Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Puppy Agility

A few weeks ago Melissa began her 2nd eight week long session for puppy agility. She and her friend Tate, a German Shepherd, are the two youngest puppies in the class. Many of the older puppies are able to run ahead of their owners and stay on course. They sit while their owners walk several obstacles away and then are cued thru the mini course with front crosses and back crosses. All agility skills Melissa and Tate will eventually learn, but for now they not up to that level of training.

Tate's owner, Sue and I are training to our dog's ability. No need to keep up with the class, and accomplish all the skills, there is time for that. Our instructor Janine agrees, 'do what your dogs are physically and mentally capable of, keep it positive for them'. My goal for Melissa in any class is to let her have fun during class time and want to come back to that environment.

I work on attitude. We play on the sidelines. I want Melissa to associate a ring type situation as fun fun fun. Only after she can perform basic skills on cue at home and in other quiet places do I then practice in class where there are more distractions.

This week in class she targeted to my hand by leaping off the ground with her two front feet. She was eager to perform the cue to 'touch', she was focused on me rather then the distractions around the room. We have practiced this skill and she has it on cue at home and in other quiet areas, she is ready to begin practicing with distractions. I captured a few quick sits by clicking ( www. clickertraining. com) at the precise moment she was in the sit. '7 months old and she still can't sit on cue?' you might ask. With her long legs and rapid growth there was no need to practice sits. When she was doing them quickly on her own, then I began to put them on cue. For now her sits are straight and fairly quick...at least until the next growth spurt.

Weeks ago we began with one jump, this week she was able to clear 4 low jumps in a row with a target on the ground after the last jump. We introduced a short tunnel months ago, this week she went thru a curved tunnel and went up and over a low A-frame.

She was focused on the task at hand and not what was going on around her. After each 2 to 3 minute training session on the agility equipment we then played with her fuzzy toy. Melissa also practiced being in her ex-pen while the other dogs took their turn on the equipment. She lies quietly when I am sitting next to her or if I go across the room. This week I left the room for a few minutes then returned. Melissa remained relaxed in her ex-pen.

Tiny pieces of the big picture of attending future shows or agility trials are being introduced to Melissa. She looks forward to class, we are working as a team as I cue her to do certain skills, and each week her focus and attention span are getting longer and longer. It will be a long time before Melissa is ready to compete in agility or any other performance venue, but she is building a solid foundation of skills that will last a life time. I'm in no hurry, for now I am just having fun playing with my puppy.


  1. Somehow, that closing line brings tears to my eyes, Chris.
    Thank you! You're going to have a wonderful book!

  2. Thanks Joy. While training with Patty Ruzzo for 9 years she told me something that is always foremost in my mind: 'enjoy the journey'. It doesn't matter if our dogs earn titles and ribbons at shows. We should enjoy the day to day living with them.