February 27, 2024

Episode 335: Getting an Adult Dog for Agility

In this episode (28:37)

Join us as we explore the benefits of choosing adult dogs for agility training, discussing how their known characteristics can offer advantages over starting with a puppy. We cover sources for finding adult dogs, including rescues and breed-specific rehomes, and delve into the unique benefits of choosing an adult dog for your next agility dog.

You Will Learn

  • The benefits of acquiring an adult dog for agility training.
  • How the issue of size can be important for certain breeds.
  • Various sources to find adult dogs suitable for agility.
  • How the idea of control affects how people think about acquiring their next agility dog.


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I'm Jennifer. I'm Esteban. And I'm Sarah. And this is episode 335. Today's podcast is brought to you by Magic Mind, your companion for those long trial days. Whether you're an agility trainer or handler, keeping your mental energy and focus sharp is key. Magic mind is crafted with a thoughtful blend of ingredients, including ceremonial grade matcha for a smooth energy lift.

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Embrace the day with clarity and energy and let magic mind be a part of your success story. Today's podcast is also brought to you by hit aboard.com and the new Teeter TeachIt, an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter. So you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to hit aboard.com for the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools and toys,

use discount code BDA 10 to get 10% off your order. That's hit aboard.com. Today we're gonna build on last week's podcast, which was all about how top trainers get their next agility dog. And we really focused about getting a puppy and we got an email back from one of our listeners who pointed out the benefits of getting an adult dog. It could be a rescue,

it could be an adult purebred dog. And I think that there are a lot of benefits there that we could talk about. So we're gonna kind of continue the conversation from last week, but really with an eye towards the adult dog. I'll go first. And I have to admit, I, I don't really like puppies. I mean, I like puppies.

They're cute, they're adorable. I love they're puppy breath, they're very photogenic and I love to play with 'em. And I'm gonna tell you that your puppy is cute and, and please let me play with 'em. But I don't like raising puppies 'cause I feel like they're kind of stupid. You know, they're not very good at dog agility. I don't know if you've ever worked with a puppy,

but you can't put 'em through the weave poles. You know, they're not ready to jump. You gotta wait for their bones to grow and whatnot. It's pretty annoying actually. Right? Imagine having to wait two years after you get something for some purpose and then you gotta wait two years to do it. I don't know, I think it's weird. It would be like marrying someone,

but you couldn't live with them and start building a life together until you waited two years. I think that, I think that's not quite, not quite a perfect analogy there, but you, you get the idea. And so I'm a big fan actually of acquiring adult dogs. So I think we've had a couple dogs in our household that way, including the Malinois in residence at the moment.

How old was he when he came? He was four and a half months. So that, that's kind of like, it's a spectrum and there's definitely a lot of advantages too. And I would call him an older puppy, and I think we can definitely talk about that too, but Right. Well, let's start with like adults. Sure. But all of this is to say like people are tend to be a little bit rigid in their conception of how they're going to get their next dog.

Yes. Right? Yes. And I think when you ask anyone, they mostly think the breeder route. And I think there are a ve there's a very small subset of, of agility people who are familiar with the, what I would call the, the rescue route, right? Getting their dogs through rescue. And I'm, I'm sure we'll talk a little bit about that,

but I, I I just want to put it out there that there are other ways to get a dog and to not be tied 100% to this idea of I gotta get it from a breeder. I gotta be the first owner of this puppy and I gotta do everything Right. Exactly. Perfect. From day one. And that day one has to be six weeks old when we first meet,

and then I'm gonna come back in week seven, and then I'm gonna take the puppy home in week eight and you've got a plan. And if I don't stick to that plan, it's not gonna turn out magical. A hundred percent. So, so let's talk about like the, the advantages of an adult dog. And I, I think generally we kind of alluded to it,

it's a known quantity, but, but let's talk more about what that means because I think that there are many dimensions of known quantity that happen with an adult dog. When we chatted on our last podcast about puppies, I talked about as a she breeder that one of the things that people will look at is, you know, do they want a boy or girl?

