Junior Report - Maria Griffin

My dog, Biscuit, is 2 years old. I've been training in dog agility for a year, but he's really always been an agility dog. His favorite game as a puppy was "keep away", which he played all too often with socks, napkins, and even a cinnamon roll! I was interested in how fast he was, and how easily he escaped from me. So I decided to start training him in agility. 

To start, I taught him to jump. I did this by taking a step stool that he couldn't go under, and placed it in a hallway. When he failed to jump it, I wedged pillows around it so that the only way he could get to me (and the treats in my hand!) was by jumping. I began to slowly take away the pillows, until he was left just jumping the footstool on his own.

Next, I taught him to go under objects. I accomplished this by putting kitchen chairs in a row, and having him run under them on command. I began to make sequences, such as under chair, jump stool, and under chair again. 

I then taught him the broad jump, by laying out plastic box lids and having him jump them. He soon learned that "long!" meant he had to jump super far.

Finally, in April of last year I got actual agility equipment. At first, he wanted to go under the jump bar, so I had to place his step stool underneath it. This worked quite well, and in no time he was jumping his mandatory 16 inches! 

The tunnel was easy to teach him. My mother held him at one end, while I called him through from the other side. Soon he was doing this with me running beside him.

And now, the weaves. I hadn't heard of any “fancy” weave training styles, such as the Channel Method or the 2 by 2 method. So, I started with 2 weaves, and led him through with treats. Then I added a third weave and then a fourth. I gave him a “weave” command each time he passed through the poles. Within 2 weeks, he was doing 6 weaves without my leading him.

Many times, I had my family members standing around in my yard watching me run Biscuit. This desensitized him to people - such as the judge - watching him. Since he's so food motivated, I ran him for many types of treats. His favorite, however, was a Greenies dental chew. I don't know why he loves them so much, he just does. I chose this to be his main motivational object, and he still gets half of one after every single competition run. I also began running him for toys. What is his main toy-based reward? A game of keep-away with a stuffed lamb.

Old habits die hard.

I did, of course, have to teach him to lie down on the table (he once laid down next to it instead!), climb the A-frame (he's a dedicated “contact jumper”), walk the dog walk  (he's fallen off the up ramp at least 10 times), and tip the teeter (1½ years in the making. Man, he HATES motion!). All of this was extra-curricular to me, though, because I was just happy that he was competing in Jumpers With Weaves.