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Agility training for Shiba
  • SakuSaku
    Posts: 372
    Hiya,

    After having Saku and Mina, I am always looking for something I could do or work with my dogs. Agility is always something I want to try. It's fun and competitive. I also long for the partnership, the bonding, and the trust shared between handlers and dogs in agility sport. I believe that agility could help Mina to gain more confidence in herself (she is a timid shiba).

    So we decided to enroll our shibas to agility classes and it's starting TOMORROW! yay!

    I know some of you in this forum are active in agility sport. Please share with us your experience and thoughts about agility training with Shiba. Thanks!
    Saku & Mina's mom

    Saku & Mina
    Post edited by Calia at 2012-10-13 09:11:23
  • How did you find your local agility class?
    Heather, Logan, and two Shibas named Miyumi & Yoshiro
  • AnnaAnna
    Posts: 621
    I want to enroll my little guy in agility once he's old enough, but I have one big concern:

    The dogs need to be reliable off-leash. I suppose it's a non-issue for indoor agility classes, but a lot of the competitions (even just for fun ones) are outside. And (in my area at least) the only 'fence' they have are the low orange mesh fence, for keeping geese off lawns or marking off areas of grass you don't want people walking on.

    Not exactly something sturdy enough to keep an excited Shiba contained. So, how does everyone handle that? Are Shibas an indoor-agility-only dog? Are other people lucky enough to have more secure fenced in outdoor facilities?

    I know that starting out you keep the dog on-leash, but as they progress it's expected they'll be loose.

    So how does everyone deal with that aspect in regards to stubborn Shibas?
  • lindsaytlindsayt
    Posts: 4784
    That is great you are trying agility!

    I am taking some pre agility focus classes with my young girl. Before I had just taken the traditional style class where the dogs are on obstacles the same day. They eventually learn the skill, and Shibas are great at this picking it up quickly, but there was a lot of theory skipped and then having to go back and teach the dog nkt to do certain behaviors they had done for years. That could have been prevented by a series of classes dedicated to focus and targeting.

    This class is nice because it teaches focus and building a good relationship with the dog learning to work for you, using targeting games, teaching body awareness, and teaching how to interact with obstacles willingly. We are in the second level of this style of class, and have not used any big obstacles (those are the easiest for the dog to learn by the way, recall, focus and awareness are the real challenge). Mostly we work with platforms, hoops, cones, and easy to find common household things like foot stools that really get the dog used to interacting with new things, getting them willing to step on new surfaces, and focusing on working for you. those are foundation skills that will greatly improve your relationship with the dog, and when you eventually drop the leash, it won't be a big deal to the dog as they will be focused on you and asking for the next game.

    The recall comes with time, so for now, I would be cautious of taking a class with an unreliable Shiba, that is anywhere outside of a completely enclosed building. In the end, you have a dog that is so proofed to distractions and so excited to work, the off leash thing is really and honestly a non issue. But you have to do the training, and even then some dogs just wont ever get there (I have at least one of those who has more interest in following his nose to ever be safe off the leash or to care much about the training after the first few jumps). Otherwise, don't be ashamed or afraid to insist on using a leash.

    At home you can proof your recalls using a long line, going to multiple environments, and making it increasingly more challenging. I DID practice long line recalls in off lead dog parks. I did practice obedience drills there too, and in petsmarts, horse arenas, down town city streets, and in my yard thru obstacle courses of food bowls and toy piles. If a dog can recall to you thru a crowd of off leash dogs, by golly they can trial in agility. the other thing is to look for trials indoors if you are really concerned, but for now, since I assume you are working on bonding and focus and just wanting to have fun being with your dog and helping them learn, there shouldn't be too much pressure to do anything without a leash on.


    "Common sense isn't so common"
    photo c5d87957-61b6-48af-a440-4187cbfc861b_zps88ccdf88.jpg
  • AnnaAnna
    Posts: 621
    Thanks for the info @lindsayt! I don't have the little guy yet (NEXT WEEKEND OMG! :D), but I definitely am more interested in the classes as a for-fun, energy burning, bonding exercise. Not so concerned with trials and winning ribbons. If he never gets to that point, that's fine. I'll still have fun (and it'll be a good excuse to force me out of the house now that I live alone - especially in winter when I just want to hibernate, haha).