Do they want a color? But we didn't touch much on size. And I think in agility, the size of the dog can be a very important thing to people because the size of the dog determines the jump height and it can be a big decision. I think one of the huge advantages to getting an adult dog is, you know, what you got in terms of size,

you know, what you got in terms of structure. So if you absolutely want to have a 16 inch jumper, but you get a she, what happens if it goes too big? What happens if it's for AKC goes to 15 inches instead of what you were hoping for, which is stopping at 14 inches? We don't know these things at eight weeks.

We, we hope to guess and we hope to predict based on pedigrees, but we don't know. Or now I feel like there's a, a strong shift of people wanting a border colleague to measure into the intermediate jump height, the FCI intermediate jump height, which means they need to be between 16.75 and 18.8. That's a two inch range. It's very difficult to predict when they're puppies exactly what size they're going to fall into.

So I think a huge advantage to getting an adult dog, whether you're talking an adult as a rescue or an adult from a breeder and an adult with a, a pedigree, you know, kind of size can be a big advantage to already kind of knowing what you're getting. Yeah, I think that is a great point because I think people listening will probably probably fall into two categories.

People like us who tend towards breeds of dogs that fit into a, a pretty solid jump height, right? And people like you who their breed of choice spans, you know, two or three or four jump heights and, and you know, you never know. And so I think sometimes I forget about that aspect. We're, although we're very conscious of the 20 to 24 inch,

you know, cutoff and things like that. But So there are breeds in particular I'm thinking of, and the malise is one, golden retrievers are another where the females typically are lighter bone, a little shorter at the shoulder. And so at least for goldens, males will have a strong tendency to measure into the 24 inch class at higher rates than, than females who tend to be more down into 20 inch.

But let's say you have a, a strong affinity for male goldens, but you don't want them jumping 24 inches. Now you can look at a bunch of adults and know, oh, well this, this guy is small for a size, you know, you're not doing the guesswork of looking at a puppy. We've all played that game and while I think most of the time some people can be right about specific breeds and breedings,

we, we've all had the experience of looking at the run of a litter and that, that that dog turns out big, right? And then having a big dog turn out, you know, a little bit smaller than people anticipated, Right? Absolutely. They kind of even out over time sometimes. So I think, yeah, size, that's a huge one.

I think one of the other aspects is, I guess you could broadly categorize as like personality, right? Like how easygoing is this dog? How chill, how livable, how do they do with people and other dogs and maybe even like cats and, and things like that. You can often find dogs that have been raised around something that is important to you,

like, like cats or like other dogs or like horses or whatever, you know. And so I, I think that can be a really good thing too. I think there's some element of control issues here. So like I, as a trainer in general, I guess I'm pretty controlling of my dog's environment. In fact, it's, i I I wanna say it might even be the dominant form of dog training just in general,

right? We manipulate the dog's environment, right? If they're struggling to get over a backside, for example, we might lower the, lower the height of the bar to help them get over it. We may position a jump, rotate a jump so that it's less angled or a guide so they're more likely to take it, right? We'll use a guide in the weave poles,

we'll lower the height of the dogwalk. So basically we're constantly manipulating the environment. If it's too over arousing, we'll take them to a more quiet field. You know, we start to add distractions, basically. We have a lot of control. And that is a part of dog training I think that people don't really think about, right? That maybe,

maybe one of the reasons that you listening to this podcast really like training dogs. It's the amount of control that you have, right? And, and especially if you have the kind of job or life where a lot of things are very chaotic and you don't have a lot of control, then a dog agility can really become your, like, like your little,

what do I wanna call it? Like little, Little paradise, a little sanctuary, a little, Yeah, sanctuary, sanctuary where you have some control over your life and now you're gonna go out and get a puppy, right? And you want to control all the elements that we talked about in the last podcast, the breeder, the breeding, this or that.

And you, you've done all your and your research and you wanna be there from day one to do it right? When you're taking on an adult dog and especially one that is lived in another home, right? Or is a rehome something happened with the owner or it didn't work out. I think that there's a fear, there's a fear of things not going well.

