Agility: From Start to Finish

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Agility Start to Finish is an all-inclusive book that touches on the aspects of training a dog in agility. In it, the author instructs the reader how to handle the dog while running the course, as well as covering each obstacle clearly and thoroughly. Agility Start to Finish suggests new ways of looking at fundamental concepts in agility and offers fresh new ideas when explaining things to students both human and canine. Puppies, best commands to use, and handling through the course are discussed in detail. In the section on obstacles, each chapter is dedicated to the individual obstacle and how to train the dog to that obstacle. Ms. Bauman, with Jessica Ajoux, also explains agility competition and how to participate in the trials, with helpful tips and advice that will aid the reader in preparing to compete. They have included a special chapter for the Border Collie and how this breed, and other herding breeds, handles differently then other dogs. For anyone who would enjoy doing agility with their dog at home, or for those who would like to compete in the ring, this is an excellent book to have!
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781577790914
  • Publisher: Alpine Publications, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,413,666
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Read an Excerpt


If the truth be told, it was the acquisition of two puppies the winter of l995 that plunged me into the sport of agility. My intention was to have only one puppy that winter, a black American Cocker Spaniel named "Torville." The second puppy, a brindle Afghan Hound, arrived unexpectedly from an animal shelter at around the same time. Her name was "Twyla." From the beginning Twyla was such an exceptional puppy that I was intent on keeping her. So, against my better judgment, I found myself raising two puppies simultaneously. My plan was to train and compete with both dogs in AKC Competitive Obedience Trials as I had done for the 20 years leading up to 1995. Little did I know how things were about to change.
Working to keep two puppies busy and stimulated without putting formal training pressure on them was the goal. Agility seemed like the perfect way to work with the pups in a fun, stimulating way, teach them some basic commands and keep myself from getting too serious. After all, agility seemed like a game to me and therefore nothing to get very serious about.
It wasn't long before the world of agility, its puzzles, energy, and excitement, captivated me as it has to so many others. While both Torville and Twyla ended up earning degrees in obedience, they were my last obedience titles earned to date. My focus is now agility. Twyla became the first Afghan Hound in History to earn a MX( Master Agility Dog) and MXJ( Master Agility Jumpers Dog) title in AKC Agility. There was no MACH (Master Agility Champion) at the time. Torville became the only American Cocker Spaniel and the youngest dog at the time to ever compete on the AKC World Agility Team, whichshe did for three years in a row l998, l999, & 2000. Torville was also the third MACH of any breed after the title was created, and the first MACH American Cocker Spaniel.
Agility is a perfect place to begin any puppy's training starting at 8 weeks of age. I teach a program that is described to the pet owner as "learning obedience through agility." When basic commands are taught in the midst of agility, they make more sense to dogs and so the dogs learn more easily; often with little to no correction. For example: when we teach a dog to "Stay" out of context, the dog sees no purpose in sitting still until the owner returns to his side. When we teach a "Stay" and follow it with a release to a jump, tunnel, or something the dog perceives as fun, the dog is more motivated to repeat the "stay" that earned him permission to play. If we teach a "Down" on a table, followed by a happy release, the dog is more willing to assume the Down position. And finally, dogs that learn to "Come" when they are called in terms of agility are given permission to climb things, run through things, and play in an environment that easily resembles a "doggie playground." This is fun!
As you may guess, I do not recommend teaching formal Obedience or Rally before Agility. This can stifle a dog's enthusiasm, because obedience and Rally begins with the dog working on leash, close to the handler. Dogs learn to pace themselves in an effort to stay next to their owners. Obedience tends to calm dogs, while in agility the goal is to excite them. In agility, we want dogs learning in an atmosphere of high energy, free expression, and with no fear of failure, so as not to inhibit their natural drive and speed. Agility builds a close relationship between handler and dog as the dog learns to respect and obey commands off leash while running at top speed. Most owners want their dogs to come to them when called when their dog is running away or chasing after something; not when the dog is sitting, waiting to be called! Agility training imitates real life uses for commands and is therefore a better training choice for the average person who is initially just seeking control over their excitable pet.
As an activity, agility builds a dog or puppy's confidence and coordination. They learn to move over different surfaces, crawl through tight spaces, and walk up and down inclines. Jumping up onto things and over things teaches them to coordinate their four feet. They are encouraged to bend, twist, and be aware of the handler's presence as they negotiate other tasks. Whether the end goal for a dog is conformation, hunting, companion, obedience competitor, therapy dog, or agility competitor, agility training is the best way to get off on the right paw!