    If he DOES get to the point of reliable agility-focused recall and I can do trials and whatnot, then awesome. I can collect ribbons to show off to friends. XD

    I think all the entry level classes use leashes anyways, even when they're indoors, so hopefully using the leash in a fun game will have the added bonus of helping him learn to love the leash? :D
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8408
    I have been tossing the idea of doing agility with Bella for a few years now. Unfortunately, the timing for the classes is ALWAYS off.

    So please let me know how it goes. Bella is relatively reliable off leash, as long as there is some sort of barrier (she knows that fences are there for a reason, even if it is a flimsy fence). However, luckily, the agility courses around here are inside a chain link fence. :)
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
  • I currently enroll my boy Koji in two Agility-related classes with two different facilities - one is the foundation pre-agility focus class Lindsay mentioned where we focus on attention, focus, handling and body awareness without actually doing many actual Agility equipments whereas the other class is dogs on the equipment the first day.

    I think Koji enjoys both classes, but I can definitely see the value of the foundation class. We do games and exercises that do not seem to be directly related to Agility at first glance, but it really builds up the dog's confidence, ability and focus on be successful on a course later on. This training facility requires dogs to go through 3 levels of focus class or you need instructor approval to even start basic agility class. At first, I thought this is crazy, but now I appreciate the additional training we get. As another friend who does Agility with her Shiba once told me, she said the equipment is really the last piece of the puzzle and you need the focus of the dog and people's handling skill to make a successful agility run.

    Both Koji and I learn something new in the focus class, but the instructor is pretty strict and I got grilled the other day for not practicing enough at home with Koji. We try to practice as much as we can, but I think we just have too many stuff going on at the moment - swimming, agility, focus class, nosework and occasionally herding.

    For the agility class that we do another facility, it is more learning the equipment and having fun and being safe on the equipment. Koji enjoys running through the obstacles and we have done 6 obstacles at a time (with some baby gates helping the dog to stay on course). However, I can see problems with this route as dogs may be ok doing a few obstacles at a time, but may wander off the course because of weak foundation work or have difficulties making tight turns.

    It's fun to do these 2 classes at the same time to compare and contrast and I will strongly recommend a foundation focus class for anyone that wants to pursue Agility. There is nothing wrong with going straight to the equipments, but with a breed like Shiba, they could definitely benefit from the foundation work, regardless of whether you do agility or not.

    Post edited by sandrat888 at 2011-10-07 10:58:14
  • SayaSaya
    Posts: 6677
    I do agility for fun Bella and Saya liked doing it at their obedience class.

    Saya loves the tunnel and the dog walk. She did the dog walk in puppy class she really wanted to try so after class the teacher allowed me to work with her and she gave advice and stuff.

    I got home made weave poles set up got poles and put them in the ground and got a jump hurdle. I hope next year to get a tunnel. It's fun working on it.

    I just do it for fun.
    Photobucket
    Nicole, 5year old Bella(Boxer), and 4year old Saya(Shiba inu)
  • AsterixAsterix
    Posts: 90
    I have Chibi enrolled in something officially called "Puppy Gymboree" (risking the wrath of some trademark lawyer somewhere), and unofficially called "Puppy Agility."

    They've said it's not official agility in that they're not training the pups the way you would for formal agility, but just getting them used to the equipment. It's been great. Chibi is a scaredy-cat in general, and it's been a great way to get him to try new things out.

    He doesn't do everything - he refused to go through the tunnel when it got too long; he wouldn't go on the teeter totter when it got to teetery, but he's usually been game the next time we come back to class.

    Anything to help improve his self confidence and diminish his fear of new things is great in my opinion - even if it never turns into competitive agility.
  • mattzmattz
    Posts: 418
    This all sounds awesome, I'm definitely going to research some of the classes mentioned in here for my Etsuko!!! I think she would LOVE them!
  • Since I've got a decent sized yard, I've built some agility jumps for Aika. I've thought about taking her to a class but not sure if i can commit to the times the classes are held. I really want to look into this foundation class. Then build more equipment! hahaha
  • MarijeMarije
    Posts: 114
    Shiro and I were supposed to start the foundation Focus class (prerequistite for the agility class lol) this fall, but the classes were on nights that I have class myself. So now we will start in January. I also started thinking of agility to increase Shiro's confidence a bit, and to give us some one-on-one time away from the 2 other dogs :)
  • SakuSaku
    Posts: 372
    Thanks for the sharing everyone!

