• I have a couple questions about the agility/lure games. Do most owners train their own at home? At about what average age do they begin training . . . If I were to try it with Duke. At 7 mos. old, I'm enrolled at Pet Smart's over 5 months puppy training. I should observe the agility/lure games of course and talk to someone. How would I find out if/when there are games scheduled in the metro Detroit area?


  • Hi,
    I train agility, but I do most of my learning in a class. I started at 5 months I think with Lucy with some foundation training. I started Ciara at 4 yrs! Starting with basic obedience and attention training is a good start. There appears to be a lot of agility trials in Michigan. Go to www.cleanrun.com, select "Agility Info Center" on the left, then try the events calendar, or anything else that interests you. If you have follow up questions let me know, I'd be happy to help. There are lots of resources, if you want to go further.

  • I don't compete or anything, I just did it for fun w/ my dog, but we took a pre-agility class (to learn the obstacles & commands) around 10mths. At the training school I use, they don't allow dogs to start agility until 9mths old, due to the fact that they are still developing. it's to avoid any potential for injury.

    Also, we had to complete OB 1 & 2 before going into pre-agility. so we had a good foundation, as ciarasmom mentioned.

  • Another thought: I started to mention that a dog shouldn't jump her full height until her growth plates close, and several other safety thoughts, but then I decided to keep it simple.
    I am currently agility training with a nationally-known competitive instructor, and I've learned from her several useful "agility" skills that you could start teaching a very young puppy, but none of them involve actual equipment. I guess I could type up a few if there's general interest.
    It's exciting to get to the equipment, tho!

  • Hi Brenda - I looked up the CleanRun link - I'll need some time to go through it. Looks like it offers loads of info - and I liked the location search. It's bookmarked. Thank you.

    On your last post - you mentioned, "a dog shouldn't jump her full height until her growth plates close". I don't know what you mean full height and where are the growth plates? (The scull? Hope he hasn't damaged himself). Also at what age are they supposed to be closed? Duke jumps surprisingly high and far. I don't encourage him to do it, he just does it with joy doing a B500 and/or in anticipation of something.

    I'd be interested in a few of the fun agility skills for a puppy. I think Duke likes working with me. As far as equipment, maybe a beginners list, a few easy pieces would do. Can we make the equipment or is it mostly purchased?

    I will see if there are any pre-agility classes around my area through the Cleanrun link. I'm not too anxious to get started because I think it's more important Duke get his manners and socializing skills in check first. But I am interested and want to start doing the research. Also, what is OB 1 & 2? As always - Thanks for any advice and help.

  • Hi Jill -
    To be very honest, I'm not exactly sure where the growth plates are, I have assumed legs / shoulders. that's funny that I never thought about asking! Anyway, they typically close for dogs when they are 12-15 months old, and full jump height for a Basenji is (usually) 16". So, I believe it's fine to start teaching the concept of jumping at a young age as long as the jumps are set low (8"). A person could have x-rays done to confirm that they are closed, but for 99% of us there is no need, we aren't ready to be competing in agility that young, mentally as well as physically.
    I hope I didn't concern you. He can jump as much as he chooses to during B500 etc, but we shouldn't take a young dog to class and make him repeatedly jump higher than their young bodies can handle. That's what I meant to say 🙂
    Last thought on classes: many pre-agility classes in my area are designed for puppies and ALSO teach manners and social skills. A well-exercised and tired Basenji is a good Basenji. But I had lots of success with my first Basenji, and we didn't start training until she was 4, so that works too. More later, Brenda

  • Hi,
    I promised I would describe some beginning agility-related things anyone could teach their dog at any time. These are all things I have learned from other people that make an awful lot of sense to me. Common to all of them: establish a long history of rewarding your dog for desired behaviors (as opposed to punishing them for what we don't like).

    "Got yer collar" this game teaches the dog to enjoy having your hand in his collar, even if you drag him around a little with it. Desensitizes the "hand coming over the head" fear many of our far-sighted guys have. Helps the Show dog to stop rocking back when being hand-stacked. Very simple: with lots of little treats in your right hand, reach for and grab your dogs collar with your left, and with a happy voice say "I got your collar" while you feed him one little treat. Repeat. 🙂 Reach differently, from above, from the side, you standing, you sitting. Switch hands and repeat. At first just touch or hold the collar, but once he likes the game, start moving him gently around by the collar as well. Establish a history of "good things happen when someone has me by the collar." I wouldn't spend more than 30 seconds on this in one training session (TV commercial?)

    "touch" or "nose bop" This game teaches the dog to touch the ground at a specific place (trust me, this leads to many agility skills). Also called Target Plating, because we use a little plastic container lid as a target "plate." Place a lid on the floor and wait for you dog to sniff it. The moment he does, Click if you use a clicker or say "good" or whatever marker you use, and drop one litttttle treat on the plate for his reward. Important to feed on the plate to reinforce the act of "going" to the plate. Wait for him to sniff, click or "good" and reward on the plate. Start to use the command "touch." He should be putting his nose down to an EMPTY plate, then getting the reward from the plate.

    When he starts to really get the idea that he can make you drop treats just by putting his nose down (and this may not happen the first day), combine the two: put the plate a little further away (just a step), take him by the collar, pull him back from the plate slightly, then release and say "touch", and when he gets there, treat on the plate. If you're having fun, repeat!

    Is this making sense? Is there an interest for more?

  • @Crazy_Duke:

    I'd be interested in a few of the fun agility skills for a puppy. I think Duke likes working with me. As far as equipment, maybe a beginners list, a few easy pieces would do. Can we make the equipment or is it mostly purchased?

