So you want to know what I view as the three most things in creating a great agility dog? Foundation, foundation, foundation. So few people find the joy in the little stuff. Everyone wants to jump in and do the sexy stuff so they sequence their 5 month old puppies between uprights with a bar on the ground or they get working their running contacts or sending their wee puppy through a open row of weave poles. That’s the sexy stuff. Meanwhile my dogs do Crate Games, Recalls, Body Awareness Exercises, Puppy Grids and Shadow Handling Games. They do not see agility obstacles until they are close to a year old (with the exception of the table which I teach very early on–a low one, 4″ high). My dogs don’t start sequencing jumps until they are 15 months or older. I don’t think holding off on the so-called fun-stuff has hurt me at all. Feature is now now the third dog in a row that I have owned that has won a big class over seasoned agility dogs within their first couple months of trialling. I am sure to someone watching, it would appear that my young dog has been running courses from the time she was just a puppy. To quote John Pinette, “oh, nay nay.” The reason for my dogs early success has little to do with agility, and a great deal to do with foundation training. As I say over and over, I focus on raising a great family pet and the attributes that make a great family pet also lay the foundation for a phenomenal agility dog. With a solid foundation the rest of agility training (handling sequences, training weave poles or contacts) comes quickly and relatively easily. Without this proper foundation you will be frustratedly training and re-training, as you seek a level excellence that may elude you throughout your dog’s entire career. Find the joy in the training the small stuff or what I consider the “important stuff.” Plan for more time on Crate Games and One Jump Exercises and less time trying to run full courses. Anyone can do it, it is all about focusing on the ground floor as you work your way up to the top floor.
Today I am grateful I can still yak to John on the phone when I am so far away teaching (. . . yeah, I am sure John is really grateful for this too:))