Welcome to WAG Level 1
Welcome to the WAG Beginner (Level 1) Class.
We look forward to working with you and your dog, taking you all the way from the basic foundation work up to running competition-style sequences on regulation equipment.
Bookmark this page for future reference; once the class starts, it will be updated with the homework for each week and links to other useful information, including additional training information and video links of some exercises. This same link will remain active for you throughout this session of the class. If you are new to agility or clicker training the links at the bottom of the page would be helpful to check out before the class starts. Also read the class information below before the first night of class.
A little bit about the class:
– The beginner class is a series of four sessions of one-hour classes (referred to as 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D), with each one being 8 weeks long. Due to the progressive nature of the classes, everyone needs to start at the beginning (1A) and work their way through the series. If at any time you feel you’re falling behind or life circumstances get in the way of attendance, you’re welcome to drop back and repeat any of the earlier parts before moving on. A new series starts every other session.
– Dogs must be 6 months old at the start of the series. This ensures that they’re at least 10 months old when they start weaves and jumping in the third session. This is a minimum! For large breed dogs we recommend that you wait an additional few months to ensure that growth plates are closed. Larger breeds may also mature later, and this class requires quite a bit of focus.
– Homework is assigned for the class. For the first session or two in particular, you will find it hard to keep up with the class if you aren’t able to do the homework at least a few times during the week. The homework uses a small contact plank and a set of jump wings that in later sessions can be used as a winged jump. Both of these will be available for sale by the second night of class (available at cost to WAG Level 1 students), or you can make something yourself if you don’t already have anything suitable at home. Much of the homework can be done indoors in a typical house; some of it may require a slightly larger area such as a driveway, basement, patio, or a portion of a yard. In later sessions (when dogs are jumping) any work with the jump will need to be done on a non-slip surface that won’t be hard on the dog’s joints (no unpadded concrete). All jump homework uses only one jump and may be done in a small area.
– Agility class is an exciting environment and some off leash work is necessary in the earlier classes, with all of the work being off leash as the sessions progress. If your dog has focus problems or does not work well around strange dogs and people, and in particular if your dog has any aggressive tendencies, you may find the class difficult. Feel free to drop by and observe a class in action before enrolling if you aren’t sure what to expect. A previous puppy, obedience, CGC/manners, or other type of group class is highly recommended.
– To help your dog learn some of the exercises, they will need to be occasionally held or restrained by an instructor unless they have a solid wait/stay command. If your dog is worried about his collar or leash being held by a stranger, this is a good exercise to practice before the class starts. Have a stranger hold the dog by the collar or leash and reward the dog with tasty treats. Then walk away a couple feet, return and reward. Then walk away further each time until you can go about 15 feet away and your dog will remain calm while being held.
– Bring comfortable shoes that are easy to move in (no high heels or flip flops). Bring plenty of small, soft (preferably non-crumbly) treats that your dog really likes (string cheese, cut up hot dogs or other type of meat, or any type of soft-moist treat). Some dogs are fearful when first being introduced to equipment or may find the environment very distracting, so kibble or cheerios usually won’t cut it! You want treats good enough that your dog will work really hard to earn them. You will be going through a lot of treats, better to go home with some left over than to run out! It is also a good idea not to feed your dog supper on class night – it avoids possible potty incidents and also it’s not ideal to ask your dog to work on a full stomach. If your dog likes toys you may also bring a toy as a reward in addition to treats (some exercises really require a food reward to be done properly). If you bring a toy, make sure it’s a quiet toy (out of courtesy to other dogs in the class) and that if your dog gets control of it you can rely on him/her bringing it back to you and not taking a victory lap with it J.
If at any time you have questions about the WAG Level 1 Class, you can contact Diana Antlitz, Director of Training, at BELGBC@aol.com.
What is agility?
Agility is basically a game you play with your dog. It challenges the dog physically by requiring the dog to show his/her skills in running, jumping, turning, and climbing while simultaneously reading the handler’s cues. It challenges the handler with being able to first plan a handling strategy for the course, and then make correct and well-timed body and verbal cues to direct the dog around the course. The handler and dog really are a team, where the dog has been carefully trained to his ‘job’ of performing each obstacle correctly, and the handler does their job of getting timely information to the dog. The goal is achieve an accurate performance at speed, with the dog following your body cues and verbal cues to know where to go, and relying on prior training to achieve independent, fast, and accurate performance on each piece of agility equipment. Agility allows fit handlers to get through a course by moving quickly to get to the correct location for each cue, but is flexible enough that even motion-challenged handlers can direct the dog through a course using distance skills and trained verbals.
If this is your first agility dog, please click the links below to see some videos of dogs running agility at various levels.
Agility Link 1: Young dog at the Novice Level
Agility Link 2: Young dog at the Excellent level
Agility Link 3: Excellent Level
Agility Link 4: Agility Nationals Finals Run
(Note: You may notice this dog does not stop in the contact zone. In big competitions, handlers will usually release the dog from the contact before they are fully stopped to gain more time. You will also see that the judge puts both hands in the air at the end, this is because the dog missed the contact zone on the dogwalk.)
Agility Link 5: Agility Nationals Run
(Notice how this handler can’t always be close to her dog but must trust it to perform on its own at a distance from the handler for parts of the course).
Clicker shaping – Explanation
Clicker shaping – Videos
Video 1: Overview
Video 2: Free shaping ‘go under’
Video 3: Free shaping ‘go around’
(Notice how handler at first rewards just for looking towards the object, and rewards in a location that encourages the next step of the behavior.)