When to Start?

My little boy Ripley is almost 4 months old. I think it would be really fun to do agility with him (and would help keep me active!), but I didn't know when would be the best time to start working with him on it.

Also, if anyone knows of any agility stuff going on in east/central Indiana or the Indy area, I would love to know! I've never done this before!

It's very important to first start with obedience. Here in the Netherlands small dogs have to be over 12 months and the larger breeds have to be 18+ months to start agility.

We are in puppy obedience class right now, and I'm definitely going to continue with another class afterwards becaue he is pretty stubborn… haha

Good for you, agility is a lot of fun. 🙂 Yes, lots of obedience work is the foundation for agility, especially at that age. Also I would focus more on socialization too, making sure Ripley is exposed to lots of different people and objects and locations.

I wouldn't think about doing any jumping until he's close to a year old. You'll need some decent control off leash, and a fairly reliable recall. Do lots of name recognition and attention exercises. You can teach him some turning maneuvers, like learning left vs. right, all at home. He will also need to be able to do a sit-stay and down-stay when learning the table exercise later. Even though jumping isn't good on a growing dog, you can work on introducing some of the other obstacles. You can purchase a small kiddie play tunnel and he can learn to run through that. Lots of confidence building around different obstacles will help. And he can begin to learn weave poles early on.

The best thing to do is find out some places in the area that have agility classes too. Many obedience training groups also have at least a small intro agility class or include it as something fun and different during obedience classes. Go watch agility classes and find a future instructor that has good techniques you would want to learn from. After you do a few obedience classes, Ripley can start to do agility classes and he can start learning how to do the contact obstacles and such. Then once you've learned a good technique for teaching weave poles, you can work on those a lot at home too. Some of the core equipment can be made/purchased at home pretty cheaply.

Remember that Basenjis are very smart and get bored easily. Especially puppies! Keep your training sessions shorter, and more often, rather than one long time. Don't forget about patience! Also in the meantime there are different books and videos you can purchase to learn about the sport. Search Ebay, Amazon, and the like for some good deals on fun "homework" for you and Ripley. 🙂

Good luck and happy learning from the agility hounds here at Kiroja. 🙂 I'm sure Kim can chime in too with some better advice, she's been doing this a lot more than me!

We just started agility about 9 weeks ago, and so far we love it. We didn't do obedience classes before, and that is our biggest weakness. I would recommend obedience now, and google agility classes in your area. That's how I found our school.
And definitely, socialize & get your pup used to different surfaces & objects. You can make your own wobbly board to start him getting used to surfaces that move (the teeter is a difficult obstacle for many dogs). Just get a piece of square plywood (maybe 2 or 3 feet), and screw a large drawer knob in the middle of the bottom. When you place it on the floor knob side down, it will tilt & move whenever your pup stands or moves on it. Treat him anytime he puts a foot on it & try to lure him into walking around on it.
I painted mine to make the surface smoother.

Just keep a good sense of humor with these dogs.
If you want to WIN in obedience or agility, you get a cattle dog or aussie shepard..
BUT when you are able to get a sight hound to do agility/obedience, then that is a MAJOR win!!!
Do keep us informed

call around and see if you can take a performance puppy class or a pre-agility class. you don't want to do jumps at this age, but you can do all sorts of flat work and obedience type stuff. However, unlike in obedience, you will need your dog to work on your left and RIGHT side. So practice that if you decide to do an OB class (even if you have to work the dog on your right side away from class). I remember when I first started agility classes (with Digital who is now 12 so this was 11 years ago!) and having him on my right side was sooooo awkward! now i feel comfortable with either side.

ALSO (very important!!!!) PLAY with your dog. Use toys, you will want toy drive!!! And puppies have lots of toy drive, but it tends to fade with these dogs as they age.

Practice training, training anything. Tricks, targetting, there are lots of good agility and clicker websites out there.
Good luck and keep us posted.

Here's Zest doing some 'gility when she was a puppy:

My other pups doing agility can be seen here:

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