Why do we need a training guide for Pugility?


Pugs have been bred to be sensitive to humans; this means that traditional agility training methods used with working dogs don't always suit the pug temperament.

These little dogs are so much fun to train that it is easy to become addicted to both pugs and agility. Add the two together and we have "Pugility" (thanks Gwen Oake) which can be frustrating, exhilarating and hilarious all at the same time. If you take the challenge you will learn to develop a deep bond with your pug, communicating with each other by the slightest movement of a hand or shoulder. You will step into an agility ring (in training or competition) together as a fully functioning team ready to out-run, out-jump and out-play everyone else. If you go clear it's like winning the lottery and if you get eliminated you know you are still taking the best dog home.
Niko06I am writing this training guide as part of a Pugility Course I am running with some dear friends and fellow pug owners. The guide will be designed and developed as we go along to record our journey from just having fun with our dogs to the ultimate goal of competing at Crufts with a team of agility pugs.
When I first started in agility in 2007 with my Shar-Pei, there were no pugs competing locally and only one I had heard of nationally. A year later my agility trainer was excited when I told her I had a new dog to bring to class, excitement turned to shock when I turned up with Niko my pug. Fortunately she had lots of patience and agreed to take him into the puppy class; this was where all three of us realised that pugs don't learn in the same way as Border Collies or Shar-Pei for that matter.
I have spent the years since those first lessons reading agility books, watching videos, searching the internet, studying other handlers and attending training classes with different trainers, in search of an answer to the question "How do you train a pug to do agility?" and the many subsequent questions such as:

 

  • Do pugs really need to be trained differently to traditional agility dogs?
  • How do I keep my pug motivated?
  • Should we stop on contacts?
  • How high do we set the jumps in training?
  • How do we keep it fun for our pugs?
  • How do we stay safe?

This is not a traditional training guide where the writer, as the expert, seeks to educate the reader. I do not profess to be an expert in agility; I do however have considerable experience in training Pugility. This is still a relatively new venture for pugs so there are still many things to be learned. The purpose of this guide is to create a record of what Niko has taught me about Pugility but more importantly to make a journal of what, as a class, we have collectively learned from our pugs.
This will include hints, tips and lessons learned that other pug owners can refer to when training their own dogs. To enable readers to dip into the guide as and when needed, it is set out in sections covering each skill to be mastered. I hope to include the individual stories of these special little dogs that don't know (or do they?) that they have agreed to be part of the process of teaching us humans Pugility.
I have called it "The Gentle Art" as throughout their training they will be treated gently and with the respect they deserve as our best friends.