    The idea of agility class came from a very beginning. I am not too thrilled with traiditonal obedience training, it gets boring to me. Shiba is so agile and atheletic, it just makes sense to me that they would excel in agility sport. We did the basic obedient class first, it's required for intro agility. While it's not my cup ot tea, it did help to lay a good fundation for us. Through this, we learn how our shibas behave around other dogs and people and how they learn. Each dog is different and has its own learning curve. I have two shibas with complete different personalities. Saku is very outgoing, confident and self-assured. Mina is gentle, timid and a bit sensitive.

    We went for a free agility demonstration last weekend. The instructor is one of the most dedicated and patient person I've ever met. She spent a hour and half getting to know us and our shibas. She also talked about her teaching philosophy (positive training only) and experience with dogs with issues in the past.

    What I hope to get out of agility class is for Mina to build confidence in herself and be more self-assured. It's far beyond just jumping obstacles and hoops. I hope through agility, she can learn to cope with new things in life with ease, and not being so afraid and nervous all the time when she is alone,

    With Saku, I think he will just have fun. He loves to compete and likes seek attention and approval from us. I hope agility could teach him focus and self-control. I will definitely update everyone about the progress of my two shiba! ;) thanks!
    Saku & Mina's mom

    Saku & Mina
    Post edited by Saku at 2011-10-07 17:46:43
  • micomico
    Posts: 242
    Suki's just moved up to the obedience class from the puppy class. After being hyper at her first class, so many new dogs and people fussing over her, we were a bit hesitant to go back but we repeated what exercises we could remember at home and she knew what was expected of her, if that makes sense.

    When we went this week she managed most of the exercises (DD needs a bit of handler training) and the instructer compared her to a child copying older siblings. He competes nationally in agility classes and, after a bit of research cos Suki's the first Shiba he's ever worked with, he thinks she could do well if we stick at it.
  • catloreecatloree
    Posts: 1541
    Elwood has been going to agility class since May. He really seems enjoy it, although he certainly hasn't picked it up as quickly as my Pom (she was competing in AKC trials within 6 months of starting classes). I don't know that Elwood will ever be ready for a real competition, but as long as he has fun, I'll probably keep going.

    He LOVES the A-frame & the teeter. He likes the jumps as long as I don't ask him to do too many (he has such a short attention span!). He isn't a huge fan of the tunnel, I think because he went inside it one time when it was wet & now he's paranoid about getting dirty.

    We work some off-leash (although he always has a leash tab attached to his collar in case I need to catch him), but we are in a secure fenced area outdoors, so there's no chance of escape. They hold trials at our training facility, too, so we wouldn't have to worry about him getting out if we ever decided to enter a trial. We do work some on a long line, too, in situations where he isn't focusing because he will sometimes run off & try to play with the other dogs in our class instead of listening to me.

    He has had some fantastic weeks, and other weeks where he acts like he's never even seen the equipment before. But I think that's all part of his Shiba stubbornness and independence. I just try to stay happy & upbeat & bring better treats the next week. We also have a tug made with real rabbit fur that has helped a lot. He only gets to play with it after successfully completing a few obstacles. And I only bring it out at class, so it's high value for him.

    I hope you guys enjoy it. Be patient & have fun!
    Catherine (human), Elwood (Shiba), & Sadie (Pomeranian)
  • redcattooredcattoo
    Posts: 1960
    For any Shiba owner coming across this post, it has a lot of good reminders in it. I wanted to add my two cents in on my current experience.

    I fell into a agility for fun type class after 12 weeks of obedience. This was not a foundation type agility class, it was one that was about getting your dogs to do each piece of equipment. Bear was very willing to do each type of equipment and seemed very good at jumping, so I began to wonder if we could have fun working towards doing future trials even if only for a fun goal.

    I know though to ever reach a point of doing future trials, there is foundation work that I would need to be done beyond what I would probably worry about if Bear wasn't going to be in a trial type setting. I know proofing that drive to work with you and stay focused through lots and lots of distractions is a huge key to trialing.

