Discussion in 'Agility and Dog Sports' started by sammgirl, Aug 28, 2009.
Just curious. What qualities makes a dog successful at agility?
A dog you can live with....
Any dog you love to spend time with will be better than any other.
BUT.. Good conformation, not under or over angulated, drivey (food and toy drive) its a big plus if your dog wants to work with you.
It also depends on what you want out in an agility dog. I love speed.
I was going to say, the dog you can live with at home, and run with on course.
Personally, I was considering a three-legged pug for my next agility dog, so I have one I can actually beat in a foot race. Then someone pointed out you can't run a tripod in agility, so I'm going to seek out an older pug who has been in an accident and had some broken limbs, so it'll be slow enough.
I think MOST dogs that are physically sound and who have owners who will put the time into training can run and compete at a level that is beyond acceptable for 99% of the people who do agility. Meg is as non-ideal an agility dog as could possibly be imagined, and with very limited trialing, she is one Q from moving up to the Masters level. I have no dreams of going to Worlds or getting ribbons at Cynosport; short of that, I think she can take me where ever I want to go.
For the other 1%, well.... Like Dekka said, conformation (not always correct for the breed, but correct for sport), a mix of both food and toy drive, an ability (trained or natural) to alternate between handler focus and obstacle focus, a temperment that allows them to brush off accidents or slips.
But I think most important of all, what makes a good agility dog is a dedicated agility student/handler.
My last two dogs have been adopted with agility in mind. Z is currently competing and doing very well (hoping to finish her USDAA AD next weekend - her 3rd trial!). What has made her a good dog is the following, in no particular order:
- good structure
- will work for both food and toys with equal enthusiasm (my first agility dog would only work for food and that made some things really tough)
- enjoys the game (just playing agility with me is rewarding for her)
- agile (has saved my butt a number of times with her fast stops and turns)
- responsive but also able to anticipate in a good way when I screw up
- not overly sensitive to pressure
- incredibly social and very unlikely to be surprised or startled by anything (steady temperament)
Kes is in training and is doing well, but he's of a harder temperament and it can get in the way at times. He's truly bombproof though, so that helps in other areas - Z can get thrown off her game if I get upset with her or she gets confused.
Drive and biddability, for me, are the two most important aspects. Independence and a bit of nerve go a long way, too, IMO.
I agree with Dekka though that a lot of it also depends on what you want out of a dog.
As for having BOTH food and toy drive, Ares had amazing agility potential and he has close to zero toy drive. He has through the roof food drive and running and jumping is self-rewarding for him.
^^^This!! excellent response.
Most people get in agility with the dog they already have. When choicing a dog they need to consider how they want to run agility.
Ask your self a couple of things.
Do you like adrenaline rushes?
Do you get easily frustrated?
Because both of those things often happen when running and training a high drive and fast dog.
Are you prepared to train longer (as in months/years) to develope the higher skill sets that both you and that dog will require?
Some people like the steady eddies while others want the rush, no matter what the cost is lol.
Oh yeah, and make sure you have available very good trainers to train with and being prepared to spend for those trainers. There are all kinds of trainers out there but they don't have the skills or the experience to teach you how to run a fast dog.
A lessor trainer can squeak by with low drive and moderate to slow dogs.........
Angulation too straight= possible shorter career, higher impact, shorter stride, vet bills are also possible, horrible jumping style which can result in dropped bars. etc.
Too over angulated: the more angulation to more unstable the legs are especially the hind end and they also tend to have less than ideal jumping styles etc.
Body type is also important: too heavy=hard on the dog, has to jump lower
But having said all dogs of all walks of life compete in agility and do well.
Wow, that's for all of the great replies. I always wondered how you would pick a good agility dog.
When you all say, "a dog you can live with" what does that mean? Are you saying that you wouldn't want a dog that was too drivey or energetic because they'd be a pain in the rear or is there something else?
Also, are there breeds out there that are better? I've known some keeshond people who run bitches primarily and they seem to do just amazing things. I don't see as many male dogs competing as I do females in general.
Most people who compete seem to have shelties, JRTs, or border collies. That makes sense, because all of those are smart, fast, drivey dogs that do have nerve (especially those terriers) and people do love the breeds personalities.
When I was going to get the samm pup, I really wanted to do agility with him and sam owners really seem to think that sams are good for agility. They're just a little different to handle due to that independent streak.
I would say when I am able to do this, that I'm going to start out with a steady dog. One of the best keesie agility bitches is not the fastest, but she's very clean and accurate and has a very steady temperment. She's also a bit smaller then most of the bitches you see out there.
I don't think I'd want to start out with a dog with oodles of drive. Frankly, a dog like that would be wasted on a newbie like me.
I love living with the crazy drivey energetic dogs. But for some people, they are too much to live with. What it means is that if you get a dog who is good at agility but not suitable for you as a companion, it'll make it difficult to do agility -- or anything really. "A dog you can live with" is always applicable and should always be the primary consideration above the needs of the desired sport.
I can give you a good example.
I know a woman that for years ran several painfully slow little dogs in agility. This woman was also very critical nor did she understand the challenges of running a fast dog. When I ran my dog (who is extremely fast) when I didn't tell him where to go at the right time which resulted in off courses (faults).........she always blamed my dog and made comments.
