How to Get Started
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Join a club or find a trainer

The best way to start agility is to find a local club or training class.  The Kennel Club has a tool on their website called Find A Club and it's excellent for finding clubs that are involved in specific activities in your area. 

Each of the search results brings up contact details for the club and will give a link to the club website if there is one.

The problem with many clubs is that they have more people wanting to train than they have spaces.  Don't give up though.  If you contact a local club and they can't offer training they may put you on a waiting list or they may help you to find a good trainer who holds regular classes.


Above: Club members enjoying a match day

Why is it important to find a trainer?

The most important thing is that a trainer will always make sure you and your dog are safe and if you're a beginner they'll show you how to train on all the equipment safely.  Here's Jilly at around 14 months learning to do the see-saw.  Before she went anywhere near the see-saw she did lots of foundation work and learned to balance on things like a wobble board and she learned how to stop on the end of a plank.  In this video Kim catches hold of the end of the see-saw so that it doesn't bang down and frighten Jilly and also so that it lessens the shock through the legs and the dog's body.


When to start training

You can build up your foundation skills from the time your dog is a small puppy.  It's easy to do this at home but much better if you have someone to guide you.  We were lucky enough to have a brilliant vet whose nurses ran puppy classes at the surgery for very small puppies.  This helped to get them socialised in the first weeks of coming home.  When the puppies were 14 weeks old the nurses gave us a list of trainers in the area who ran more formal classes for puppies.  Working regularly with your dog helps to build a unique bond that will serve you well in agility.

......and of course your dog doesn't get into bad habits does it Jilly?

If you have an older dog that is still less than a year old then I can highly recommend
Wag It Games.  This is something that's come over from America and as yet we don't have  lot of trainers in the UK, however all of the games and exercises are explained in detail on the website and you can choose from no need for speed obstacles, ball skills, scenting, shadow skills etc.  Wag It Games is great for dogs of all ages and is all inclusive.  All the games can be adapted so that elderly and disabled dogs can join in as well if they want to.

 

 Jilly also takes part in the online Wag It Games video trials and we have great fun filming.

 

Above: Filming Jilly's shadow skills trial in a local car park. 
We won this one. Next time we're hiring an indoor riding school.
 

You will also need some foundation work for agility and your local clubs may be able to point you in the direction of some foundation classes for young dogs around 8 or 9 months old.  Here they can learn some essentials like directional commands, building up a bit of core strength and going over puppy bump jumps.  (These are just pieces of guttering placed on the ground).  Puppies don't start jumping until they're at least 12 months old and then they should only be low jumps. 

 

Starting proper agility classes

Your dog will be able to join in with beginner classes at round 12 months old.  Some larger breeds such as golden retrievers benefit from starting a bit later than this as they take longer to mature. 

Young dogs will generally do some low jumps, tunnels and work on planks.  They won't start weaving until around 14 to 15 months old.  For slower maturing dogs it would be best to leave it longer than this.

Please don't be tempted to rush your dog.  They need to learn safety and accuracy before speed.  Agility is incredibly stressful on a dog's body. 

If you're struggling to find a trainer then social media is always a great place to get help.  Agilitynet has a Facebook page where people often ask for help in finding trainers.  It's probably best to ask for young dog's foundation classes if your dog is less than 12 months old otherwise they'll tell you your dog is too young. 

You can also ask if anyone knows of any puppy training classes for a puppy that will one day in the future be an agility dog.  Good luck with your agility career.

Warning! Agility is addictive

It goes like this.

You start with one dog and a couple of local classes.
You get persuaded to enter a little competition and you like it.
You get persuaded to enter  show.  You're terrified but it's great fun so you enter another show.
Eventually you get a clear round and everyone screams, 'Well done' at you and you feel great.
You enter more shows, get more clear rounds and some places.
You travel further to go to shows and get more clear rounds and places.
It would be more worthwhile travelling if you had more runs at the end of your journey so you get another dog.
The family car isn't big enough so you buy a nice big van and get cages fitted.
You get fed up with all the driving on one day and running two dogs as well so you buy a campervan/caravan/tent and trailer and stay overnight at the shows.
This is the slippery slope.  A third dog comes along and by now you need more room so you move house and turn the new garden into an agility course. 
This is definitely the slippery slope but it's great fun. You and your dogs will enjoy life to the full and that's as it should be.

Wise words

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.  Bob Dylan.