So, You Want An Agility Dog?
So, you want an agility dog? Don’t we all?
But what should you be looking for in a future agility partner? Drive! Stamina! Great body! Brilliant brains!
You should be looking for a family pet. Look for a dog you can live with! If you buy a dog that has awesome drive and is trainable and fast, but you can’t stand their constant pestering for a ball to be tossed, you’ve cheated yourself and your dog. Look for a breed or type you like, a dog you won’t mind walking every day, playing with all the time, and listening to it bark sometimes. If you like tiny dogs, big dogs, or long dogs, get one! They can do agility if they’re healthy and happy, just like any other dog. You may have to change the way you train, but what’s life without challenges? While you may not have a future world team member, you’ll have YOUR team member… which matters more?
You should be looking for a healthy animal. While some health conditions are fixable (puppy has sneezes, oh noes!) some simply aren’t. Choose a healthy animal, from a reputable breeder or shelter.
Yes, I said shelter. While there are valid arguments about shelter puppies’ uncertain parentage and affinities, see point one. You’re not looking for a champion first and foremost- you’re looking for a friend. If a puppy or young dog is healthy, it can do agility. Some people want purebreds, and that’s okay! But for those of you who have it in your heart to take a mystery mutt… often, you will be repaid in triplicate (to make up for the forms you fill out in triplicate). I know I have been.
A Smart Puppy. There are so many books that have detailed aptitude tests in them that I really feel it superfluous to go over aptitude testing here in this blog, but consider testing your puppies’ intelligence. Definitely test his willingness to interact with you! If the dog is happy to come to you when you happy voice at him, and looks up at you, then the chances of you having a future team-mate squirming in front of you are high!
There is no ‘perfect’ dog. There are many great, wonderful, awesome dogs, but perfection doesn’t exist in this world. Find a great, wonderful, awesome dog, and love them. They already love you!
Drive, stamina, good joints… all of those things are necessary in your dog. You can ‘train’ drive, and you can build stamina, but if your dog simply isn’t physically capable, then you probably can not do agility, at least not competitively. Your vet will help you decide. The good news is, though… if you chose your dog because you liked them, because they were a dog you wanted to work with and be a teammate with… it might not matter so much as you think. You can still enjoy breakfast, long walks, and good talks with them.
How did you meet your agility partner? How’d you know agility was for you?
I have a cocker spaniel (may be a mix – he was a rescue dog) who has more energy than I can help him burn. He is about 4 years old and FULL of energy. He’s smart and just wants to please. I think he would be a very happy and energetic agility dog if given the time and guidance. We have 4 dogs in the household (a result of the rescue) and our age requires down-sizing. Baxter would be free to a good home who is willing and able to give him the attention he needs.
Puppies can be a shot in the dark… if you are looking for your next agility dog… my suggestion is to rescue a young adult. Look for a rescue that knows its dogs and do your own evaluation for temperament and drive. My AKC dog from Champion lines has reactivity issues and will never compete. I adopted a Lab-mix in January who was rescued from a high kill gassing shelter in NC. He is an AMAZINGLY talented dog. When I got him he was housebroken and well… that’s it. However, he is game for anything I want to do, and now has a list of behaviors as long as my arm and after only 5 agility lessons is showing HUGE potential. He’s fast and has huge toy drive. A real competitive prospect. My opinion is a young adult rescue dog is the way to go for an agility prospect.
My latest agility dog (#6) was a rescue puppy, thrown out a window in January in Missouri. She was 5 wks old, and somehow her photo spoke to me. She had two siblings, both huge by comparison. She was a lightweight at 3 lbs even though she was 7 weeks by then. (the rescue put her at 9 wks, my vet disagreed) I had no idea if she would be great at agility, but then I show chows in agility. Nuf said! We have lots of fun but are only mildly competitive. Jia Li was supposed to be a chow, but she is soooo not! Think mini blond border collie! I also show my 5 yr old cream chow Kobi in agility (CPE level 3-4)and they could not be more different. Turns out Jia Li LOVES agility and she has become my teacher, following my body language exactly (even when unintentional) so as my classmates laughingly say, now I actually need to learn how to handle (speed!). I love the mystery aspect of a rescue….like Forrest Gumps box of chocolates! At 15 months she had already completed CPE level 1, all categories and was tearing up the courses on level 2. Even better, she is a laugh riot at home, creating laughter non stop. She is great to live with, even gets my lazy Kobi to play and chase her. Cant wait to see what comes next!
Yes yes and MORE YES! I always thought it would be fun to do agility, but when I got my dog, that wasn’t foremost in my mind. I met my girl on a rescue transport that I was doing. She was being transported from a high kill shelter in Ohio (where she was a day away from being put down) to a rescue in Vermont. I instantly fell in love with her and we adopted her from the rescue. She was already 2(ish) years old, from a totally unknown background (picked up as a stray) and about as mellow as could be. Talk about drive? She had NONE.
It took me two more years of having her before I decided to give agility a try. She was smart and did really well with basic obedience, had great manners, and was excellent off leash. So I figured, even without real drive, it might be fun for us.
Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered that she LOVES agility. She’s no ace and we’re still learning (a year after we started) but she’s gaining in drive and having a BLAST. We may never compete (she’s 5 years old already) but we sure are enjoying the process!
I adopted a rescue puppy(BC/No. Elk) that had been stuffed in a crate w/ 11 other littermates & BC mom. So she is clostraphobic & shy but, my verybest friend! I did agility to help socialize her. She has competed for about a yr. & we’re at PII & PIII level now. We have had many compliments but, most of all she is my best by my side buddy.