Is it safe to do agility with my four month old Rottweiler?
It’s wonderful to start training basic concepts of agility when dogs are young – things like attention, targeting, directions, stay, even some playing on rocker boards – but full-fledged jumping is not a good idea until the dog is at least a year old – maybe older in the case of large breeds like the Rottweiler! I would ask your vet. In the meantime, work on your foundation skills, and if you feel like the dog NEEDS to learn how to execute jumps, consider using ‘jump bumps’, which is when you lay the jump bar on the ground and the dog ‘hops’ over.
One of the best activities to share with your pet is agility! For me, it is an addiction!!! The longer I train at it, the more I learn, and the more fun we have!
Certainly puppies can “start” their agility training at 4 months of age, providing the instructor has knowledge of the proper exercises, equipment heights, etc. Where I train/teach, the puppy agility class starts with floor exercises/shadow handling. We use these exercises to help the owner and pet learn to become a team! Several obstacles are slowly introduced as well: tunnels, tire (4″), chute (held open at first), table (top on the floor), baby teeter and the lowest A frame possible. When instructed properly, these obstacles have very low impact on a growing puppy. Keep in mind, we are also not doing 10 – 20 repetitions either. The teams are given “homework” to help with coordination, strength, and focus. As the session progresses, as long as the dogs progress well, we will introduce jumping. The jump bar is set on the floor during the initial instruction. It is enough to give the owners and the dogs the idea of the jump. Progression will be slow, 4″ – 8″ at first, enough for the dogs to find their feet!
I would say the general rule of thumb is a dog should not be jumping its full jump height until its growth plates are closed. This is of course going to depend on the breed of dog you have. For a rottie, I wouldn’t even think about a 16″ or 20″ jump until they are at least 16-18 months of age. The worst thing an owner or instructor could do is to push the dog too fast. We want the teams to have fun!!! Safely!
Often I’ll have an owner tell me: “oh fluffy jumps higher than that at home… so I want her to jump higher in class.” That is great that Fluffy can do that at home. But it is a totally different situation than in class. Her concentration is on what she is doing at that time. She does not have distractions, owners spouting commands, other dogs in class, unfamiliar flooring, and the biggest factor, she is not doing constant repetitions of this action.
Find yourself a great instructor, pay attention and ask questions, don’t rush learning, have LOTS of treats and most of all… HAVE FUN!!!
Best of luck!