Novice Tips

Tips for the Novice Team from a Novice Team!

1. Make sure class is fun for you and your dog
~Most dogs really enjoy agility training and will learn better if it's fun. (I think most people are the same way). Keep in mind that your dog is very adept at reading your mood and energy. They know when you're happy and they know when you're not! More importantly, they feed off of your energy and you'd rather them feed off of positive energy, trust me!

2. Practice, Practice, Practice
~Even 5 minute training sessions make a huge impact on your progress. At first, when your dog is learning the obstacles that you obviously don't have at home, practice walking your dog on both your left and right sides and work to keep your obedience skills sharp.

3. Have your dog cleared for participation in Agility by your Veterinarian. Be sure your dog is up to date on all vaccinations and is free of parasites.
~Agility class is strenuous. Be sure your veterinarian agrees that your dog is up to the task. Your dog will be working around other dogs and on equipment that is used by other dogs. It is important that all participating dogs are up to date on their vet care.

4. Keep your dog well socialized and have at least basic obedience training prior to starting Agility Classes.
~Although Agility is not a place for your dog to play with other dogs, it is important that they are able to work around other dogs without aggression or fear. Many kennel clubs and pet stores offer puppy classes and basic obedience classes. Dog Parks, used with care and caution, can also be a good way to socialize your dog. Also, when I'm able, I take Gilda with me to the pet store.

5. Attend a Clicker Training class or seminar
~Clicker training is a hands-on skill which in my opinion is best learned by demonstration and return demonstration. Trying to learn clicker training from reading a book is a difficult proposition! Your vet or local kennel clubs can often direct you.

6. Resist the urge to compare yourself or your dog to other class members
~Just like people, dogs learn at different rates. Most Agility classes have dogs and handlers with varied experience. It is easy to think "my dog should be doing that obstacle as well as all the other dogs in class" however, often we don't know the handler's history or the dog's. Try to remember that Agility class is not a competition. Also remember that everyone started out a novice at one time!

7. Always end class or training sessions on a positive note
~ If you or your dog are getting frustrated, go back to something the dog does consistently well and end there.

8. Network with classmates and other Agility lovers
~There are blogs and boards in addition to email and phone. Ask away. You can gain valuable information from short conversations. Want to know which treats someone uses? How to get your dog interested in tugging? The best way to learn front and rear crosses? Just ask...

9. Keep your dog at a healthy weight
~Agility dogs put considerably more stress on their bones, joints, tendons, etc. Keeping them fit and trim can help to prolong and enhance their participation in agility.

10. Attend trials in your area as a spectator
~Not only are trials fun to watch, they help to teach and motivate you! While some trials are pure-breed dog trials, others also allow mixed-breed dogs. You will notice too that not only is there a variety of dogs, but the handlers come in all shapes, abilities, ages, and sizes too! Agility is truly a sport for everyone.