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Discussion Starter #1
We finished Adult Basic Obedience class with Biscuit a couple of months ago and took some time off after that, but we decided it's time for another class so we signed up for Intro to Agility starting a week from Sunday! It's at the same dog school, but different trainer. The first session is an hourlong "orientation" and we're not supposed to bring our dogs.

I'm a rank amateur and so is my husband (and so is our dog, obviously). I think Biscuit will be good at this, but actually I have absolutely not the slightest idea about agility beyond what I've seen on TV. I know there are some agility fiends on this forum -- do any of you have any words of wisdom for newbies? What to expect? Advice?
 

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No advice, but congratulations! I think Biscuit will love it.
 

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Definitely look for the first class to be a foundations class and not much in the way of actual equpiment. First class should be flatwork, drive building, etc. I would run, not walk away from a trainer that starts you off by bringing your dog in and luring them over jumps and equipment on a leash the first day. Been there done that and it's so not worth it. Foundations are SO important.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hm, the description is: "Intro to basic obstacles like jumps, tunnels, and contacts, plus beginning handling concepts" and that we will get a "solid grounding in the basics." The first day is dogless so they won't be having us lure dogs over anything, but it doesn't sound like the whole series will just be flatwork and drive building (although I'm not actually sure what flatwork is...).
 

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Congratulations! My advice would be to have fun and make sure that you do the homework! I bring a notebook to class and write down the exercises that I am supposed to work on, along with diagrams if needed, so I can make sure I don't leave anything out. To get the most out of a class, you have to put the time in at home.

Have a wonderful time! I love agility! Keep it fun! Quit for the day when it's STILL really fun! Keep your dog wanting more!
 

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Does the trainer compete? That is one thing I have learned to look for. My first two agility trainers were very green and it showed in their training. My second was also not suited to really working with small dogs at all nor was she good with very fast dogs (not a good combination for me). just didn't have enough training experience with various types of dogs.

I just finished up a foundations class with Mia, which has been SO eye opening for me on how important foundations is.

Flatwork is basically just doing exercises without equipment (ie on the ground). We did a lot of circle work, crate games, race to a target, shaping, chase games, getting the dog used to interacting with an object, body and rear end awareness, and that kind of thing. We did use some jumps without an actual bar put up to get the dog going through obstacles and being directed through them. We did do a tunnel once, a wobble board.

My first agility class and second one I brought a dog the first day and they started right away with low dog walks and jumps on a leash. The dogs pick it up but to contrast it to last week where we introduced Mia and then three totally green dogs to jumps after having a foundations course was incredible. Instead of luring the dogs slowly over the jumps, they were off leash. Never seen a jump before (except Mia). We got them doing three jumps in a row off leash and with a lot of speed right off the get-go. We were already sending the dogs out in front of us several steps to a jump. Mia already knew this but it was incredible to see how well we suddenly were able to communicate and how fast she really was.

Training obstacles is easy but the handling/drive building/focus building is where the focus needs to be. It’s hard to go backwards but adding obstacles to dogs that already ‘get it’ is simple.

Even if you do agility just for fun, foundations is important. Especially if you get bitten by the bug and want to go further. Anyways sorry to sound preachy but I was very skeptical of doing this foundations course at first since my dog already knew the stuff (so I thought)but it’s been fabulous. Wish I had had a decent trainer with Summer.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Yes, the instructor does compete. It's this lady. She does seem to have a lot of experience, and has been teaching at this dog school for several years. One of our Basic Obedience trainers (who we LOVED) also does agility with her own dogs and spoke very highly of the agility instructor.

This dog school doesn't have a class called "Agility Foundations" -- just the different levels. I think it will be fine, honestly. We had such a great experience with the obedience class we did there -- I think they know what they're doing.

Is there anything we can work on at home before we get started? We already use a clicker with Biscuit -- should we work on targeting or anything like that? Any specific exercises?

Congratulations! My advice would be to have fun and make sure that you do the homework! I bring a notebook to class and write down the exercises that I am supposed to work on, along with diagrams if needed, so I can make sure I don't leave anything out. To get the most out of a class, you have to put the time in at home.

Have a wonderful time! I love agility! Keep it fun! Quit for the day when it's STILL really fun! Keep your dog wanting more!

NOTEBOOK! That's really smart. We'll definitely do that.
 

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I would not anticipate any problem working with this trainer.

Is there anything we can work on at home before we get started? We already use a clicker with Biscuit -- should we work on targeting or anything like that? Any specific exercises?.
Lots and lots and LOTS of attention work. Agility is all about paying attention to you while negotiating the equipment. So the more attention work that you do, the better off you will be. Go back over your basic pet obedience - chances are that you learned some attention exercises there. You can also turn most of the 'position work' (sit, stand, down) that you did in those classes into simple sttention exercises as well.

