the only local place that offers classes in my area has a 13 month waiting list for their beginner classes :/
Do you guys have any pointers or comments? I'd appreciate anything!
It's probably not worth it anyway. Group classes can certainly be fun; there is no question about that. However, the point of a group class is to move the group along at the same rate. Dogs that are not developing as fast will get left in the dust, and dogs that are developing faster than others will be bored. Not to mention most agility classes are geared to getting the class participants onto the agility equipment.
Trust me on this- I wanted nothing more than to send my pup over that A-Frame! On day one I asked when we would get to play on the equipment...
I sincerely believe this is not the proper approach. You need to establish some foundational skills in order for your dog to be safe
and successful. Your dog needs to be conditioned both in stamina and strength (especially core strength). Do you know why those massive football players can turn so quickly to avoid an oncoming player? It's because they have great core strength. Agility is all about tight turning under great speed. Asking your dog to do this without first conditioning them is asking them to use other
muscles to compensate. This can absolutely lead to injury. Conditioning is so important.
Balance, coordination, and rear-foot awareness are other areas that (at least for me) are typically not addressed in a group class. That's not always true. MRL, for example, has posted video of pups working on balance disks in class. I'm just saying from my experience, such foundational skills are very often skipped.
And let's not forget about jumping! If you think about a full standard course, you will have about 20 obstacles on there for the dog to navigate. For contacts, you will have the teeter, a-frame, dogwalk, and table. You'll probably have a tunnel or two on the course as well. Everything else is jumps of some sort (single bar, double, triple, tire). So that would be four contacts and two tunnels. Oh yes- also the weave poles. So that is seven out of twenty obstacles that are non-jumping, or 35%. Yet so many people are in a big rush to get to the "sexy" stuff. I am currently revisiting jumping via Susan Salo's grid work. I've had literally one session of about five jumps (total!) and I can already see how hugely beneficial it will be to my dog's agility career. When 65% of a course requires jumping, avoiding jump training is a major
mistake in my opinion. Yet group classes are often so focused on the contacts... Makes no sense.
Another key foundation area is shaping. Since you are into competitive obedience, hopefully you have some familiarity with shaping. It is so important that your dog is willing to offer you behaviors in agility. You need a dog that is engaged and wants to offer you stuff. This comes from having a strong foundation in actually shaping behaviors in your dog.
If there is any truth about agility, I'd have to say it is: Agility is as complex as you want it to be. For every aspect of agility you learn about, it could easily open five more doors... I would start by reading a few books and/or watching a few DVDs. For getting started, I'd recommend in no particular order:
, Susan Garrett
Ready Steady Go
, Sylvia Trkman
, Susan Salo