(For Conformation People, Too!!)
By: Tracy L. Hendrickson -- Sunchase Boxers
Tracy is a nationally ranked Boxer obedience competitor and has earned over 200 performance titles with her Boxers. She has taught agility and obedience at her local clubs for over 20 years. She can be reached at Brindoll@cox.net.
Dog agility is one of today's most popular
sports. Foundation training is essential to
any dog sport -- whether he will be doing
conformation, obedience or agility. Most
Boxers can be trained and can take part in agility competition,
but it is easier when you can start with a
puppy. Start from day one. (See Tracy's article from
Boxer Ring Spring 2005 -- "Super Socializing Your
Next Litter.") Starting your Boxer
puppy early DOES make a difference with them gaining
confidence, no matter what ring they compete in!!!
If you make the effort to lay down the foundation
work, your Boxer puppy in the future, will work at a
higher level much faster and have the enthusiasm and
desire to work. Early puppy training is much easier vs.
training adolescents or adults. Most puppies are
FEARLESS, curious and want to try new things. We
need to use this to our advantage.
Early puppy training will let you gain control by
the time the puppy is one year old and harder physical
training can come easily after. Training at a
young age is taught as a game. You want to make it
a positive and safe experience to help with his coordination
and confidence in the future.
"Sit," "stay" and "come" (and "stand" for conformation) commands
need to be foundation behaviors. They can be
taught at an early age without robbing the babe of his puppy-hood. You can
teach your puppy that you are his best playmate — making life fun with toys, treats and most importantly
yourself. Keep sessions short and fun. Always leave him wanting more.
Puppy agility games help teach "body awareness,"
since they grow so fast and their coordination is
always in question. Use no force and train him to do
as you ask. By 12 months old you will have loaded
the foundation work for formal training still to come.
Enhancing the bond at an early age will let you
reap the rewards with a very self-confidant puppy.
Formal training in the future will come so much
easier since you have set a foundation that will last a
Use motivators such as toys, treats and praise.
Make yourself more interesting than other distractions.
I have always said, "The death of a performance
dog is boredom."
Train your puppy as informally as possible before
six months. Try to enroll in a local puppy kindergarten
class. Most will have some type of puppy agility
equipment to get started on.
Always start with your puppy on a buckle collar
and on a light leash that they can drag. Starting at 8
weeks is best. Keep him socialized with a lot of people,
with different noises at your home, even before
they are fully vaccinated. You get out what you put in
early in their life!!!
Agility is not all about jumping. There
are many obstacles that can be taught that
do not put a strain on growing puppy
frames. Due to the nature of the sport, formal
training can put too much strain on
growing bones and joints on babes less than
12 months old.
Super Simple Puppy Agility Equipment and Training
- Obtain a 1 inch X 6 inch X 12 foot plank and place
it over a brick (4 inches off the ground) and work it
as a baby teeter totter. This gets the puppy used to
something moving under their feet ... or
- Obtain a 3 ft. X 3 ft. board with a tennis ball underneath.
As with the teeter, keep your puppy on leash,
and gently guide him to the treats that you have
placed along the board. Always praise him each time
he progresses to the next treat. Add a "wait" command
when he reaches the end of the plank and keep
him from leaping off. Release him with an "OK" and
- Tunnels can be found by using large cardboard boxes
opened at each end. Place a treat at the exit, let him
see it, and release him from the other end to go
through the tunnel. Progress by sending him through
on his own while meeting him at the other end and
with a treat in you hand. Never jump your puppy
higher than his "elbow" height.
- Puppy hurdles can be used with a 6-inch PVC pipe.
- On leash, run him over it using an "over" command.
Gradually raise the PVC pipe with bricks, as your
puppy gets older. Knocking the bar over is usually a
correction in itself to the puppy and he will learn to pick up
- Use a large towel or sheet to place over the puppy for
finding a way out. A little bit of stress and success is a
good thing at this stage in their life.
- Find a friend or training partner for puppy recalls. Use
them to restrain your puppy and release him to you with a
"come" command. Praise, treat and play when he reaches
you. This can also be done through tunnels and over jumps.
- Use a small visible paper plate or his food bowl with a
treat on top as a target for "send aways" to a table (small
weight bearing low set box). Show him the treat, restrain
him until he is focused, and release him with a simultaneous
command "go table!!!" Slowing increase the distance.
Also, send him laterally away from you to the target using
a "get out" command. This exercise teaches him to work
away from you with confidence.
- Put names to obstacles -- they can learn these at any age.
Easy Training Tips
- Never over work your puppy. Multiple short sessions (10-
15 minutes max.) a couple times a day keeps him from
being bored and you will leave him wanting more. Use
training for their meals as treats. He will be more eager to
learn and develop a food drive.
- Always praise your puppy for a job well done. A happy
puppy will be more willing to learn vs. a puppy that isn't
having a good time.
- Get your puppy excited and run with him on both the left
and right sides. Add turns, stops and comes. Reward, praise
and play. This exercise is important to make your puppy
aware of your body position and where he needs to be.
- Never physically force or punish your puppy. Cruelty or
rough handling will not teach anything but fear.
- Keep your commands clear and help
show what you expect of him, and
reward big time when he does it on his
- Start slow on a leash to give him no
other options. Let him start dragging
his leash with exercises and if you are
successful, let him work off of a shoe
lace or pull tab.
- Socialize your puppy with different
surfaces such as wire mesh, tarps,
sand, ice, water and even climbing on
and over logs. Take him over different
types of flooring such as slick polished
concrete and wood or laminate tile.
Open steps are a challenge and are best
taught at an early age. Hiking excursions
will also help him gain control of
his fast growing body frame.
- Making a game of everything will
be a positive experience for your dog
and he will be less likely to worry
about stressful situations. He will be
less likely to suffer from agility
"burnout" in the future.
- Play some fun puppy games such as
having him chase their favorite toy on
a long rope. Let them win. Also try
running away with the toy for a tag
game. This builds prey and play
drive and makes you more interesting
than the surrounding environment.
- Lastly, the first training experiences
and imprint exercises for your Boxer
puppy will last a lifetime.
Grasp the opportunity with both
hands and you BOTH will surely reap
the rewards. It has always been said
that "everyone gets the dog that they
deserve" and our Boxers deserve the
best that we can offer them.
"Train you dog every day as if it
is the last day you will ever spend