You'll learn some specific agility attention exercises/games in your Beginner class. But for now, you can use the attention exercises that you learned during your pet training.

Don't do any targeting work on your own yet. Your trainer will have her own method of teaching targeting and since you are a 'green team', you should follow that method. It will be a while before you have enough experience to free-lance.
 

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Yeah looks good. I almost think I might know someone that trains with them on another forum. Might be a different lady with cocker spaniels though. Just want to warn people about being suckered into 'for fun' agility classes in general. Have fun!
 

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I took agility at Woofs in with her at the end of the year and it was great. I'd love to get into the agility II class with Jubel but haven't had luck with scheduling. The monday night classes work best for me and always seem to fill up too fast, this time both agility II classes are on wednesdays.

So yeah don't worry about the class they build up to each activity and she STRONGLY discourages luring for 90% of things. She got me and Jubel started on shaping exercises. The class is a lot of fun and we learned a lot.
 

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Warning - agility can be addictive.
Home work you need to work on is a strong stay, instant recall and teach him his name. Without a strong stay you will have little hope of having your pup stop on contacts ( when you get there). When you release him from a stay you want him driving to you immediately. Crate games are excellant for this. And teaching him his name will reinforce the attention you need when he is flying off course.
Does the club use positive training methods? I would not even consider walking onto a club ground that allows choke collars to be worn.
 

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Just want to warn people about being suckered into 'for fun' agility classes in general.
Eh, I take agility "for fun" classes with my dogs and it's exactly what I need. I'm not competitive in the least and it's just a fun way to spend a couple hours a week with my dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks all! I'm getting super excited about this and I really think Biscuit is going to love it.

I took agility at Woofs in with her at the end of the year and it was great. I'd love to get into the agility II class with Jubel but haven't had luck with scheduling. The monday night classes work best for me and always seem to fill up too fast, this time both agility II classes are on wednesdays.

So yeah don't worry about the class they build up to each activity and she STRONGLY discourages luring for 90% of things. She got me and Jubel started on shaping exercises. The class is a lot of fun and we learned a lot.
Wow Dagwall, thanks! We really liked them for obedience, glad to hear you liked the agility instructor as well. Yeah, from what I can tell there are lotteries to get into some of the agility classes because they're so popular! Ridiculous, but there aren't too many options for dog training in the metro area, and I really do like their methods.

Warning - agility can be addictive.
Home work you need to work on is a strong stay, instant recall and teach him his name. Without a strong stay you will have little hope of having your pup stop on contacts ( when you get there). When you release him from a stay you want him driving to you immediately. Crate games are excellant for this. And teaching him his name will reinforce the attention you need when he is flying off course.
Does the club use positive training methods? I would not even consider walking onto a club ground that allows choke collars to be worn.
Yes, this dog school is exclusively positive reinforcement. In fact they used to be called "PR" before they changed their name a few years ago. No choke collars or other negative methods allowed! In obedience class, we weren't even allowed to use the word "no."

Biscuit knows all those things, but a little practice never hurt! Her recall is great generally, but she's still a youngin (16 months) and rather distractable.

I would not anticipate any problem working with this trainer.

Lots and lots and LOTS of attention work. Agility is all about paying attention to you while negotiating the equipment. So the more attention work that you do, the better off you will be. Go back over your basic pet obedience - chances are that you learned some attention exercises there. You can also turn most of the 'position work' (sit, stand, down) that you did in those classes into simple sttention exercises as well.

You'll learn some specific agility attention exercises/games in your Beginner class. But for now, you can use the attention exercises that you learned during your pet training.

Don't do any targeting work on your own yet. Your trainer will have her own method of teaching targeting and since you are a 'green team', you should follow that method. It will be a while before you have enough experience to free-lance.
Thanks, very helpful! We did do a lot of "voluntary attention" work in our basic obedience class. We'll definitely do some refreshers over the next couple weeks.
 

