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Beginner At Agility, But So Worth It!
Me and my dog after our first competition (I was shy so I'm not showing off my ribbons :P)
My 7 year old American Cocker Spaniel and I just started agility this past year (along with Obedience and Showmanship). We'd never done it before so it was a new experience for both me and him. At first all he wanted to do was the jumps, he hated the dog walk and was terrified of the tunnels but after a few classes he grew to LOVE all of it! His only problem was he got too excited! I'm used to training him off lead but when we first start in 4-H he HAS to be on a leash, and that threw us off!
He'd do great through the whole course but once we got to the table he'd be going too fast and slid right off! It was hilarious though and we kept trying! Then we had our first competition, I was nervous but excited! We got in the ring and started out, he did AMAZING... until the last jump, he got too excited and jumped at the leash and missed the last jump forcing us to lose 5 points. But I didn't care, we both had fun and that's always something to remember when doing agility, always have fun! If you're not having fun, then your dogs not having fun and it's no fun for either of you!
For our first competition we got 95 points which was great for our first time, and we'd won reserve champion too, I was so happy I was crying, my dog was bouncing all over the place because he could tell how happy I was! We went to our second competition, and I was excited and couldn't wait till it was our turn. We got out there and his tail looked like it would fly of his backside! We ran a clean course... until the last jump... again. He got too excited again and jumped for the leash, missing the last jump! I was slightly disappointed but happy none the less, he'd done great! When they announced the winners for my group I was stunned to get 9th, top 10! I was so proud of him, and still am! I can't wait till our next competition!
Quick tip for training your dog to go through the tunnel or chute; start with either the barrel of the chute or the tunnel at it's shortest point! Have someone hold your dog on one side and call him from the other, that didn't work for my dog so what I did is I'd show him the treat then throw it into the tunnel causing him to run after it then I'd run to the other side and call him, when he came out I'd be super excited and praise him happily with a handful of treats. He quickly figured out; 'Oh! This is fun and it makes her happy!'
The chute is always harder just because the dog can't see the other side. Once again start with the barrel, teach them to love going through that barrel, when you feel he's ready, put the chute part on the barrel. Have someone hold your dog while you go to the other side and open the chute so your dog can see you and call him, be sure to give him treats and praise for going through! As he gets more comfortable, start dropping the chute on him as he runs through it too you, eventually he'll find that it's fun to go through it, my dog adores it now!
Warning! If your dog gets trapped in the chute, be careful how you react! If you overreact and panic about it he'll get scared of the chute and you'll have a harder time with it! Instead, lift up the end of the chute and call him out, when he comes out give him extra praise for not giving up! He'll figure it out eventually!
For the dog walk it's always scary to be off the ground, so start little, let your dog sniff out the dog walk until he's comfortable with it then urge him (with treats) to go up. Always make sure there is someone on the other side of the dog walk in case your dog flips out and tries to jump off, they could get hurt that way! If your dog is still nervous about going up go smaller! As soon as his paws even touches the walk praise him enthusiastically! He'll pick up on what you're wanting and he'll soon go over it happily! My dog tries to pull me up the dog walk!
The biggest thing I can tell you about doing agility, is, NEVER EVER EVER!!!!!! get mad at your dog for not doing the right course or doing the obstacle wrong! You'll end up discouraging him and making him not want to do it anymore and then neither you or your dog will have any fun! Agility is supposed to be fun for you and your dog, don't turn it into a competition, it'll getting boring for your dog if you do that. Focus on having fun with your best friend!
I had a friend who was doing her second year with her Black Lab, when the competition came around and they got out into the ring, they made it halfway through the course and her dog trotted out of the ring, disqualifying them both. Yes she was upset, who wouldn't be but how she treated her dog after that warmed my heart, she got him back in the ring even though they were disqualified and finished the course, then she came back over to me with a smile on her face. No she hadn't won anything but she had had a blast playing with her dog! And that's the point of Agility!