19 March 2012

The Greyhound Agility Diaries - Pt I

Back at the end of January I wrote a post about Mina's first agility 1-2-1 (Jumping at the Chance: Greyhound Agility).  Since then we've had two more 1-2-1s and I've invested in some agility jumps and a set weaves to practise with at home.

Now, here comes the tricky bit... by February 2013 both Mina and I need to be able to complete (note: I say 'complete' not 'compete') a grade 3 agility course - yikes! It's all down to the Advanced Dog Training module of my university degree.  I did have the choice of other doggy disciplines such as gundog, obedience, scent work, working trials and flyball - along with the college tests (which are a mish mash of everything), however none of them really appealed to me as much as agility.  So agility it is for both Mina and I.

We both have so much to learn and I have a rather hefty training plan and schedule to produce to illustrate how we're going to get from complete novice to completion of a grade 3 course (double yikes)!

Before Crufts I had been looking at agility equipment on Ebay and 'watching' several items - deliberating whether to spend my birthday money on them (or not). When I arrived at Crufts I was pleased to see that one of the Ebay suppliers I'd been watching - Jesse Jump Agility - was there. So, I took the plunge and bought three 'deluxe' jumps and a set of 6 'deluxe' weaves.

I tried out the jumps - which are three quarter width - with Mina and she loved them, as the video shows.

Since buying the home agility equipment, I've attended an Agility Training the Trainer Course. I plan to incorporate elements of agility into my dog training classes and really wanted to learn how to do it properly.  The course was run by Kim Hunt who runs Derbyshire Agility Centre.  Kim is a qualified animal behaviourist and has over 20 years' experience as an agility judge and competitor.

The course was jam-packed with information, practical demonstrations and the chance for us to undertake short training sessions with volunteers. The focus was on pre-agility work and introducing dogs and handlers to the equipment safely.

I've come away with some great ideas of how I can help Mina prepare for each piece of equipment and more importantly, how I can incorporate this into my training plan.  Also, as an added bonus, the exercises are easy to incorporate into my training classes and 1-2-1s and will help owners and their dogs with focus and bonding.

So, what's next?  Well, we've a long list and to get to the stage of completing a grade 3 course feels like a mountain climb. I'm going to be putting the work in on the basics like targeting, establishing a solid wait and working on forward focus (amongst other things) and working on my coordination!

I'll share details of our progress along the way and if you've any agility tips to share, please don't be shy - I need all the help I can get!

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