Is your dog timid around people or other dogs? Is your dog sensitive to sounds? Agility training can provide the environment and structure to build confidence in your dog. Agility classes are a great place for people to learn about the sport and learn how to train, but the timid dog may take a long time before he is ready to venture from under your chair or off your lap.
A timid or shy dog can only learn inside their comfort zone. So, training must begin where they feel safe and behaviors must be taught in very small increments. Home will probably be the best place to train and have learning take place for your dog.
So, how do you train at home? You will need guidelines and equipment. There is a multitude of websites that can give you information on agility training. There are also books and videos that will give details and visual aids and lesson plans for beginners thru expert levels.
There is a variety of equipment that is useful and helpful to have at home. Equipment recommendations are based on your available space and location of training. Do you have a large yard that will hold 10 obstacles? Do you have a small yard where you will need setup equipment and then tear down before you can setup again? Will you be training in your garage or basement, or as some agility addicts, in your living room.
For the timid dogs make sure your equipment is safe and sturdy. The pause table is a good place to begin your agility training. A 12” high pause table, with adjustable legs for later use, is a good starting place for all size dogs. Remember with your shy dog, setup your table in an area that is very familiar to your dog. If your dog barks at anything new, just leave your pause table in your house or yard for several days, let your dog inspect and smell it on his own or with a little coaxing, but don’t push to fast, remember baby steps with the insecure dog. With treats in a dish or his favorite toy placed on the table encourage your dog to get up on the table. This may take more than one lesson, be patient. If your timid dog looses interest in food or toys when you attempt something new, trying holding him and you sit on the table. If your dog is too big to hold, have him on leash and you sit on the table. If he backs away coax him, only treat or reward him when he comes to you, never when he’s pulling back away from you or the table.
Eventually, you want your dog to be able to jump on the table with your cue word, “Table”, “Box”, “Kennel”, whatever word you use, Stay on the table as you back away and then Come when you call. Build your distance slowly so that your dog is not pushed to soon.
From Pause Table to Contact Trainer is a nice transition for shy dog. A Contact Trainer comes in different designs. We recommend a 3-Piece Contact Trainer that has one mini A-frame side, a Pause Table, and then a mini Dog-walk side. Your dog can Sit on the table and then be coaxed down the A-frame side or the Dog-walk side. Just remember with the shy dog, training is done in increments, slowly and comfortably, with a little push to stretch him, but not enough to overwhelm him to cause a shutdown.
You can follow the above techniques introducing new obstacles as your dog is able to succeed. As your dog succeeds on each new piece of equipment you will see his confidence grow.
Yes, its cold outside, but don’t stop your dog’s agility training. Depending on where you live, there might be snow on the ground from November through March, but thats no reason to give up your agility training. Bring your training indoors, right at your own home.
Get creative with your training locations. Do you have a hallway, basement, or garage? Then you have a place to train! Before it snows and your equipment is frozen to the ground, store some in your garage, shed, basement, or put a tarp over it. Bring in one piece of equipment at a time, and begin your indoor training.
We do a lot of indoor training with a Pause Table. In fact, we keep one in our living room for both obedience training and agility training all the time. The Pause Table is a great obstacle for developing your obedience behaviors and teaching agility directional commands
Don’t forget to work on your contacts. It’s easy by having a Contact Trainer indoors. A 3-Piece Contact Trainer offers you versatility; you have an A-frame side, the Pause Table, and a Dog-walk plank. Practicing your two feet on and two feet off is convenient and quick when you have indoor contacts, only a few minutes a day to steady your dog’s behavior.
Indoor jumping must be approached carefully. If you don’t have indoor matting, don’t jump. You don’t want your dog jumping on concrete or wood floors. But you can use the uprights or posts to practice your handling. Use your Sit-stay or Down-stay and practice your lines or dogs path with no jump bars.
Weaves can be practice indoors. Are you training with a weave-chute or straight line weaves? Five minutes a day of weave training through out the winter will have your dog weaving smoothly by springtime. You can practice weave entries and weave sends or weave recalls.
There is also a variety of mini agility equipment that can be purchased, and don’t require the same space as standard equipment. There are mini-teeters, mini-dog walks, and mini-A-frames. These are great obstacles for puppy training or indoor winter training.