    I made my own, some beginner things we used in class (which I replicated at home):

    ladder: make a ladder out of pvc pipe, lay ladder flat on ground. This is to teach the dog to be aware of his BACK legs. treat/reward when dog steps between the rungs. as you progress, you can raise it a little at a time.

    hoop: get a standard hula-hoop. a block of wood, and a couple small metal clasps. secure the hoop to the block. the block serves as a base & the clamps hold the hoop upright. teach your dog to go through the hoop. (first, introduce the hoop, and treat/reward when your dog interacts with it, so he knows it's not a "monster". lol….)

    plank of wood: lay plank on ground to start, teach your dog to "walk the plank". raise it little by little over time.

    tippy board: get a large sheet of cheap plywood. screw a tennis ball to the center. flip the board over, so ball in on the bottom (on ground) this creates a "tippy board". teach dog to TOUCH and get used to the tipping motion.

    small jumps: a broom handle on the ground to start. teach dog to step over. slowly raise the bar, little by little to create small jumps.

    weave poles: use small plastic cones. line them up and teach your dog to manuever through them.


    Also, what is OB 1 & 2?

    Obedience levels 1 & 2. I clicker trained my dog, and at the school I use levels 1 & 2 are a prerequisite to taking advance obedience/pre-agility. Your dog should have a good understanding of commands when starting agility. (hand signals are helpful)

    The TOUCH command is great, as ciarasmom stated. I played "touch races" with my dog to reinforce "touch" and to get him used to running WITH me to a certain location. put one lid at both ends of a hallway. start at one end. pump your dog up (ready… ready... ok! GO TOUCH! ...) you race to the opposite lid, dog touches, gets rewarded, and do it again in the other direction.

  • Wow - These are great responses.

    Looks like this could be quite an interesting hobby. The collar and touch training seems easy enough to start. It can easily be added in with our PetSmart Beginner Training (over 5 mos.) homework.

    The equipment list seems easy enough too. They would make a nice fall project. Thanks for clarifying Obedience Level 1 & 2 (OB 1 & 2). I appreciate getting these tips & clues . . . Thank you!

  • I have also found hand targeting very useful at agility also. For this game you hold out your pointed finger to the side of your dog when they smell or nose your finger you click and treat. Move your hand and wait for your dog to touch your finger again, click and treat. When they are reliably touching your finger you start using the command Point. In addition to being a great way to get my dog to come to me when we are on the agility course, I have used this to teach my dog tricks like turning in circles, crawling, and just generally getting them to move where I want them.

  • Hi, I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I would add some more ideas.

    you can find children's play tunnels, sometimes for as little as $10, usually not more than $25. I watch 'Big Lots' for these in my part of the country. If he's hesitant to go through it, collapse it to be very short, and / or put the target plate on the other side, and when he gets there cookie on the plate.

    The most common piece of agility eqmt is PVC tubing. Stick in the ground to make weave poles, balance on paint cans to make jumps.

    Another good one is the stairs in your house: put the target plate at the bottom of the steps and teach the dog to come down 2-3 steps then "touch." When he sees the plate he will probably come down the stairs naturally (assuming you've taught "touch" already from a previous post) so your only command is "touch." Cookie on the plate after he touches his nose, just like before. He should still have his back feet on the upper stairs. This is the foundation of the A-Frame, Teeter, and Dog Walk performance.

    I'd love to hear how any of this is going for anyone trying these.

  • I'm on the training with the plate "touch", that's quite funny, one of the girls doesn't want to leave her nose off the plate, waiting for reward to appear.
    They all got the idea really quickly, I have to see in practice in my agility club!

  • Duke is doing great with the touch training. He'll do anything for a kibble! (You'd think it's all I feed him!<gg>) He got it right after the first 4/5 times. I'm taking baby steps with this training because we're in Obedience training. This is extra fun for him. We do this 6 or 8 times a few times a week, making sure he doesn't forget. The collar training is getting better. He does not like his collar messed with or even taken off. He watches to see where I put it. Like I'll let him have it, he destroys everything he owns. But he seems to be easing off on the fight as I think he's getting used to it. (Good!)

    I'm going to an Agility Show Sept. 9th at the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club. I should be able to find out more about the sport and hopefully make connections from the locals. I hope I get to see a Basenji there. Believe it or not, except for my Duke and pictures posted online, I haven't ever seen another live Basenji - yet!

    There are some great ideas here. Alot of creativity and tips on training. It'll come together over the months. Winter in Michigan is a perfect time for this training, because it'll be something else to do inside, where it's warm.

    Thank you!</gg>

  • Hey Jill, if you are going the Ann Arbor show, that means I can't be too far away from you. I won't be at that show, because we have a prior commitment that weekend, but we do go up to Michigan fairly often for shows, and my parents are moving to Blissfield next month.

    We can plan to meet up sometime if you are interested. I'd be happy to give you some training tips, and have you meet our dogs.

  • Thanks Andrea - That would be wonderful to meet you and the crew! I live east of AA, maybe 25 min. Just send a private message when you know you'll be attending a show here and we'll sew up details. Great!

  • We just started using a target stick and clicker. so far Buddy can do a full circle on his hind legs. just a trick for Jocelyn to play with Buddy while she waits for her individuals in Jrs instead of hand stacking Buddy the WHOLE TIME and getting him/her frustrated, tired, and bored just before it really counts that he is alert and ready to go for the judge.

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