Now lets jump ahead a few years, this same woman now has herself a young BC, and it also appears that the dog is very over the top. This person has gone from one extreme to the other and she is having (or at least was the last time I saw her) a very difficult time dealing with the drives and the speed. The dog is also very frustrated on course, lots of head checks, spinning, barking and blasting off to do what they *think* they are suppose to.
Neither of them are happy and to top it off, the woman was complaining a great deal about how difficult the dog is to live with and how it is driving her and her other quieter dogs nuts........
Even when I'm really actively training, I may spend 4 hours total in that week (broken up in to small bits, of course) on agility. The other I don't know how many hours, Meg is nothing but a companion. What it means is that there is no point in getting "the perfect dog for agility" (which doesn't exist) if you are going to be unhappy with it as your pet.
I'm a newb in agility but I agree you don't have to have a bc or anything like it to do it and do it pretty well. I know someone running a mini poodle and then they were doing really pretty well. When it came time for her next dog she got a border collie- I mean... it's the natural choice for agility people. In the end she enjoys running the poodle more. The poodle actually does much better than the border collie anyways.
Even in training classes you see this. The bcs and aussies are great when their handlers are great but there's one man with a bc that is just too much dog for him. Watching him try to teach that dog is painful. She is insane though, I mean truly insane. She's a high drive sport bred border collie with zero off switch and no impulse control. She rocks at flyball but she can't run after going once she gets too hyped up and tries to attack the other dogs. On agility she'll do one jump and then she'll refuse everything. Again she wants to attack other dogs when they run. The weird thing is her sister is there and owned by the same people and she's totally normal. Her sister is amazing to watch, fast, responsive, very in tune with her handler...
My point is, if you can't handle the dog then you're not going to do well with it in agility no matter how much drive and talent there is. You train a few times a week, the rest of the time you have to live with that dog. It's a give and take though. Summer is never going to be the speed of a border collie. She's just too small. I can always out run her and give her cues which is nice. She is overall easier to train and more reliable early on than any of the bcs or aussies. She may not be blazing through the course the way they are, but when they inevitably go offcourse because their handlers can't keep up....
Too many people think 'I want to do agility' then go out and get a BC or some other high drive dog without thinking too much into it. They seem them do well, and they want to do well like them but they don't think of how much work it takes to get those dogs performing like that or what challenges the handler faces. I want a BC because I want a BC. I wouldn't recommend anyone get a dog solely for a sport. That's a way to make sure you're both very unhappy.
I have a friend that I believe does agility with her sammies. I know she shows them and does some herding too. They're not going to be border collies but there's no reason why they couldn't be good agility dogs.
I could never live with a dog that spazzy. It would definitely put me in a home. I wasn't very good at agility....and my Doberman probably could have been much better than he was, had he had a more talented handler. We never really got very far in it. But I tell you, he had fun and so did I. He was speedy Gonzales and ran way ahead of me a lot of the time. He had to learn what "jump left" meant and all the verbal comands because I was behind him in a cloud of dust. LOL. But he was smart, agile and fast. Not as fast as so many dogs I see doing it, but he wasn't that experienced yet. But he was mainly my pet, my best friend and a joy to live with and very willing to learn. I agree that you have to look at the whole dog, not just one talent.
I can see having a poodle for that. I can see having a poodle period.:rofl1:
I absolutely agree. I think it's extremely important to choose a dog whom you can live with and whose temperament matches your own. If you have a great relationship with your dog, most of the time, every thing else will fall into place. Granted, it does help to have a dog who has some food or toy drives, and a dog who is in good shape (not necessarily to breed standard, but one who is healthy and fit).
I lucked out with my little girl - not chosen for agility at all, she turned out to be fantastic in it. Fast, very driven and enjoys learning. She also has an amazing off switch and I consider her lazy at times. Yup, definitely go with a dog you can live with - it'll make all the difference in the world.
i chose to get a bc because i wanted that handler focus and the drive to play the game, whatever the game may be.
i worry now that i have him that he'll be too fast for me, because i think he's going to be *fast*, and that i'll be too green to do him justice and be able to direct him to where he needs to be. maybe i'll learn to be the handler he needs and maybe i won't, but at the end of the day, he's a great dog. and even if i find out tomorrow that he'll never be able to play agility, i would still be glad that i brought him home.
Elegy, this is a perfect example of having to train longer to get the skills that you and your dog will need to be able to do agility. But it certainly doesn't mean that it can't happen because it does all the time. I had a *fast* dog for my first agility dog and my problem wasn't seeking good trainers sooner to teach us the skills that we needed to handle all that speed.
One of my students this year has a fast dog with tons of drive. Novice handler, so they are learning distance and lateral skills NOW, along with a bunch of other skills that the other people at her level don't need at this time and those people may never need. But she has too and so does her dog.
They gone through my Flat Foundations class, Intro to agility (level 1) and have progressed up through the levels to where they are now. They can beautifully do long complicated sequences with all the bells and whistles of FC, RC, LOP, etc but more importantly, she can leave her dog on the startline, lead out 50 ft into a sequence and 25 ft laterally and run her dog that way without a mistake. There has also been a lot of work put into handler/obstacle focus, obstacle discrimination and rock solid Don't move until released Contacts, which are a MUST for fast dogs, especally for a novice handler.