What About Puppy Agility

When you get bit by the dog agility bug you sometimes get agility fever and the next thing you know you have a dog agility prospect puppy. Then the questions start coming abut puppy agility. It is actually a very bad name. It should be called puppy enrichment or puppy foundations as no real agility is involved in those precious formative months. However, foundation training and enrichment exercises are a definite yes for all puppies and dogs new to the sport.

Try to remember that this is a very physical sport that is easily spoiled by over eager handlers. Basic training should be the focus of any dog new to agility and especially puppies. You can always make a dog faster, cleaner, or jump higher. But if you hurt them or scare them you could end a career that hasn’t even started. Even more advanced dogs can get over aggressive and scare themselves.

Working on targeting, attention, directions, recalls, shadow handling are all great places to start. Some even need to go back to the basics of play, learning how to properly tug or take treats. When they are responding well to flat work you can start introducing equipment that does not require jumping or climbing. Tools such as rocker boards, planks on the ground, and different surfaces will get your dog thinking about their weight and balance.

Depending on the size of your breed, a dog should not be taking any jumps higher than their hock until 1 year of age. Some larger breeds need to wait longer. Running standards with no or very low bars are good as are jump bumps to teach striding. Remember, puppies can be clumsy and a fall off a dog walk or a-frame could set you way back in your training. Take it slow and work on other basics like ladder work and rear-end awareness exercises to get your dog thinking about foot placement before taking on full height equipment.

And especially when working with young dogs, keep sessions short and upbeat. If an issue arises, find a way to address it off the equipment. You want that field to be a place of joy and happiness and if you push a young dog too hard they will develop avoidance behaviors. They have many years of fun if you will just be patient in those few formative months.

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