And, and it's because you couldn't control that environment if you're acquiring a dog that's already two years old, that dog's got a two year history of interactions with the world, right? And you had no say in that, right? And you're never sure in your, in your mind, you're never sure that, oh, is the issue that I'm having now where he's barking at some dude with a hat is because some dude with a hat was mean to my dog in the past that that may have been the case or it may not be the case at all,

right? And so I think people can get really worked up in their minds and fearful of even thinking about looking at these kinds of dogs, which I think is a mistake because of all the upside that we're talking about. But anyway, I just wanted to jump in there with this notion of control. I was just thinking about it in, in terms of like personality of the trainer and dog training and,

and why people might pass on dogs. Yeah, I mean, I do think that that is a large part of why people like to get puppies is because they know everything that's happened. But if you take a step back and say, okay, like, would you rather have an eight week old puppy that you could do everything right with? But we know that even when you do everything right,

sometimes personalities of dogs, maybe they're have anxiety around new places or new people or whatever. Or would you rather take an adult dog where you don't know the history, but you can actually go and test those things? You know, you can actually go find out how that dog as an adult responds to new people, places and things. And I would say if you have an adult dog and you,

you know, have, maybe you take them for a week or maybe you're able to just take them for an afternoon and find out that that dog is, you know, able to deal with all of those things that potentially could be a better situation than an eight week old puppy that hasn't had any negative exposure, but you don't really know how they're going to grow up.

Well, I think this is something Jennifer pointed out. So now Jen, I, I want your take on what you would do for an adult dog when you take them out for a spin. It's not something we can do with an eight week old puppy. Yeah, I think there's a lot, a lot of things that you can do with an adult right away.

And we're not talking just agility things, although as you already alluded to, if you get an adult dog, theoretically you can, as long as they're of age, start jumping 'em right away, start weaving them right away. You know, we recently had a two part podcast on ETO. Well, I can take an adult dog and I can bring it home and put it over a jump and within,

you know, four or five days have a pretty good idea of what that jumping is going to be like. Where with a puppy, I've poured my heart, my soul, everything into it, and I can't jump it till it's a year. And then the heartbreak sets in, potential heartbreak sets in for you, you know, ETO or an issue.

So it's not just the agility things that you can do right away, but all of all of the other stuff that you're talking about. How are they around cars and moving cars or bikes? Do they tend to want to, you know, herd and chase? How are they around kits? I mean, that can be a huge one. I've known lots of litters who raise,

grow up and are raised with kids, but then they go to homes without kids and then they later develop issues with kids. You know, you get an adult dog, you can go right away and kind of test these things and, and see how these things are. So I think there are definitely pros and cons to both sides. And as a person who has acquired an adult dog,

part of why I fell in love with her and wanted her, even though she was three years old, is because of her temperament and how solid she was. It was, it was the guarantee, right? So I have okay, an eight week old puppy and I have a three-year-old, and this three-year-old was rock solid. She had a great temperament,

got along with other dogs, didn't have any fears, very steady, good family dog, didn't chase cars, you know, didn't have a lot of toy drive, but again, like that was the agility side of things. And I thought, man, this dog is just a wonderful, wonderful temperament. Like this is a known, or I could take the gamble on getting a puppy,

but it's a gamble, right? We think, oh, I, I have no baggage. But as Sarah said, there's no guarantee. So I decided to, you know, take the adult dog because the known was there and I loved so much of what I already knew, and then I could get started on things right away. I mean, we really quickly got going and agility and as I mentioned,

there's a few little things. She was very much into food versus toy, things like that are harder to go back and change. You know, if I get my puppy at eight weeks, it's a little bit easier to balance out things like food and toy drive. But as a person who acquired an adult dog, I very much have a lot of positive ideas and associations with acquiring an older dog.

Yeah, I I really think that people overvalue the, the, the the value the blank. Yeah. The value of the blank slate and they undervalue the value of the known quantity. And so that's just kind of what we wanted to highlight. The housebreaking and all the annoying things. Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Puppies are a lot of work.

