The handler's controls are limited to voice, movement, and various body signals requiring exceptional training of the animal and coordination of the handler.
An agility course consists of a set of standard obstacles laid out by a judge in a design of his or her own choosing on a roughly 100 by 100 foot area with numbers indicating the order in which the dog must complete the obstacles.
Kirby went to his very first agility training class this past Saturday. He was the littlest pup but there was also a beagle named Jinx and a corgi named Dannie with little short legs. The rest of the pack was huge! A hill for one of them was a mountain for Kirbs but he persevered. Today was mostly spent getting the dogs and us used to the various pieces of equipment.
There were vertical poles to walk around, horizontal poles to jump over, planks to walk across, tunnels to run through, various a-frames to run up and then down, and a see saw. I wanted to start him easy so first he walked around poles and jumped over poles. Then he walked the plank a few times. Piece of cake.
Next we tackled the a-frames (I’m sure I’m not using the technical names) of various heights and angles. The first one was easy enough that he simply walked up one side and down the other side. The next two were more difficult for him. They were steep enough to cause him to slide backwards forcing him to have to run up them in order to get to the top. One had pieces of wood nailed at intervals he could use like a ladder. Once we showed him how to use them he had no problems. The last one was a doozy! It was very steep with no wooden “helpers”. He very much did not like this one but after several tries and much coaxing finally made it to the top. He would not, however, try it again.
So then we decided to tackle the see saw. A group of people watching got really tickled with Kirbs. He would walk up one side of the see saw and as he made his way across causing it to go down, he would back up to balance it. He didn’t show any fear so I think what he liked was the fact he was on eye level with the big dogs!
Finally we checked out the tunnels. Not a favorite in Kirby’s book! We started with the big, long one first. I could get him to sit and wait at one opening while I went to the other end. I would call him and he would quickly run out and around the tunnel to me. It took a few tries to convince him to come to me through the tunnel but eventually, success. We then did this probably ten or so times so he would become accustomed to running through the tunnel. There was one more tunnel to overcome. The shooter. This tunnel has a short structured section followed by a long collapsed tunnel. Needing help with this one, Kim would hold him at the opening while I went to the other end. I would hold open the end and call to him. What a fast boy he is! After a few successful tries, we did it without holding the end open. He would come flying through to me.
Overall, it was a lot of fun. I’ve decided not to use the clicker until I know what the words and hand signals to use will be. Kim says the dogs figure out what we want them to do so I’m going to let this be a fun time for now. When I think he understands what I want him to do then I’ll start making it a more structured training. I would love for him to compete at some point but even though he can run like the wind I don’t think he can make the time a dog with long legs can on these obstacles. We’ll see.