All puppies (and dogs) should begin agility training on a buckle collar. While it is permissible to run a dog in agility without a collar, I like to have a buckle collar on the dog/puppy to help guide when necessary. We use a lot of treats in agility training. Treats should be healthy, moist, easy to swallow, not require any chewing, and should not be high in salt, sugar or food coloring. Crunchy is not good as it takes too long to eat. My favorite training treats are cooked chicken and meat (usually leftovers from my dinner!) and String Cheese.
In recent years I have heard some very strange warnings about training puppies in agility. Students have informed me that breeders of their new puppies forbid them to jump their dogs until the dogs are a year old. Where is this all coming from? Is it true?
People seem overly concerned about letting young dogs learn weave poles. Seems to me their bodies are quite flexible at young ages. Have you ever watched them rough and tumble with other puppies? Letting puppies bend never seemed to hurt them before the onset of agility. Personally, I do not teach weave poles to puppies because their bodies are going to grow so much that their stride will change and you will need to retrain them; (SEE Chapter 22 WEAVE POLES PAGEXXX) but not because it will hurt them to weave. So, what is going on?
In the book Peak Performance, author M. Christine Zink, D.V.M., PH.D., writes:
It is important for the growth and development of puppies that they have proper exercise. Puppies that are prevented from exercising do not grow as large and are not as physically developed and coordinated as those provided with adequate exercise. An exercise program for a puppy should not, however, include strenuous exercises such as roadwork or full-height jumping. The growth plates, soft areas of the bone from which bone growth occurs, do not close or harden until the puppy is about 14 months of age. (Copyright 1997), page 125&126.
Dr. Zink is certainly not suggesting that puppies be forbidden to jump at all until 14 months of age; only that they not be asked to jump full height! She warns against excessive and strenuous jumping and exercise. Puppies frequently jump on their own when playing and running around and do not develop any problems unless injured by very rough or extreme activity.
When discussing puppies and when they should be encouraged to jump, there are many factors to study. For example, in small breed dogs, growth plates close faster. What about the surface on which the puppy is being asked to jump? Certainly, jumping on a soft, resilient surface produces less impact then landing on a hard surface.
Growth Plates
With so much concern over growth plates and the effect of agility training on young dogs whose growth plates have not yet closed, I decided to consult with my husband, Robert Potter, D.V.M. Robert graduated from Colorado State University in l978, and has been practicing small animal medicine since that time. Here is what he had to say about growth plates and growth plate injuries in puppies:
In my experience, of almost 28 years of small animal practice, growth plate injuries in puppies are extremely uncommon. When they do occur, they usually result from a significant fall or traumatic force such as being hit by a car. There are two kinds of growth plate injuries that we see. The first are compression type fractures from falls off of high surfaces such as decks, or small breed puppies jumping out of a person's arms and landing on a hard surface. The second, are shearing type forces that cause the bone to fracture or break at the growth plate. Shearing forces are impacts from the side, across the bone, such as being hit by a car, or impacting the side of the bone from a fall. In these kinds of injuries, the bone actually breaks into two pieces at the growth plate.
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Other Works by author
Title Page

Section I: The Start

Chapter 1. Why Agility Makes Sense to Dogs
Chapter 2. Training Philosophy
Chapter 3. Foundation Training
Chapter 4. Puppies in Agility
Section II: Handling

Chapter 5. The Strategy of Handling
Chapter 6. The Four-Ways
Chapter 7. Commands You Need
Chapter 8. Ways of Turning a Dog
Chapter 9. Handling Sequences
Chapter 10.Working from a Distance
Chapter 11.The Start of the Course
Section III: Obstacles

Chapter 12. Jumping
Chapter 13. The Tire
Chapter 14. All about Contact Obstacles
Chapter 15. Up Contacts
Chapter 16. The Contact Behavior
Chapter 17. The Touch Method
Chapter 18. The Two-on-Two-Off
Chapter 19. The A-Frame
Chapter 20. The See-Saw
Chapter 21. The Dogwalk
Chapter 22. Weave Poles
Chapter 23. The Pause Table
Chapter 24. The Chute
Chapter 25. Open Tunnels

Section IV: The Finish

Chapter 26. Agility Competition
Chapter 27. Border Collies in Agility
Chapter 28. The Value of Agility

1. Flow chart
2. Agility Progress Skill Chart
About the Author
About the Co-author
About the Visuals in this book
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  • Posted April 14, 2009

    Agility from Start to Finish is a must read for anyone interested in the sport of dog agility.

    Having read many books on dog training and agility methods, i was delighted to find a book that is systematically written, easily understandable and fabulously illustrated.
    Diane Bauman truly outlined and explained all there is to know about agility. The more I re-read the chapters, the easier I find training my three young dogs. I'm new to this sport and am very encouraged that this book will bring me to accomplishments in the agility ring i never thought feasible. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about training dogs and conquering the mysteries of agility. This was the best money I ever invested in my dogs' educations. Bravo Ms. Bauman!

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