Category Archives: Agility

Dan is 4!

Dan’s 4th Birthday was this month. It is so close to the holidays that I seem to always miss it, but we have been celebrating life together every day so I don’t think he minds.  Here he is doing agility on his birthday week:


I do want to continue my annual “Dan’s Goals” tradition. I have been thinking of writing this post for a week or so, making a list in my head of what we have accomplished and what we need to work on. However, I just looked back at last year’s post for the first time today. I have been having this feeling like we hadn’t accomplished many of our goals, but really when looking over the list we have met about half and made progress towards all of them!  This is why it is so good to write this stuff down – progress is easier to see and feel if it is recorded!

Here are my goals from last year and where we stand with each one:

  • Skateboards: We haven’t tackled this one completely, but I was able to call him away from chasing a skateboard at the park and I can get him to stop barking much faster now. I keep saying this is my priority, but obviously it isn’t as we really haven’t spent much time on this one!
  • Barking like mad at UPS/FedEx/Mailman: Dan will now stop this behavior when we ask. Over the last year we have had some random (creepy) people appear on our porch so I have decided that this one is okay with me. I have noticed that if we have a “substitute” mailman, Dan barks much more intensely. He is very good at recognizing friend vs. stranger. He has a different bark for someone he knows, a stranger, and the UPS/FedEx/Mailman.
  • Herding the cat very intently: This had gotten tons better until about a week ago. I believe it is lack of exercise in these dark winter months.
  • Fine-tune our neighborhood walks: I wouldn’t say these are perfect but Dan hardly pulls at all now, we are more connected with each other when walking, and we can actually walk for exercise, not just training purposes now!
  • Obedience commands in novel environments (parks, parking lots, new buildings, new neighborhoods, etc.): We’ve rocked this one. We’ve been to parking lots, Home Depot, PetSmart, the agility barn, random parks, outdoor eating areas (quiet ones). Dan can heel, sit, down, and stay with almost any distraction now.  Yahoo!
  • Practicing his calm behavior near other dogs in novel environments, separate from playing fetch: We’ve worked hard on this one too! Our biggest accomplishment is a very recent one –we’ve been practicing agility at the barn with new dogs that he’s never met and he has been so good!. I am one proud puppy mama.
  • Continue agility foundation skills: Check!  We took two online foundation classes and one canine fitness class, all to prepare for a solid agility foundation.
  • Do agility in some new places – introduce the rest of the equipment (weaves, a-frame, a full tunnel, dog walk, other jumps): Also check…mostly. Still don’t have the weaves down and we still need to perfect our contacts.  But we’ve done agility in two new places and are working up to a third location (and maybe 4th/5th at some local parks).
  • Take a private agility lesson: Not yet.  But, we did do a couple of herding lessons!
  • MAYBE do a group class – we will see how everything else goes: Not yet.  Maybe this year? We are so close to being able to do this!

So, for this year our goal process is going to change a bit. I want to work on things in several categories: Dog encounters, Agility, and New Sports. This year’s goals are as much for Dan as they are for me!

Dog encounters:

  • Agility with at least 10 new, different dogs – not necessarily all at once. Our club has started hosting monthly fun runs so I think we can practice (work up to this) in that setting. This will need to start with just being onsite while a trial/fun run is going on and we can work up to actually running agility.
  • Walking near other (unknown) dogs at 10-15 feet. Currently across the street is about the distance Dan can handle.


  • Dan’s biggest weakness in agility right now is his right-hand turns, especially tight turns. I believe this is a problem with his footwork so we need to go back to basics!
  • Weave poles
  • Improved, fine-tuned contacts
  • Add some advanced/international cues to our handling toolbox.
  • Fitness!! Dan and I both need to be in better shape in order to excel in agility. Some ideas I have been tossing around are biking with Dan, practicing sprints, and even possibly taking an online class for human fitness for agility.
  • A private lesson, or two, or 10….

New Sports:

  • Nose Work: I’ve gotten interested in this and thing Dan would enjoy it. I’d like to do more training at home and take a lesson or two with Dan to investigate more.
  • Herding: Possibly continue lessons later in the year.
  • FitPaws: While not a sport, I would like to treat this like it’s own area to work on. I think it is very important and we just need to make it a priority!

The big one: Compete in an agility trial. I can finally see that this might be a possibility this year. We will see where the year takes us .

