to the way your dog views the whole experience. Not every dog needs to learn agility in an ABC fashion, where one skill leads to the next. Sometimes you have to skip around and do what is right for that particular dog. They are all different, and eventually, they WILL learn the obstacles. What not all of them learn is how to love the game in general, and that is more important at the beginning stages than the obstacle skills are. ~Lora Abbott
Have fun and enjoy every moment with their dogs and their agility friends. And to make sure their dogs are having as much fun as possible, and lots of rewards. We are incredible blessed to be able to spend time playing with our dogs! ~Silvina
Dudley Fontaine suggests that you “make sure both you and your dog are physically fit and enjoy working puzzles together.” You will be more successful when training your dog if your dog enjoys figuring out puzzles. Sometimes, you dog is going to be wrong and learning how to figure out the answer to the puzzle is part of the game. But this is also true for handlers. If you ask your dog to do something and he gives you a response you were not expecting you will need to figure out why. That will be a challenge and puzzle for you to conquer.
3. Enjoy the Process.
Enjoy the feeling of being a novice at something. There is nothing like the rush of gaining new knowledge, new skill. I took up sheep herding this past year with one of my dogs, and I am a total novice at it. I haven’t been “new” at something like that in a long time, and it is completely invigorating. It invigorates my agility training, my sense of self, my entire life. I love it. Again, it is the *process* that is important, and when you’re just starting out, those magical learning moments come at you with a high frequency. As one gains proficiency with something, it’s only natural to have to work harder for smaller and smaller gains. Right now, you’re at a smorgasbord of knowledge – enjoy it! ~Daisy Peel
4. Have fun and surround yourself with great people.
Agility is not life or death, it’s something we do for fun! Go train with positive people who can help you and be critical without taking the fun out of it. ~Andrea Samuels
5. Have patience.
Find a good instructor local, you need to have the equipment in your yard or take classes many times a week at first and keep trialing. I was ready to retire Swoosh because she was so scared to be in the ring and a year later I earned 3 MACHs, 8th place at Nationals and finished as the #6 rates Lab for this year. Never quit on your dog, it is your fault for all that happens in the ring. ~Mike Kreiser
Don’t stress out over Qualifying. Too many people in my opinion, stress WAY too much on qualifying. Ithey don’t Q or the dog doesn’t run like the wind, it isn’t worth doing it any more. This is a sport that takes time to learn as a handler and mold the behaviors and confidence in the dog as well. ~John Rowe
Enjoy it all! The nerves and stress can be uncomfortable sometimes, but every bit of it is important, and it is such a fantastic journey to be a part of. ~Tori Self
6. Build a strong foundation.
Have fun and never blame your dog. Also, take your time. A strong foundation and comprehension of basic skills will be your biggest asset in the long run. ~Delaney Ratner
7. Find a Good Trainer.
Find a good trainer that will work with you and encourage and challenge you. Do your homework at home even if it’s for a few minutes a day. Enjoy training with your dogs; keep it short, happy and positive. ~Arlene Collins
Do you have anything to add to this list? Is there something you wish you would have known when you started agility? Please share in the comments section. I would greatly appreciate if you took a moment and hit the share button on the FB page. Please encourage your friends to like the Agility Link FB page.
Don’t forget to Be Awesome and Dare Greatly!