Questions about agility

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Questions about agility

Postby LizBot » Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:58 am

I've decided to invade this forum section as well, hooray. :)

I've never trained a dog for agility before (my Cocker Spaniel was too lazy and my Lab mix was too hyper), but our puppy is almost 3-months-old and seems to be quite athletic. I took him for a walk at the lake up the road the other day to burn off some energy; once he figured out it wasn't scary, he jumped into the tall grasses and began bounding about like a very small gazelle. He also routinely runs in very tight circles and enjoys tunneling through blankets.

I thought agility would be something we might do when we got him, but now I think we pretty much have to. He's fast, he's smart, he can jump high, and he needs an outlet for all that puppy energy.

So my questions are : how old should he be before he starts practicing agility and what's the best way to go about to avoid injuries? I've read that some dogs get hurt from doing agility too early or trying certain obstacles too soon/too often. Also, any particular strengths or weaknesses the Brittany seems to have that I should exploit or be aware of? I'd love to train him well enough to do some competitions with my oldest daughter, she's interested in doing the AKC Junior Handler thing but I'm not sure show dogs are our thing after learning about wigs for poodles and hair chalk. ;P
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Re: Questions about agility

Postby Lisa » Sun Mar 02, 2014 3:05 pm

Sorry I missed your post earlier - I've been at an agility trial!!!

LizBot wrote:So my questions are : how old should he be before he starts practicing agility and what's the best way to go about to avoid injuries? I've read that some dogs get hurt from doing agility too early or trying certain obstacles too soon/too often. Also, any particular strengths or weaknesses the Brittany seems to have that I should exploit or be aware of? I'd love to train him well enough to do some competitions with my oldest daughter, she's interested in doing the AKC Junior Handler thing but I'm not sure show dogs are our thing after learning about wigs for poodles and hair chalk. ;P


You can start foundation work now. That would be things like basic obedience (sit, lie down, come), following your hand, touching a target, etc. You can work running through jump stanchions with no bars or bars at 8 inches, running across planks, learning a 2 on 2 off contact behavior, tunnels, etc. Full height contact obstacles, full height jumps, and weave poles should not be attempted until the dog is at least 1 year old or done growing.

Best way to avoid injury for dogs and handlers is to join a class with an experienced instructor that knows how to introduce things safely to young dogs.

The biggest challenge with Britts doing agility is their hunting instinct. They like to run off and go hunting in the ring, so it takes lots of practice to work through that. Brittanys typically have a rounded jumping style, so don't usually have issues with dropping bars. Since they are a very upright, square breed, if they hit the upside or bottom of a contact obstacle (dog walk, a-frame, teeter) really hard, over and over, you may see some issues with shoulders, so watch for that and just train a more controlled approach in these areas. Brittanys, in general, tend to be a more "controlled" breed in the agility ring - by which, I mean that they don't just throw themselves at obstacles with no concern for their safety. They are usually a little more cautious and slow down and think if things feel unsafe for them.
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Re: Questions about agility

Postby LizBot » Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:16 am

Fantastic, thank you. :)

We're building a fence in the near future (or when the ground thaws, anyway!) so I thought I might add on some extra boards and have my husband cut and sand them to use for practice. My kids also have a tunnel that might be perfect for home practice until we get through our obedience classes and learn to be haved. :)

We do have a dog club in town that does "all the things" -- agility, obedience, rally, hunt/field, tracking, and lures. They just don't seem to have any Brittanys so I'm glad you have a forum for it here. It seemed to me that the different breeds might have different structural issues from jumping, crawling, and all that if they were overworked or doing it too early. I'll keep on eye on him, I don't want Jazz to get hurt doing something I'm sure he'll think is great fun. :)
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