Agility Training - please help

Posted by jillbck1
Jan 9, 2010
Hi there
I would like to start doing some simple agility training with my GSD.
I have never done any of this before. Is there anyone who could advise?
many thanks in hope!
Posted by kjd
Jan 10, 2010
Ah, Jill, I think agility training is a lot of fun for both the dog and the owner. However, the equipment is expensive! Price the equipment online, then see what you can make yourself for less. Anything you want your dog to stand on or walk on that is above ground level should be sturdy. That inludes tables, ramps, and high walks. That also includes anything the dog jumps over. The last thing you want to do is have something come crashing down when your dog walks on it, jumps on it, or just knocks into it. I picked up one of those tunnels they make for children years ago for about 5 dollars. It makes an open tunnel. For a closed tunnel, you could place a sheet at the end.

If you are serious about it, look for a club that offers agility. Also, [B]before starting [I]any [/I]activity that requires jumping, you should have a vet evaluate your dog's ability to handle it[/B]. A perfectly fine-acting GS could have poor hips or elbows that would be badly damaged by jumping, but would last him well in less-stressful activities.

Jill, you sound as if you are looking for things to do with your dog. You might consider flyball if your dog loves catching and retrieving balls. (Again, check with the vet!) For quieter activities, take your dog to a nursing home to visit the patients. I used to take my dog to visit my mother in a nursing home. You'd be surprised how many people would "borrow" him to take to their father/husband who so missed the family dog! Yes, there were the aides who hid in rooms while he passed, but most of the patients were just overjoyed to see a dog. (And Thor was a big boy -- 28" at the shoulder.)

Almost anything is more fun in company, so look around for a dog club that does the things you think you'd like to do. That way, you can get on-site help with any problems. Also, the other dog owners will be quick to spot any physical problems that may show up.

If you think the training is too expensive, it usually drops to little or nothing once you become an active member of the club. Generally, your dog needs to have reached some set level of ability before you can apply for membership. OTOH, this also lets you try out activities like agility without expending any money for equipment.

So, let us know how things go; did the tracking work out?
Posted by jillbck1
Jan 10, 2010
Hi kjd

Thanks so much for your reply!
Yes, I am looking for things to do with Migo, he was bread as a working dog by the lady who is the SA champ in working dogs and has been breeding for 30 years- have got all my dogs from her.
Have never had a working GS before and I am aware he is able and wanting to do more- and it is just wonderful being with him.
I am taking him for his year injection this week and will check with the vet before I start anything.
I have had a look on the internet and for sure these things are dear!! thought I would be able to make some myself- we live on a farm and have many bits and pieces available. Will let you know how I go.

I know I posted a question about the tracking but cannot find either my question or your answer?? Please, if you did send something, would you resend it?

I dont know what you do as a profession- however your dog/s must be very happy animals with a friend such as yourself!!
My appreciation for all your time and advice.
Posted by kjd
Jan 10, 2010

I don't think I responded to the tracking question. I took one of my dogs through a tracking seminar and don't feel I am competent in tracking since we went no further. If you have a library nearby, you might be able to get them to order some books on tracking (borrow from other libraries).

When I was in school, some of my friends remarked on what a fine public library I had -- much better than theirs, though they lived in much richer areas. Well, I started paying attention and noticed, when I was interested in a subject and started taking out all the books on that subject, more books appeared. My family was great at using the library (close enough to walk when we were kids) and we thought nothing of taking out the maximum. As children, we sometimes had to argue to get books from the "adult" section on subjects of interest, like astronomy, but we usually won. I think my friends stopped in the local library, didn't see much on the shelf, and went elsewhere. Which is all to say: Do visit your local library; talk to the librarian. You will find riches there. Since you live in farm country, you may find them quite happy to begin stocking books on dog training. If not, they should at least be willing to see if they can borrow such books from other library systems.

One thing I do remember about tracking: get some small flags to mark a track. To begin, your tracks should be straight and not too long. The dog wears a tracking harness with a very long lead. This is one case where you definitely want the dog to be in front. First track laying: the dog sits at the beginning and watches you place something at the end of the track, that you make by walking back and forth from dog to end of track. (The item can be a glove.) Tell the dog to track and let him go. (This is where we are talking years ago, so my memory gets hazy.) If he goes off track in the beginning, I think you can help him get back. Once he reaches the item, he should mark it by sitting. You praise and treat. He should track by using his nose, not following where he saw you go, but that may take a while. All the first tracks should be straight and easy. You should get to the point the dog does not watch you set the track. Once he gets the idea (and remember, although he uses his nose naturally, you cannot sit down and say "Hey, Migo, today we are tracking. That means you should use your nose to follow where I went. OK?" I think that is one reason for the tracking harness and the long lead -- he learns putting the harness on means "Track!" But I'm no dog, so he may figure it out some other way), you can add turns (not too many at one time). Later, you have other people lay the track. They start out the track by scuffing around at the beginning, so he can pick up their scent.

Now, I am sure people who have tracked with their dogs will find 90% of what I just wrote inaccurate, but it is what I remember.

If you have the time, physical ability, mental ability, and desire, you might try Search & Rescue. But research it well. The teams that go to disaster sites, exhausted from a day searching, often have to end up by taking turns hiding so the dogs can "find" some living people. It is as depressing for them as it is for us when all they discover are cadavers. Or you might be able to just do lost people. Can you imagine the joy of bringing a small child back to his parents? But Search & Rescue, as I understand it, requires a tremendous time commitment. You must be willing to train weekly with your group. You also must be willing to go at a moment's notice when you are needed.

Since you have a working GS. Has Migo been tested for herding instinct? If he is able to herd, you may find Migo can bring the cows home (OK, they kind of come home by themselves, but he doesn't have to know that) or find one that gets lost. Any farm animal that you want to move. They often train herding dogs on ducks!

Migo should be a great help on the farm. Add "find" to tracking and he could go back and get the keys you dropped in that field. Teach him to find particular individuals and you can send messages (a life-saver if you are injured). Think of how he can be a productive member. He'll be happier and you'll get to work with him even when you are working.

Good luck, I'm really interested in how things work out,
Posted by jillbck1
Jan 11, 2010
You are just wonderful to take all this time to answer is such detail kjd!
I shall most certainly try and get some books!
I have a private practise (as a clinical psychologist) at home on the farm, and unfortunately or fortunately we dont have any cows.
We grow grapes and make wine-
The first dog I ever had here was a kelpie- or rather a mad kelpie!!
So your comment about herding brought back many memories

I'll let you know for sure.

Thank again.
Posted by kjd
Jan 11, 2010
Maybe you should get some ducks! I know people with shelties that do just that so the shelties have something to herd.

Border collies are interesting herders -- I've heard of one that kept busy herding the rocks in the yard. With his "eye," he made sure none of them moved. Don't know if he ever rounded them up.

Have a sister-in-law in psychology and a brother (not her husband) who is a shrink!