Agility 101: Time-Wasting, Frustrating, Unnecessary — Top First-Timer Mistakes I Made

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This is what I would have loved to read back when I started. Mistakes I made in my agility training as a first-timer. There were more of course. And there are some I don’t know of yet, I’m sure.

Not finding the right trainer from the very beginning

Each dog is different. Find a trainer that is right for your dog. Someone who knows how to work with high drive Border Collies may not be the best match for your conformation Golden Retriever.

Postponing my first agility trial

Excuse? I didn’t feel ready. But it was the single biggest step forward in my journey. And guess what? I still often don’t feel ready…

Trying to solve problems myself when I got stuck

Do not waste time reinventing the wheel. If you’re struggling with anything — ask your trainer. They have seen it before.

Mastering (not really…) a skill without asking for feedback

I tried to master the skill before showing it to my trainer. Oh boy. Not only could it take half the time, but my trainer would have a chance to point out all the things I was messing up in the process!

Not asking “why” often enough

Ask “why”. Understanding why your trainer chose a particular way of teaching a skill or why they choose a blind cross over the front cross on that particular part of the course makes you a better handler.

Not understanding what my dog finds rewarding

While training the running contacts I wasted about six months trying to figure out why half of my dog’s sessions go perfectly and the other half go terrible. The answer was simple (but oh, so difficult to find) — she found running itself so rewarding that she ignored everything else. She was learning nothing!

Omitting verbal praise

I did not know that verbal praise can mean so much to the dog. I thought that a toy or treats are all they need. I was mistaken.

Not listening to my dog

When your training session goes badly, that is not your dog’s fault. That is your dog telling you something is off. Listen to your dog. Had I known that with some practice I would be able to tell if I made it too difficult, or boring, or confusing… I would have started paying attention much earlier!

One comment

  1. I definitely echo with most, if not all, of those mistakes that I’ve also made in the past and I’m probably still making a lot of them daily (I’m most guilty of trying to solve problems myself when stuck). Really good reminder post, and my dogs will surely appreciate it if I remind myself of those mistakes before their training sessions every day 🙂
    Keep the good posts coming!

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