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How do I start training my puppy or dog for agility?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

I remember just looking at my pup and thinking 'I don't know what to do?' I knew I wanted to do agility but how do you get started? When do you get started? Have I waited too long?

Have you ever felt like that? So uncertain that you've let the uncertainty paralyse you?

Me too, but not anymore. I've done the research for you so you don't have to worry anymore, I've got the answers to all your puppy agility burning questions.

Agility is one of the fastest-growing dog sports in the UK. And with the recent increase in puppies in the UK chances are you have a or will soon have a puppy to begin training for their agility career.

So in this week’s blog, we’re going to be covering how to get started!

Prefer to watch? here's the YouTube Video

SO your first question is probably can puppies do agility?

Well yes and no. They can’t do full agility courses but they can start agility foundation training for puppies and beginner agility dogs.

But what does foundation training involve?

Here are 3 simple steps to getting you started:

Step 1: Create a fitness plan that’s suitable for your pup and addresses their weaknesses if you need more help which how to get started check out our previous blog ‘5 Steps to Choosing your dog and horse's fitness exercises’ here-

Step 2: Improve your puppies proprioception and awareness of their limbs and how to use them and stick to your fitness plan. Some exercises you can try to get you started are walking on different surfaces, up and down hills and through deep sand, leaves or shallow water.

Step 3: Move on to agility specific tasks such as forward drive to a moving then static toy approx 3-5 meters away, sit and waits, contact end positions either 2 on 2 off or running contacts from a short distance and simple turns and commands

Once you’ve improved your puppies fitness, proprioception and begun some more structured training its time to find an agility trainer to start your pre-agility puppy training, this is where you can get your puppy used to agility equipment.

Puppy agility equipment that you’re likely to get started with are:

  1. Jump wings and flat poles to work on drive, simple turns and proprioception

  2. Tunnels and

  3. Flat down planks to practice your contact end positions

So when can we start each stage of our puppies training?

This does depend on the breed of dog that you have. Smaller breeds mature more quickly than larger breeds. This means that the bigger your dog the slower their growth plates close. Closure of these growth plates is vital before any strenuous activity as before they close the bone is very weak and still moulding to its correct shape so any strain at this stage can lead to longlasting issues.

The growth plates in a small breed dog close at approximately 1-year-old this means before 1 year of age your puppies should be working on their fitness and foundation training. After 1 year old they can begin full agility training.

In larger breed dogs the growth plates don’t fully close until 18 months so you’ll have to wait a little bit longer before you can get into full agility training.

So a little guide that you can use to give you the confidence to move forward is:

0-3 months Light exercise in the house to gain confidence.

3-6 months begin light fitness training such as slow lead walking, sit to stands, weight shifting etc.

6-12 months continue with fitness training and add in some more complex proprioceptive and foundation training exercises such as walking over flat poles, sit and waits and forward drive in short sessions.

12-18 months in small breeds you can begin full agility training and in larger breeds, you can continue to work on pre-agility foundation skills.

I hope that this helps you know how to get started with a new puppy, but if you are wanting some more support on how to know your pups ready or even an older dog after a break chack out my FREE webinar ‘Is your dog ready to get back to agility training?’

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