Growing up raising Arabian horses and competing in the show ring, I have always been interested in doing something athletic with my girls and along comes agility. Dakota never really showed any interest in jumping up on things or exploring her agility talents. Montana on the other hand has from a puppy wanted to explore, jump on walls, and just be in the athletic state of mind. So I decided let's see if she would enjoy taking some agility classes. I was lucky enough to find an awesome teacher at a great training faculty here in Northern New Jersey.
Montana also had to overcome a couple of fears. As a puppy I used to take her to a local dog daycare for puppy socialization events and one was the Puppy Olympics. Not nothing a thing about agility, I let Montana walk up the teether aka see saw and because it was poorly made on pvc pipe which could not hold her weight (she was 9 months and already 50+ lbs) and no one on the other end to lower the teether to the ground, it broke as she was going down and then she went flying off. She was petrified! I was so upset! The responsible thing to do was to have an agility instructor there to help the puppies use the equipment properly, sadly which was not the case.
The second thing we have had to overcome is, at the same daycare they have a metal gate to enter the play field, I didn't realize all the dogs rushed up to the gate and barked at new dogs entering. So the staff would slightly open the gate so the dogs could enter the field. I was puzzled when Montana stopped wanting to go to the play area when she once pulled to go, she was afraid. I then put two and two together, she had been slammed in the gate who knows how many times going into the field because I noticed she was then afraid of things that moved in the house and especially the wooden gate I have to keep the girls away from things they shouldn't be near. Great! Now we have multiple things to work on.
Agility is not something you or your pup will learn overnight, it takes lots of time and patience. At the end of the day you are training an elite athlete to compete, much like an NFL player training to be better on the field, weight training, dieting, getting themselves ready for the big game in their mind. All these things go into to building a dog that can compete in agility. We have had other obstacles due to Montana's fears but through several private classes she is putting those to bed.
There are so many elements to agility, you must have a great recall so your pup will respond to you on the course and check in with you so you can direct them to the next obstacle or course of action. Your pup must trust you, the bond handling your dog through groundwork and obstacles is awesome! Basic obedience is a must, trust is a must and having a dog that is excited about agility is a must. Some love it and other just aren't cut out for it. You as your pup's guide must also be able to run around, a lot! Agility is a physical sport and yes it is a sport. So we both are training to be the best we can be so each run on the course, each obstacle we learn, we are learning and performing at our very best.
We also do homework, we work on recalls, groundwork and training. Montana's diet is high protein with low fat treats and lots of extra exercise. I have purchased small equipment such as jumps and short tunnels to practice and most recently weave poles that just barely fit in my living room. But I need to build Montana's confidence in things that move and also work on her muscle memory, again like an athlete. We have a Bosu ball to work on balance and an upside grain bucket to work on footwork.
We are in this together, it is a team sport, but your aren't competing against other dogs per say, you are competing against yourself to out do you last obstacle or run. Eventually we would like to trial when we are ready. We even hope to open an agility training center somewhere here in Northern New Jersey to continue to build the sport.
Agility is going to be our 'thing', the Mommy & Me thing. Sedona is also joining in on the fun as Dakota will be our cheerleader from the sidelines. It's a fun and very rewarding experience to have your pup go through a tunnel or over a jump for the first time! If we had space we would have a course in our backyard, trust me! So if you want to have some fun and get some exercise, or simply just bond with your pup, join in agility, you will thank us later.