So, during the cold winter months, don’t give up on your agility training. Whether you are starting a young pup, working a novice dog, or an experienced titled dog there is always something that you can do indoors with your agility training.
There is such a wide selection of dog agility equipment, where do I begin? There are several factors to consider when making your agility equipment purchases. Two major factors are your goals and your dog.
Are your goals to develop a deeper bonding with your dog by taking agility classes together, having fun, and seeing how far you and your dog can progress with agility skills? Do you have a timid dog and want to develop confidence in him? Or do you have a high drive dog and want to help him burn energy in a controlled manner? Do you want to do agility as a just for fun activity or are you setting your sights on making it to the nationals and becoming an agility instructor? All the previous factors are important to consider when purchasing your equipment.
An agility course has contact equipment, jumps, weaves, tunnels, closed tunnel, and possibly a pause table (depending on your agility venue). It would be wonderful have a full course of agility equipment in your backyard, but its not necessary to learn the sport. Contact equipment consists of dog-walks, A-frames, and teeters. It is a good idea to have at least one contact obstacle. Many people select to purchase a teeter because the motion often causes a dog hesitation. If you can’t fit a regulation piece of equipment in your yard, consider an 8′ dog-walk instead of a 12′ or even select from mini-contact equipment that is available to train your dog on.
Jumps. You can never have enough single jumps, but you also might think about a double jump or triple jump. If you cannot purchase a double or triple jump, you can place two or three single jumps together to practice. Eight single jumps give you lots of drills and exercises to practice and interchange.
Tunnels, chutes, and tables are variations to add to your course. Tire jumps are very popular to have in backyard training. Pause tables are essential in our agility training program. They are our center and focal point for developing our directional commands and building distance.
Weaves, critical for having at home. The type of weave to purchase depends on your method of teaching. Is your agility class using weave chutes, angled weaves, or straight lined weaves. If your instructor is teaching a specific method, than its easiest to purchase the same type of weaves. We have trained five different agility dogs, each with a different method and in the end they all have nice weaves.
There are a variety of training aids that can help you develop the behavior you want from your dog on the equipment. Buja boards are excellent for timid dogs that need to build confidence slowly. Contact trainers are great for back chaining your contact behavior, and they are smaller so you can bring them indoors for winter training also.
You may be thinking, “When can I start agility training with my new puppy?” You can start immediately, with certain recommendations. Puppies are always learning, so every time you are with your pup you can be playing and socializing with agility in mind. Always remember, if you can control your puppies environment, you can teach and train the behaviors you want, left on their own, even in a fenced yard, puppies will learn and develop behaviors that later we may want or need to extinguish.
Expose your puppy to different surfaces. One of the first behaviors we teach our pups is “Box” or “Table”. This behavior transfers to the agility pause table. Lure pup up on a low pause table, treat them on the table. You can call the pause table anything you want. (If I was starting over I would name the pause table “Box” instead of “Table” for my dogs because on the agility course there is the potential to have too many “T” words, i.e. tunnel, tire, table, and teeter. The problem is I am also a creature of habit, and under pressure revert back to my default words, “table” would be one of them.)
Teach your pup to “Box”, meaning to get up on a variety of obstacles. In our training field we use “Box” for upside down kennel tops, the bottom of barrels turned upside down, bird crates, and more. Be creative with your pup, get them to get up on all kinds of surfaces, exposing them to different shapes, sizes, and textures. Once your pup is comfortable getting up on a “Box”, then you can begin to ask them to sit on the box also.
You can also begin to use Buja boards for motion training. Buja boards are generally made from plywood, 36″ x 36″ with a painted surface or covered surface. On the underside, there is a 2×4 box where a partially deflated ball is placed. This enables the Buja board to rock gently. At first you can reward your pup for getting one paw on the board, then reward for two feet and eventually all four. Depending on your pups temperament will determine how fast they get comfortable on the Buja Board.
Perch training can also be started with young pups. The Perch is generally a 1′x1′ wood surface that is raised by 2″x4″‘s underneath. So the Perch is about four inches in height. The Perch helps teach pups reared awareness. Again, you can reward your pup for getting one front paw on the perch and then the other. Perch training is mostly used with just the front paws on the Perch.
These are just a few behaviors you can teach your young pup. Exposure to a variety of surfaces and heights will help your pup build confidence in his future agility training.