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Old 05-15-2011, 12:21 AM   #1
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Default Agility Dogs

Hello Everyone,


I am looking for opinions! My daughter wants to get involved with 4H canine agility - she will be old enough to start participating in the fall.

I'm all for kids and dogs doing things together - nothing more wonderful than a child/canine relationship (well, a good child/canine relationship anyway)

I'm trying to figure out which breed of dog would be most suitable for her.
None in our current pack would work at all for her - so if we go ahead with
the plan we'd have to adopt a new family member.

We'd need something smart, obviously kid friendly, and willing to please and energetic without falling into the hyper or neurotic.

Right now I'm not sure if we could find something that would A: work for her and B: work for the rest of the household.

Want to start looking into it now so that if it isn't going to work I can start guiding her into a different direction.

Bea

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Old 05-15-2011, 02:08 AM   #2
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Hi Bea,

First, let me introduce myself. I'm a professional agility instructor. Most of the initials before and after my dogs' names below are agility titles (and some Rally and obedience titles too). Agility is a wonderful sport, and the kids tend to do best at it to be sure

Now as to your question. My advice is not to get a dog for agility for your daughter. Choose one you currently have. It may be slow and sluggish, but it will be a good start for your daughter. There are several reasons why.

First, we make a lot of our mistakes on our first dog as we learn how to train this difficult sport. In other words, we tend to really mess up our first dog.

Second, while I think 4H is the bomb AND I think 4H agility is the bomb, I've never seen a really "good" 4H training program. The dogs are put on the equipment immediately, the foundation skills are skimmed over if taught at all and the idea is to get the kids into competition ASAP. This is how the 4H program needs to be done, and I understand that. In "real life" competitive agility however, it takes years to develop your canine partner. My dogs start training at 10 weeks with puppy obedience and puppy agility, start training full tilt agility at about a year and start competing at about 2 years. So that's 2 years total of training before they step foot in a ring.

Let's say your daughter gets really into agility through 4H, which happens a lot. Her first dog will have been put on the equipment way too early and without that heavy focus on the foundation skills. So, it will probably be able to compete at the Novice levels of other agility venues other than 4H, but it will probably not be able to move further because of the lack of foundation skills.

So you will wind up having to get a SECOND agility dog to correct these mistakes and allow your daughter the success she craves.

Third: A lot of people - actually more adults than kids - get into agility and find it's not for them. It's not fair to bring a dog into the family with a specific goal, and then have that goal unmet when your daughter finds agility isn't her bag. And it's no shame not to be an agility nut.

My advice is to work up one of your current dogs - unless they all have aggression issues or are way too old. I've had students START agility with 9 year old dogs, so as long as the dog is healthy and can move well, it's age shouldn't be an issue. She can start doing some fun trick training with that dog to develop a bond, and work from there. If she finds this is something she loves, then later after 4H agility, you might consider getting a dog and putting her with a professional agility trainer who can help her develop her and her dog into a well running team.

I find agility is an awesome outlet for kids, and have young handlers in my school. Below is a video link of one student who started with me at 13. She's 20 now and recently competed at the AKC Nationals and the USA World Team Tryouts. This girl started with a little overweight family Pom who was stubborn and not very speedy. As this girl progressed, she got more dogs to compete with and love. The Pom is living happily at home with the family.

YouTube - Ace 2011 World Team Tryouts
YouTube - Ace 2011 AKC Nationals Challengers
YouTube - Ace Qs for World Team Tryouts!!

Another option a lot of 4Hers do is "adopt" a dog to work with. It will need to be a neighbor's dog or a dog that is easily accessible for daily training. This will give her that same opportunity to see if the sport is for her before you make the leap and add another living, breathing creature to your home.

If you must get a dog, we'll need to know more information. How old is your daughter? What other dogs do you have? How active is the home in case agility doesn't work out for your daughter? What size dog are you looking at, as agility dogs come in all sizes? And that only begins the questions really.
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Old 05-15-2011, 02:19 AM   #3
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Hi,

Thank you very much for all the extremely helpful information! We do run into some problems with using our current dogs.

Reasons being as follows.

Kaylee: Fila Brasileiro, while she would excel at agility she is people aggressive
Chester: Afghan hound, he could not compete due to medical issues with his hind legs
Harper: Irish wolfhound, might be a prospect but I worry about her hips - she is doing very well in her therapy dog training though.
Isabelle: Stuborn doesn't begin to describe her and I am worried that Emma will get discouraged from wanting to work with her. Plus, I want to do agility with her :P

Emma is seven years of age and has already taken a number of rescue dogs through basic obedience training (we go to classes together but she holds the lead and gives the commands)

Since she is being home schooled I really want to get her into an activity that she'll be able to interact with other kids, people, and spend more time with the dogs.

If (and still a big IF) we get a dog for her to work with it's primary role would be as a family pet which is why I am very concerned about finding the "right" dog should we begin the search. We'd need something that she can work with but also something that the rest of the household can live with in harmony.

I'd like something in the 25-50lb range, perhaps. I have been considering whippets and poodles - but the decision hasn't even really begun to be made.

This is really just me sticking a toe into the waters - doing my research before jumping in. I like to be 100% sure of any decision (especially one involving a dog) before making it!

Bea

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Old 05-15-2011, 11:03 AM   #4
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OMG! Amazing, amazing videos! What a great dog and handler. I could watch these all day!

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Old 05-15-2011, 01:48 PM   #5
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I personally really like the herding dogs for agility. I'd avoid any really big dogs or dogs known to structural problems. While Whippets are great dogs, they do require an experienced handler, so I wouldn't choose that as your daughter's first agility dog. You'll need something that's very biddable and capable of taking the training of a child. A poodle could possibly work, if it's bred well and comes from performance lines.

Other options include a corgi, which if bred well and of good structure can be nice agility dogs. Nothing really hyped up, but nice working dogs. You will need a breeder who pays attention to the corgi's structure and personality for performance. Shelties would work too, but again, they have some structure issues and poorly bred ones have serious personality issues (ie. fear). You'll want to go to performance lines - but this is true with probably every breed really. A Golden Retriever might be an excellent choice too. There are lots of good breeders of Goldens out there, and lots of good, moderate working Goldens. An Aussie bred with more moderate temperment might be a good option.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if a nicely bred Golden wouldn't suit the bill. They are a very versatile breed, and would work well doing obedience, nose work, tracking, agility, hunting or almost anything your daughter or family might want to get into. Again, a good breeder is a must. Goldens are very susceptible to cancer, so watch for that in the lines.

There are of course a million other options, including mixed breeds, that you might consider. When getting a performance dog, you must be very aware of structure, personality, overall health, and drive. This needs to be present in the dog's ancestors as well, so knowing the pedigree is imperative. Do good research on the lines/breeders you are interested in, and ask questions from people who have their dogs. There are some excellent performance lines in many of the common agility breeds, and many excellent breeders producing some wonderful working dogs. Be sure not to fall for a "high drive" dog, as too much dog will be a huge issue for a young child. You want a moderate working dog for your first agility dog.

And since you are interested in agility as well, if your daughter decides canine sports aren't for her, then this dog can become your first agility dog.
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Old 05-15-2011, 01:57 PM   #6
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And here I was expecting to see an over weight Pom!
Great videos!
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