By Ellen Gruber
(Finally, what if you are interested only in agility competition? Ellen Gruber was kind enough to supply suggestions to getting your puppy ready for the agility ring. Here's what Ellen had to say about preparing a puppy for agility.)
If I understand this correctly, you intend this article for mainly breed people. I've thought about this. They would not have to have access to agility equipment. Most people can get a child's tunnel at toy store and can improvise the other agility equipment. If you are going to integrate the obedience into the agility, the most important obedience exercises is the "come." It doesn't have to be a formal ring style "come", but a "get your butt over here, now!"
This is important in agility. So, as far as agility using obedience commands: a 5 second wait or stay on the pause box, a sit or a down on the pause box (most competitors use both voice and hand signal on this), and come are the most important and helpful obedience commands.
The other point that may interest breeders is that many of us doing agility feel that agility builds a dog's confidence. I would think this activity could be very helpful in preparing a young dog to have the confident, outgoing personality exhibitors want to see in the breed ring.
I've written comments for each of the pictures to help illustrate the techniques used. I'm sending photos of the dog walk, pause table, tunnel and A frame photos. Like any other activity, and as the other have indicated, start slowly and carefully to introduce your dog to each obstacle. Walk them through the course until they are completely familiar with it and gradually, as they mature, increase the speed of their "run."
To sum up, it is obvious that all of these highly successful competitors have found that starting your puppies out early can make a big difference to their future success in the ring. Spending time training our Boxer puppies can be an extremely enriching and fun experience both for our puppies and us. It can enhance the bond that develops between the puppy and their person and help us all to be more successful when they are grown.
Don't waste valuable time that can be put to excellent use, in getting your wonderful Boxer baby ready to be as successful as possible in later life. Remember: for success in the ring, TRAIN EARLY AND TRAIN OFTEN should be everyone's motto.
This is Bravo's Masquerade, "Liza," at three months with natural ears and four months with cropped ears.
Picture 1 and Picture 2: This is Liza on the dog walk. Start by holding on to the dog's buckle collar when doing obstacles. Start the dog in the middle of the dog walk so that it is being led down and off the obstacle. Use food or a toy to lure the dog. At the bottom of the walk the reward is given. Give the reward at the bottom while the dog is still on the equipment. Don't wait until the dog is completely off. This is done for safety. It helps the dog understand that it must go to the bottom and not jump off.
Picture 3 & Picture 4: This is Liza in the tunnel. Start with the tunnel stretched straight only six feet. Have somebody hold the dog while you kneel at the other end, look at the dog, and call it. Be sure to have a treat ready. As the dog comes out of the tunnel it gets its reward. Usually by the second session the dog is able to go through a curved tunnel with the handler waiting at the other end. With young puppies continue to have someone hold them at the start of the tunnel.
Picture 5 Picture 6 Picture 7: This is Liza on the mini A-frame. Begin by placing the dog at the top. Lure the dog down and off the obstacle. Later the dog can be lured up. Liza was given a treat at the top and another treat near the bottom. Like the dog walk, the treat is given before the dog completes the obstacle. This reinforces finishing the obstacles rather than jumping off.
Picture 8: This is the pause table. Six to eight inches is high enough for puppies. Dogs must sit or down on the table for five seconds. This is where the obedience voice and hand signal may be used. The puppy must also learn what "stay" means. Keep the puppy in place by feeding it treats in either the sit or down position. Alternate the two commands.
A final word of caution: Very young puppies should not do any jumping. Older puppies should not do more than three or four 6-8" jumps in any practice session. A regulation height A-frame should not be used for puppies. These obstacles are too strenuous.
On To Part V: Obedience