    We did a 6 week fun agility class all on leash, then moved to a 6 week class that started off leash work, but no foundation skills to proofing the drive to work or targeting skills. The first three weeks of our second round of classes I was on a high, Bear preformed well (by my judgement) when it was his class turn off leash (2 other dogs in class with us) he was remaining attentive and completed multiple obstacles returning to table well behaved keeping his eye on me.

    It wasn't until class 4 (and part of class 5) recently that Bear decided when it was his turn off leash that "tag your it" doing Shiba 500's around the room was more fun. Okay, so that got me thinking about if Bear and I would really ever have a future in trials. As others have said in this chain, that is why finding the right foundation courses before worrying about equipment, is important. Shiba's are smart enough to master the equipment, it is everything in between the equipment though that will really matter.

    Now my challenge is not to discount all I have done and learned along the journey we have been on, but find a trainer who is able to build off of it. Finding just that right trainer with agility experience who is ready to take on a Shiba is stressing me out.

    I think it is stressing me out because like my Shiba, I need to find the trainer who is excited about working with me and knows how to shape my independent sometimes stubborn proud nature. The one that is most recommended in my area for agility so far leaves me with a very luke-cold feeling the two times I met her, so now I don't know where to turn at this moment.




  • @redcattoo

    It's great that you take interests in doing more with Bear and wanting to build a deeper bond by engaging in different doggie activities or sports.

    I want to encourage you to stay positive and not stressed out.

    It is great that you know early on (Bear is only 10-11 months, right?) that foundation skills are important. Knowing that piece of information is very valuable than figuring it out later on when you realize at a much later stage.

    Seriously, it is really not just about Agility or any sports in particular. Further educating yourself in learning how to build a bond with your dog, how to engage your dog and motivate your dog in a fun way are what matters. Agility or any other sports are just something to give you a goal to work toward to and you learn all the important stuff along the way.

    As for you not getting a good vibe or feeling that the highly recommended trainer is "luke-cold" toward working with you, I would like to point out that highly recommended trainers are usually highly sought after and they really don't go out of their way to sign you up as students as they have plenty of students wanting to learn from them.

    The instructor/student relationship is a two-way street. I would want a trainer that is open-minded with a lot of knowledge, experiences and ability to share his/her knowledge with me (some are really good with their own dogs, but not so good at teaching others how to maximize their potentials) and supportive in my learning journey. It takes give and take on both parts to build a rapport.

    I adore my agility instructor who we took classes from the very beginning, but it was not a good relationship from the very get go. I remember how I thought she was cold and not very personable when I took the first 1-2 sets of classes from her and actually thought about switching to a different instructor. I am glad I stuck around and I learn so much from her. I told her later on how I felt she was kind of cold to us and she said it was because we did not seem to be too interested in learning.

    I still remember one time in the early foundation class where she told me "Your Shiba is not gonna train itself if you don't spend time working with him". I was embarrassed being called on in class, but we started practicing more of the games taught in class at home and Koji made big progresses (with the rear feet targetting on the balance disc - there is another thread on the forum on this exercise and the 2 by 2 weave poles training method) that really turned up my interests in training.

    Keep up your spirits, learn from a good instructor and have fun with your dog!
  • redcattooredcattoo
    Posts: 1960
    @sandrat888

    Thanks for your continued encouragement and keeping me on track. I appreciate that you have shared a somewhat similar path as that alone gives me encouragement.

    Yes, he is only 10-11 months old, we have a long way to go which is why I need to try to do it right before I have created way too many bad habits.

    I will have to look at the other thread on those exercises. Again thanks! I really need that encouragement and support right now for my own sanity.
  • lindsaytlindsayt
    Posts: 4784
    Make sure to keep it fun for both of you!
    "Common sense isn't so common"
    photo c5d87957-61b6-48af-a440-4187cbfc861b_zps88ccdf88.jpg
  • NahatalieNahatalie
    Posts: 363
    Just thought I'd ressurect this thread to say Oki and I go to puppy agility once a week. We've attended three sessions so far, and I can honestly say it's the highlight of my week! I absolutely love it. I'd to work towards competitions. The classes do start imediately on the equipment, but they make us do the contact points properly. Oki seems pretty willing to try any of the equipment. The first session on the long walk, he hated it! But second session using it, he was up and down like a pro by the end of it. Then we did a shallow A frame and he conquered that in no time. Tunnels, hoops and tiny jumps, tiny see saw, he just does automatically too. He'll be 5 months old in a week and I hope with all my heart he continues on this vein as I would just love to fun competitions with him! I know 3 sessions is nothing and he might turn around and hate it at any point, but I can hope :) he is by far the youngest there! (the equipment is so low it's not much different from ordinary walking).

