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June 14, 2012
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The Bichon Frise is an intelligent, energetic and happy little dog that has proven capable of performing well in agility, although they are a rare sight at trials. While bichons can sometimes be a bit stubborn, if you make training time interesting and enjoyable, you’ll find that your dog will enjoy agility and may end up winning titles and ribbons. Even if they don’t bring home the prize, these dogs love the special attention that comes from regular agility training sessions and respond favorably to spending time with you.
While you can start agility training with your bichon frise at any age, it's best to start as early as possible for top results. To provide a solid foundation for future training, start your bichon's socialization and basic obedience training almost as soon as you get your new puppy home. Agility requires that dogs respond to their owners’ commands even when they are off leash and dashing around the agility course at high speed. A dog who won’t respond to basic commands can’t go far in agility. Often, owners who go into agility work with their dogs will get one or more obedience titles first.
Bichons love to play, so making agility a game usually produces the best results. Plenty of encouragement and owner participation helps to keep these dogs motivated and on task. Some owners also use treats as incentives, but whether to use them depends on your preferences and your dog’s personality. Generally, the best way to train a bichon frise for agility is to join a local club. There, you have access to advice from experienced owners and all kinds of obstacles, and your dog learns to ignore lots of noise and activity. Also set up a few obstacles in your yard, so you can practice with your bichon between club training sessions.
You can make or buy agility obstacles to use for practicing at home. Lightweight jumps and weave poles are fine for bichons, as long as the equipment is safe. You can make some from PVC pipe, or you can buy a set. Space may be a factor in deciding how many obstacles you set up for home practice, but a couple of jumps, a set of weave poles and a fabric tunnel are a good start. Try to make them similar to what your dog will experience in an agility trial, so your bichon won’t be put off by obstacles that look very different from those you use at home.
Several organizations offer agility trials, including the American Kennel Club, the United States Dog Agility Association, and Canine Performance Events. The organizations have slightly different rules for competition, so anyone considering competing in an agility trial should obtain a rulebook from the sponsoring organization well in advance of the trial date. Variables include the number of obstacles, the classes offered, and the height of the jumps. Jump size can be very important for tiny dogs such as bichons, so pay close attention to the organization’s rules about the height of your dog and the height of the jumps. Each group also has rules about what dogs may compete and the minimum age for dogs in agility.
Make sure your bichon is in good health before you begin a rigorous agility program. These dogs are prone to patellar luxation, a condition in which the affected dogs have loose kneecaps. Other orthopedic conditions that may affect the bichon frise are elbow dysplasia, spinal degeneration, hip dysplasia and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a problem that can lead to the destruction of their hip bones. Early signs of any of these problems include lameness or an odd walk. If any of these issues is suspected, it is important to have the dog evaluated by a veterinarian before you pursue agility.
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Bichons Across Canada: AgilityAmerican Kennel Club: What is Agility? (pg 8-10)USDAA: FAQCanine Performance Events: WelcomeBichon Frise Club of America: Orthopedic Problems in Bichons
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