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Wow Dagwall, thanks! We really liked them for obedience, glad to hear you liked the agility instructor as well. Yeah, from what I can tell there are lotteries to get into some of the agility classes because they're so popular! Ridiculous, but there aren't too many options for dog training in the metro area, and I really do like their methods.
Hmmm... lottery. When I tried to sign up for the first agility class before they posted the next session (it was days away from being posted) I couldn't get my name on a list. I was told to wait until it was posted (wouldn't give me a day) and call back, first come first serve. I assumed that was still the case so I haven't tried. Last two times I was late checking for the new class schedule and the class I wanted was full already, this time both Agility II classes are on Wednesday : (

As for other training facilities in the area there actually are a decent number that use only positive reinforcement that meet in Arlington or close by. I liked Woofs but their popularity makes it hard to get into classes. Dog Paws University is partnered with Rudy's Friends and I took a nosework (called Find It) class with Anne of Rudy's Friends. Dog Paws U is in Arlington and Rudy's Friends meet in Vienna, I'm in between the two and would be happy to go to classes at either location/facility. Which ever manages to offer the Find It II class first I'll end up at.

I will agree it's somewhat difficult to find a good agility class though, large part of the reason it's so hard to get into a Woofs class. Other places I found wanted more money for fewer classes and had a lot less information on their sites about how their classes are run.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Hmmm... lottery. When I tried to sign up for the first agility class before they posted the next session (it was days away from being posted) I couldn't get my name on a list. I was told to wait until it was posted (wouldn't give me a day) and call back, first come first serve. I assumed that was still the case so I haven't tried. Last two times I was late checking for the new class schedule and the class I wanted was full already, this time both Agility II classes are on Wednesday : (

As for other training facilities in the area there actually are a decent number that use only positive reinforcement that meet in Arlington or close by. I liked Woofs but their popularity makes it hard to get into classes. Dog Paws University is partnered with Rudy's Friends and I took a nosework (called Find It) class with Anne of Rudy's Friends. Dog Paws U is in Arlington and Rudy's Friends meet in Vienna, I'm in between the two and would be happy to go to classes at either location/facility. Which ever manages to offer the Find It II class first I'll end up at.

I will agree it's somewhat difficult to find a good agility class though, large part of the reason it's so hard to get into a Woofs class. Other places I found wanted more money for fewer classes and had a lot less information on their sites about how their classes are run.
Weird they wouldn't give you a date. I just called and asked when they were posting the next semester's schedule and they gave me a date. But I think maybe the run the lottery before that. Might be worth calling and asking. I agree, Wednesday nights are tough.

We're in the District proper and the nearby options for training (let alone agility) are so very limited. All the daycares offer training, but it's like one level and seems sketchy. I've heard good things about Your Dog's Friend in Rockville, but that is way too much of a hike for us! We ended up choosing between Fur Get Me Not and Woofs for Basic Obedience, and picked Woofs because Fur Get Me Not seemed expensive and has a weird scheduling system. I haven't heard of Dog Paws U but will keep it in mind for future reference!
 

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Yeah I looked at Fur Get Me Not and they have what they call a Levels system if I remember correctly. Like you pay for a certain number of classes but can move through the different levels of classes at your own pace. Sounds good in theory but not so sure how it'd work out in practice having to plan around classes at different days and times of the week rather than planing to go 6-7 Tuesdays at 7 in a row.

Link for Dog Paws U and Rudy's Friends training. Just looked and looks like Anne is the trainer for both just different locations.
 

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I'll echo what Nev said: watch out, cause agility is highly addictive! It is inter-species communication at high speeds, and getting it right is the biggest thrill you can imagine. A great run with a drivey dog can feel like drag racing. Although Kit usually runs silently, she almost always lets out a couple of barks of pure joy at the end of a good run.

It's great to have an instructor who competes, but be warned that not all people who compete are great instructors. Some of them are great at teaching dogs, but not so gifted at teaching humans. I started with someone who skipped the foundation work and then held us back by not allowing us to start sequencing. She certainly knows what she's doing when it comes to training her dogs, but couldn't communicate that effectively to us. Once I realized that progress had come to a stand-still, I found not one but two better instructors. Two years later, I'm still with them and couldn't be happier. Kit and I both enjoy class immensely.

As far as foundation work, there are some great threads around here on that. I would definitely be doing a lot of target work (I like to use a 4"x4" bathroom tile because it's heavy and most dogs won't try to play with it). Another exercise would be heel work (though not the formal stuff with leash pops and strict criteria - just moving alongside you and keeping up/slowing down to stay there). LOTS of sit, down, stay, come - ideally practice these in a distracting setting like a park. Let's see...ability to be quiet and calm while crated. Ability to ignore other dogs and other distractions. Work on figuring out your dog's biggest motivators - maybe that's a special treat or toy? I think free shaping is definitely a helpful skill - if nothing else, it teaches that dog that it's ok to be wrong, just try again. Dogs who recover quickly like that are fabulous for agility.

Mosey on over to the "new agility classes" thread. We like newbies!
 
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