Puppies are soft and fluffy and oh so sweet… and hyper! Just the right time to start teaching them to jump over bars! Best to start early, right? Mostly, wrong. Puppies have soft bones, and if the plates in the joints is damaged (jumping or falling can do this easily) the puppies’ bone may not grow properly, potentially resulting in a stunted limb. Puppyhood is the perfect time to learn what to chew and not chew, how to be a good dog, and most importantly, to come when called! There will be time when your little bundle of fluff is grown to rocket them to new heights and to teach them to charge through weave poles.
Most agility organizations require your dog be at least 1 year old to compete. So you have plenty of time to let your pup do some growing up. If you want to start a little training, however, there are a few things you can do…
1. Get him used to being around obstacles. Falling bars, blowing chutes, new sights and sounds. The agility field is a good place to simply ‘play’ with your dog, without actually doing the obstacles.
2. Some obstacles can be safely introduced to very young dogs, such as a shortened tunnel (be certain puppy is potty trained to grass, first!) and jumps (with the bars all the way to the ground or just a few inches, so they are not leaping up and over, but just wallking over), and you can do some of your basic sit & down training on the pause table, at a lowered height. But this is not the time to make training serious. Pups have very short attention spans and you’ll burn them out if you force them to do too much too soon.
3. Some obstacles should not be used by young puppies, such as the Teeter, and the DogWalk. A-frames are okay if at a lowered height, and you use a leash and hands-on control! Don’t force him up it, You can also use a mini a-frame for puppy training. If you want to teach him about moving surfaces and have a headstart at Teeters, try a rocker board. It is also important to not leave puppies alone around agility obstacles without supervision. The chute is the most dangerous obstacle, as they can get tangled up in it.