Room for one more...
Agility folk love their dogs - all of them from the weeny puppy to the ageing geriatric on pain pills. Why so many dogs? Because they love their agility, too. If you want to keep competing in agility, stay up-to-date with the latest training techniques and remain in touch with all your like-minded friends, your pack will most likely keep growing. Mary Ann Nester has some suggestions for introducing a new puppy to your agility pack.
Agility people are special folk. How many people do you know that have three or more dogs, are content to be always washing vets beds and are happy to spend most of their time standing in queues whatever the weather?
You won't love the old boys any less and your heart is big enough for a new baby. But it does present problems. It may have been easy to get your hubby to agreed to another puppy but convincing your existing pooches that more competition for your time and cuddles is a good thing may be harder. Unlike your very first dog, your new pup won't be able to think all the cookies in life are his. He will not only have to learn to bring your hubby his slippers, fetch the kids toys and do agility for you but he will have to make a study of all your canine pack's idiosyncrasies. To fit in, he's got a lot to do to belong and earn his t-shirt..
Start with a single dog. When they are bored of sniffing each other, put your adult away and bring out the next one until everyone has had a chance to inspect each other. If the meeting and greeting gets too boisterous, walk away. Odds are that your older dog will follow you, so attach his lead and take him back into the house. When everyone has had the opportunity to shake paws, give your pup a quick rest and start the whole rigmarole over again in the house.
Me or the Pack?
Keep to the same routines. Dogs love the status quo. If Turbo has always had dinner from a bowl by the stove, don't move it somewhere else especially as he's getting a bit senile. If you have always gone training on a Tuesday, don't stop. If you regularly walk everyone in the morning, keep to the same plan. Don't change things unless you have a very good reason to do so. Your pack has a role in your pup's up bringing. Are you going to demonstrate how to sniff anal glands? I really hope not.
The Pup – Pack Candidate:
Don't minus time from your older dogs to spend it with Junior. Give up an hour of television, eat your dinner faster or get out of bed at six instead of seven. We all have to make sacrifices. Try and remember that it won't always be like this, but the extra effort you make now bonding with your new puppy will pay dividends later. And remember.
Quality time alone with you is not you cleaning out the van while your pup plays solitaire. You need to interact with the little blighter. Most pups would love to be involved in unearthing treasure from deep within your van. Include him and make it a game. 'Wow! I found an old tennis ball – go get it!' or 'Fantastic! A biscuit that fell out of the pack – can you sit?'
Pack time can be going on a walk together, a game of chase in the garden, or everyone having a snooze while you watch television. By controlling pack time you will be reinforcing your role as the Boss! It can be a very passive role that delegates authority and allows Butch to tell Junior off for stepping on his tail. Or it can be a very active one; for example if you think things are getting out of hand, pick up all the toys and send everyone to their beds or kennels.
Be confident in your managerial skills. Agility folk are in charge of more dogs than the average household at home, at training or on holiday and it needn't be a nightmare. But it is important that you get things right from the start, especially if the goal is a dog that wants to please you as well as fit in with your pack. With a little forward thinking and time management, it is possible.
Good luck and please, please, please let me cuddle your puppy!
Mary Ann's most successful agility dogs have been miniature poodles. Both Brillo Pad and Daz have both been finalists at Olympia and Crufts and have competed at international level. Brillo represented Great Britain at the World Agility Championships in Portugal 2001 and Daz in Germany 2002 and France 2003.
When not training other people's dogs or chasing her own, Mary Ann splits her time between being the Clinic Administrator for Vets Now Out of Hours Emergency Service and writing. She is the author of Agility Dog Training, published by Interpet in 2007 (Agility Warehouse) and looks forward to seeing Dancing With Dogs: The Complete How to and Troubleshooting Guide to Canine Freestyle and Six Smart Tricks for Dogs in the book shops later this year.