As Dan’s trainer, my main goals for myself are to improve my physical abilities for agility training and to keep better logs/data on our training and our progress. I have some ideas for both of these and will try to share with you here as I go.

Happy Training!


Old in Body, Young in Mind

This is my first time to participate in the Dog Agility Bloggers Event.  The topic today is “aging”.  My blog is young, but I thought this was the perfect chance to get involved as I have been thinking a lot about what is best for my aging dog lately.  Check out the other awesome posts at:

I am currently enjoying the companionship of my second “senior citizen” agility dog.  My sweet Sam is now 13 ½ and still loving life!  She was my first puppy and unlike my first dog, Libby, she was fast in the agility ring.  We had a wonderful time together in our competition days as I learned how manage her drive and speed, without slowing her down.  This is the dog I learned to do technical agility with – wraps and threadles and serpentines.  And she lives for it.

She still does.  Of course “agility” looks quite a bit different now.  At about 9 or 10, I realized that she needed to work on lower jumps and really could only practice for 15 minutes or so in a day. Now, we don’t even use a bar.  In fact she really never does more than one “jump” exercises and we don’t do any turning.  Just sending through the jump standard or calling her to me from a stay on the other side.  And after 5 minutes, she is exhausted!  But she loves to be included in the training and to practice “agility” and I love to work with her.  There is just something special about working with a dog you have been with for 13 years, a connection you can never have with a younger dog.

In fact, Libby followed the same pattern.  As she got older, I made obstacles easier and took away the complex handling, but I could never deny her a chance to practice agility.  Even when she was deaf, could hardly see, and had trouble standing for long periods of time; we practiced targeting.  Her expression lit up when we would do this.  Here is a video, just a few months before she passed at the age of 17.

As Sam has gotten older, she is slowing down.  She cannot jump well, she has trouble on the stairs, and she is terrified of hard wood floors.  So, we carry her up the stairs when needed, put rugs on the floor, and cuddle on the floor instead of the couch.  But she seems to have no idea that she is changing and I have made it a point to continue doing the activities she has always done; agility, other training, Frisbee, tug of war, walks, chasing her plastic bottles all across the room, and chewing or pouncing on her favorite bones.  All of these activities have changed to accommodate her physical needs.

I believe that this is one of the most important things you can do for an aging dog.  The mental exercise that our dogs get from their jobs is something that they can always enjoy and benefit from, even if we have to change the physical requirements or criteria to keep them safe and healthy.


Sam After Digging

Sam with a mouth full of dirt after digging in the countryside this summer.


Dan’s Introduction to Agility

Dan has now had two formal agility lessons one was in early June and the other was two weeks ago.  He loves it and I think he’s gonna be great fun to play agility with.

During his first lesson Justin and I introduced him to a “jump”.  Since he was such a young puppy, we had the bars set very low and kept the session short to prevent any injury, but our goal was to teach him the concept of going between the jump standards and over the bar.  We first had one jump, with no bar and called him through that.  We added a second jump with no bar, just a straight line, and called him through that.  Then we added the low bars and did one jump then two.  We added the third jump with the bar.  Each step probably had 2-3 repetitions and the whole session was only about 20 minutes.

Here is the video of the final product from that day.  We were looking for him to complete all three jumps and drive forward to get his toy.  The goal was to keep it upbeat, fun, and easy.

You can already see him getting excited about the game and driving to the toy.  I goofed on spacing the jumps and the distance between the second and third jump was slightly shorter than the distance between the first and second, but this didn’t stop Dan!  You can see him taking one less stride before this jump.

Two weeks ago was the second lesson.  We worked on front crosses at a low jump height and tried a couple of jumps at 16″ to work on the concept of “go over not under!”

We’ve been practicing at my in-law’s house because they have so much more space than us.  They are working on their roof so excuse the piles of scrap wood in the background but here are some of the photos from that day.  My father-in-law took the video and I forgot to get it from him before we left so I’ll have to add that later.


There were some successful “over not under” attempts, but also several goof-ups. Here is a near collision.


Around again…yes that is much easier!

Got the “over” part, but now we need the “look ahead” part. Sorry about my socks…

Over and straight ahead! Now he’s got it!

Late take off – But look how determined that face is!

Perfect mid-air shot

Driving to the toy after a close landing.

Much better landing.

Needed a rest with the ball after all that agility! Very happy puppy.