Help Finding Your First Agility Dog

getting first dogFor whatever reason you have started the quest to run dog agility. Top priority? Getting your first dog, but how do you find the “perfect” agility dog? Just exactly should you be looking for in a future agility partner? Drive! Stamina! Great body! Brilliant brains! Yeah, that’s the ticket! No, it’s not.

Actually your top priority should be to look for a family pet. You need to find a dog you can live with, especially if it’s your first dog. If you go out and buy a dog with high drive, bred to be fast and have great endurance while forgoing what will fit into your lifestyle, you may find yourself unhappy with a dog always on the go. You should be looking for a breed or type that fits you. Whether that is a dog that needs to run everyday or one that can sleep the day away while you go to work but still be active when you get home. You may be surprised to know most high energy people do better with a dog that can chill out when you are home.  You also need to consider size, does a small dog fit your home better? Can you handle a large dog knocking things off tables with their wagging tails? Do you appreciate a vocal dog or do you need a more stoic attitude? And while the breed that suits you may not be the easiest to train in agility, as long as you both have fun and grow as a team that really isn’t a deciding factor.

Of course you should be looking for a healthy animal. When looking at purebreds, do your homework and know what issues that breed is prone too. While some health conditions are fixable such as a cold, some like dysplasia will stop your dog from doing agility. We always stress adopting a shelter dog before buying, but if you do buy be certain you work with reputable breeder who has plenty of referrals from happy clients.

What about the shelter dog? There are valid concerns when adopting a dog or puppy from a shelter such as uncertain parentage and affinities. But as a first dog, you’re not looking for a champion you are looking for a lifetime friend. Any healthy dog or puppy can do agility and more dogs than you are aware of were destined to destruction and are now dog agility champions. We understand that some prefer purebreds and that’s okay.  But, for those of you who can take the chance on a mutt are repaid in triplicate (to make up for the forms you fill out in triplicate). I know I have been.

A Smart Puppy. There are plenty of books with detailed aptitude tests that I really don’t feel it justice to go over aptitude testing here in this blog. However, you should consider testing your puppies’ intelligence or at least his willingness to interact with you. If your prospective dog is happy to come to you when you happy voice at him, chances are good you have found a future team-mate. And keep in mind that shelter dogs may seem shy at first so be sure you take them to a play area and allow them time to settle before making a judgement on their personality.

Always keep in mind that there are no ‘perfect’ dogs. We are not trying to offend any current dog owners as we all love our dogs and think they are perfect. But holding a dog to a measurement of perfection is a disastrous game to play. We just want you to keep in mind that all dogs have imperfections and we need to chose the ones we can live with and allow to make our dog who they are.

Drive, stamina, or good joints? Yes, an agility dog needs to have drive and stamina but neither has to be present to start. You can train drive in your dog and exercise will build stamina, but a sound structure is a game changer. If your prospective dog isn’t physically capable or shows signs of issues, then they may not be able to do agility, at least not competitively. NADAC and other venues have games you can compete in if your dog of choice cannot or loses it’s ability to jump or climb. So chose your dog because you like them, because they are a dog you want to work with and be a teammate with.

All dogs will have to stop competing at some point. Be sure you chose a dog you will love for life, long after the agility life has left them.