    Basically I guess I'm just being vain with this post as I just want to express how much I enjoy agility! I knew I'd enjoy it, but I didn't think I'd like it so much that I am actually very sad at the thought of having to miss a few sessions in the near future due to a spate of enjoyable weekends away! (If where I was going was close enough, I'd seriously consider coming back to go to agility!)
  • sandrat888sandrat888
    Posts: 576
    Glad to hear that you are enjoying agility. For a young puppy as yours, the key is really to lay a solid foundation, so the dog has focus and is willing to work with you. Equipment can come a lot later in the process. I currently have a 8-month-old puppy that is training for agility, and we focus a lot on impulse control, drive, tugging, chasing me game, body awareness and the concept of learn to earn than working on any individual obstacles/equipment.

    When you have a chance, I would highly recommend you going to a local agility trial in your area and talk to competitors there. You will learn a lot more about the sports there. Good luck!
  • sandrat888sandrat888
    Posts: 576
    Someone on the NK forum asked about agility and I responded there and thought the post may provide useful information for this thread here too.

    I do agility with both of my adult Shibas, Koji and Maluko. Koji just earned his second Master Agility Champion (MACH2) last weekend and Maluko is running in the Master class (the most advanced class in AKC, you move from Novice to Open, then Excellent and then Master). Youngster Taiyo is in training, so not competing yet.

    What I would say to people who are new to the sports is that Agility is a lot more complicated than you think. The foundation work with the dog is critical to both of your enjoyment of the sports down the road. What I mean by foundation is the dog's ability to focus on you when you asked and on the task/equipment ahead as you navigate the course. Most newbies will say they will do agility as long as their dogs enjoy it. What most people don't realize is that YOU have to make agility fun for the dog. No dogs come out of the womb just loving agility. You build it up by starting with foundation - having the dogs to enjoy working with you and focus working with you even under distractions, teaching them skills to properly and safely do all the equipments, training them to understand all the handling moves, so they know where to go next on a course etc. You sure don't need to teach your dog how to eat a piece of steak, but you need to put in a lot of work for the dog to learn to weave 12 poles, make all contacts on teeter, a-frame and dog walk and follow your cues to stay on course vs. doing zoomies by themselves.

    Go to a local trial in your area and watch both the novice teams and the more advanced teams run. Look for teams that seem to enjoy themselves, regardless of qualifying or not. Ask people where they train and that should give you a good start to get proper instructions. There are a lot of "agility instructors" out there who really shouldn't be teaching. Go to someone who has knowledge will save you a lot of time down the road.

    I have to drive 45-50 minutes one way to get to my agility instructor, but it is totally worth it. When I started, I used to go to a place 15 minutes away from my home, thinking we were saving commute time and doing it just for "fun", so no need to go out of our way to a good instructor. Looking back, it was a total waste of time. Without the foundation work, everything falls apart when you no longer has a leash on the dog, no treats/toy on you in the ring or the dogs get too stressed and/or distracted in a new environment when you actually compete.

    I also want to point out that if you compete, it doesn't mean it is not "for fun". You actually have to work really hard to make it fun for your dog to hang in there with you in competition. Agility is only fun for your dog if you make it to be.
  • NahatalieNahatalie
    Posts: 363
    I'm lucky and found a great club within 30 minutes (50 in the winter where we train in a horse arena if it's too wet to use our outside arena). I helped with our Have A Go ring on Saturday at a country fair type event which is basically geared at dog owners. I'll be doing it again all weekend when it comes to my town in July. I just love it.

    Anyway, we now attend a recall class on Saturdays in which we do flatwork too. We do agility training on Sundays which is stuff like focussing on drive, wing wraps, contact points, left and right, chasing etc. We might do the odd bit of equipment like low jumps, tunnels or a very low dog walk but it's mostly flatwork. I am really enjoying learning how to do it. Like you say, it's very complicated sometimes, especially as I have trouble knowing my own left and right let alone thinking about it from the dog's perspective lol

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