1. be happily crated and,
2. to lay down.
Elfie is a rescue and would freak at the sight of a crate, and I couldn’t get her to lie down on a hard floor; and not knowing her history I didn’t force it.
So there I was eager to do agility because I felt Elfie would love it and now with two challenges before we ever started. The crate issue was the easier issue to resolve. I bought a large soft crate and kept it open in the living room and began by throwing her ball into it for her to retrieve. Eventually I was able to shut her in for 30 seconds then build up the time. Now at trials I house her in an x-pen with an open crate that she willingly goes into when she wants to rest.
Lying on the agility table became a bigger issue. Even dogs that have no problems lying down can take issue to being stopped in the middle of an agility run to lie down. We struggled through multiple Starter and Advanced standard runs with a comedy of errors. She would lie down on the grass next to the table, run away from the table, and once she even pooped on the table. The good news is that last year the AAC changed the rules and dogs are no longer required to lie down on the table making many handlers and dogs happy.
If you are planning on taking agility classes with your dog there are many skills that you can learn to give you a head start before the actual obstacle training. Making sure your dog is comfortable being left in a crate for one. Playing crate games can make the crate a fun happy place for your dog to be. Another is for your dog to understand how to sit and wait while you move away from your dog in multiple directions. Having a release word for your dog to come to you from the sitting/lay down position. This is an advantage in agility as it gives you a great lead-out (your dog sits on the start line waiting for you to get into position ahead of your dog before you begin). Playing games with your dog where they need to follow your hand is the start of giving directions to your dog through hand signals.
At Salty Dogs we will be having pre-agility classes that teach your dog the above skills and more. I can’t stress enough that agility is teamwork. A great team doesn’t just happen and each team will have its unique challenges just as Elfie and I did. And remember when doing any type of dog training, if only one of you is having fun – it better be the dog!