There is an ever-growing list of agility sanctioning organizations. The ones you’ll hear about most often in the US are NADAC, AKC, and the USDAA (see below for a more complete list of national and international groups). Each organization has its own rules and style. For example, NADAC courses are spread out and focus on speed. They often challenge the handler to send their dog through the course at a distance. USDAA courses are “tighter” and more technically challenging.
Herding breeds like border collies are the masters of this game, which is why you’ll see a ton of them at trials, but they’re not the only players. Chihuahuas, pit bulls, huskies, hounds, even Great Danes. You name it, my dogs and I have probably been shown up by it at some point. Surprisingly, certain toy breeds like Papillons have a real knack for agility.
In addition to behavior training, socializing your puppy is an important part of dog training. Socializing your dog means they become comfortable and confident in a variety of settings and have a great foundation for becoming a well-adjusted adult dog. After your puppy has had the proper vaccinations, you can start to introduce it to a variety of different dogs and people in safe settings.
Seesaw: This obstacle looks just like what you might see on a playground, with one plank supported in the middle, so that either side can be lowered toward the ground. The dog will start at one end and walk to the other, while the plank shifts with the dog’s weight. Some clubs require that this obstacle have grips or treads on them, as a safety measure.
In the twentieth century, formalized dog training originated in military and police applications, and the methods used largely reflected the military approach to training humans. In the middle and late part of the century, however, more research into operant conditioning and positive reinforcement occurred as wild animal shows became more popular. Aquatic mammal trainers used clickers (a small box that makes a loud click when pushed on) to "mark" desired behavior, giving food as a reward. The change in training methods spread gradually into the world of dog training. Today many dog trainers rely heavily on positive reinforcement to teach new behaviors.
AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluators are another class of dog-training professionals. AKC CGC Evaluators may or may not be trainers or behaviorists, but are certified by the AKC to evaluate dogs in the Canine Good Citizen test. Training other behaviors and getting a dog used to being alone, for example, can help reduce separation anxiety. The root cause, however, would likely need to be determined by a behaviorist, who could then refer you to a trainer if he or she was not able to help with the training issues.
I've dabbled in agility with a previous dog, but this time I want to go to the show. My 10-month old sheltie is only a spectator now, but the look in her eyes tells me she's ready to become a contender. I've learned from the pros that the road ahead will be filled with training and hard work (for me and for Fiona), but the time spent developing our speed and skills will be rewarded by a canine-human bond rarely obtained in any other activity.
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"Training with John gave me the tools to better communicate with my pup. He is very patient, and willing to work on specific problems or challenges with each person with whom he works. My dogs behavior has improved in all aspects, and our bond is stronger because he understands what is acceptable and what is not. Thank you for helping me get there, John."