Puppy agility training is great way to build up your pups confidence and also to develop the bond with your pup. Starting early when they are eager to learn is definitely a bonus. By spending quality time with your puppy whilst training and having fun, it will strengthen your bond and limit unwanted behaviours that you would then need to train out of him or her.
Things to Remember about Puppy Agility Training
However, there are a few things that you need to remember about puppies. Firstly, their bone structure is still developing and although they need exercise, they need much less than adult dogs. This will limit exhaustion and joint damage. Secondly, their rewards should be puppy friendly and their food adjusted to include treats – check out this article on healthy puppy treats. Thirdly, they will need the agility adjusting to them for example much smaller jumps and different activities to suit their size and/or needs. If you start a puppy on an adult agility training schedule it can be dangerous because it may do damage to your dog.
Starting your Puppy Agility Training
One of the first agility obstacles that we should start with for our pups is the “Table” or “Box”. When your pup becomes an adult this will become the agility pause table. But more than that, the table is the main control point of our puppy training. It’s usually best to introduce puppies and senior dogs to the table that’s a 12 inch height. If you have a very small pup you could use an 8 inch table, but even with bigger dogs we use the 12 inch table and not higher. To begin, encourage your pup up onto a low pause table, and immediately treat him for getting on the table for positive reinforcement.
Once your puppy is comfortable getting up on the table, then give the pup the ‘sit’ command. If he doesn’t sit straight away then encourage him with a treat and maybe combine with the hand signal (lift your hand in an upward motion and this will bring the front up and the back should follow by going down!). You can also lure and encourage him to a ‘down’. This increases confidence and reinforces basic obedience commands.
Next you want to work on increasing the distance to the table. If you have a person to help you then you can use a white target plate on the table, take the pup and step back from the table about 3 feet. Get your assistant to make a noise to get the pup’s attention, and place a treat on the table. Release your pup to, “Go table.” The puppy gets his or her reward ONLY when getting up on the table. If you don’t have an assistant, than place your treat in a covered container that will be recognised as a treat box for your pup. Leave the treat container on the table, step away from the table about 3 feet, face the table and say, “Go Table”.
If your puppy is very young, you can hold him as you lift him off the table and move away from the table.
Introducing Jumps to your Puppy Agility Course
Now introduce your jumps to your pup without attempting to use them as jumps just yet. First you want your puppy to go through or between the jump uprights to get him or he used to it. Set up a jump about 4 feet away from your table and take your puppy to the other side of the jump. So you then have it lined up -pup, jump, and then table. You want to get your pups attention to the treat on the table, either with a helper or a treat container, release your pup to the table, “Go Table”. Let your puppy run ahead of you, but go to meet him at the table so that he can get his treat, praise him then offer him another treat for sitting on the table.
Progress with adding just one extra jump at a time and space the jumps approximately 1 metre apart. You are developing a jump chute that will lead the pup to the table. Remember your goal is to build the command, “Go” and “Table”. You are also teaching the pup to move out ahead of you, working away from you and getting comfortable working around tables and jumps. Your pup is getting familiar running through the jump uprights, but you are not focusing on having your pup jump.
Slowly as your pup grows older and becomes more confident then you can start to encourage your dog to jump over low jumps initially, and then with time you can increase the height of the jumps and the number of jumps.
Home Made Puppy Agility Course
Remember that you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy agility with your puppy or dog. You can make a table from an upside down cardboard box or upturned and covered laundry basket. Jumps can be made out of spare piece of wood or long twigs and branches secured onto tin cans or old drinks bottles!
With all your puppy training, make sure that you are having fun with your pup. Agility is fun for dogs and humans alike and is a great form of exercise. If you think that your pup is tired or losing focus take a short break and return later Use all of your puppies motivators including praise, toys, and food. Remember to sound exciting in your voice! It’s up to you to be more interesting to your puppy than all the other distractions!