Let's just remind everyone, I mean, I'm exhausted at the idea. I'm not, I'm not in the market for a puppy, but if somebody said, get a puppy, I'm like, I don't want a puppy right now. It's exhausting. Yeah. But you know, you've got an older dog. I think a lot of confirmation breeders tend to look for homes for dogs after they finish and the confirmation rings.

So you might get like a two or 3-year-old dog that already knows how to behave in a crate because they've been traveling to shows. They're used to kind of trial like setups and noises and riding in the car and going to the bed, being in the ring and around strangers and touching. So yeah, I mean, you can get a lot of benefits without the,

the sometimes exhaustion that comes with a puppy. Right, right. So let's talk a a little bit about where you would get an adult dog. So I think like the easiest thing for pretty much anybody to do is to get a rescue. Like there are rescue groups all over, you know, the world essentially, definitely all over the United States where dogs are looking for homes.

And you can go and you can visit the dogs, you can play with them. The, the fee is very reasonable if, you know, finances are a concern in terms of, you know, these pure bred dogs do typically come with a pure bred price tag. And again, it's a known quantity. And so there's really no, no Wait.

So there are, so I think we have to distinguish between like breed Rescue, that's why I was about to say that too. I was gonna say that there's like kind of two, I was gonna break that further into two Okay, go ahead. Sorry. First I would say like rescue, rescue, like, you know, essentially what we would call the pound,

right? Going to the pound going to rescue where they have basically any dog that's been given up and you know, if you're, you get to meet the dog, so you get to kind of get a sense for the personality. And so the fact that you don't know what that dog quote is, you know, like what breeds go into it, it,

it doesn't really matter that much because you're getting to meet the dog because even though breeds have tendencies, you can definitely find malises that are soft and sensitive and goldens that are aggressive. Like it's, it, it exists in the world. So, you know, again, knowing the exact breed mixture is not as important as getting to meet the specific dog.

Mm. And so, so then you know that that is definitely a way that people can get a dog. And if you don't need the pedigree, and I would say that in general, no, very few people need a pedigree. The only people that really need a pedigree are people that want to compete at events where very specific competition, very specific competitions.

But it, you can compete in AKC with a mixed breed. You can compete in USDA, there's plenty of organizations that allow at The national championship events. Yeah, absolutely. Westminster. So, and in fact there are even, you know, special awards given, you know, there's even some benefits to having a mixed breed dog where there's special recognition and things like that.

So I think that's absolutely a way to go. As you mentioned, there's also the idea of breed rescue specifically. Now this is where a dog is, has been, you know, relinquished, but the dog is either is or appears to be a very specific breed. So you might find like golden retriever rescue where all they rescue are goldens, and when you go to them,

you're getting a golden, it may or may not have papers, probably doesn't, but it essentially is or is very closely related to the breed that you're looking for. So if you have your heart set on a particular breed, you might be able to get a dog of that breed, but as a rescue rather than from a breeder. And so again,

you have that adult, you have that known quantity, but you get a little bit more of that breed feel. I think foster failure is how a lot of people end up with adult dogs into agility. So as you're talking about these breed rescues, and I'm kind of running through my head those that I know who do this, a lot of the people that get adults in agility,

they, they were helping out with their breed rescue group and they got to know this dog that they were fostering generally as an adult, and they fell in love with them. So, you know what we were talking about, all those traits that you get to identify as an older dog, that, that you have that known temperament, a known quality,

a foster failure, I think is a, is a way that a lot of people find themselves with an adult dog. So I just, I'm sure there's a couple listeners out there going, yeah, I started out as a foster, fell in love with this dog and the known was better than taking the risk on a puppy. Right? Absolutely. I think that gives you a little bit of a clue on how to approach acquiring an adult dog because the thing about fostering a dog is you're living with that dog over presumably an extended period of time.

I doubt they fostered a dog for one or two days and then said, Hey, I'm keeping it. Although I'm also sure that that's happened from time to time. And so when you're, whether you're going to a shelter, whether you're working through a breed rescue, I think you wanna try and position yourself as a potential home. But, but you,

you want to be able to have some time with the dog. Right. And I think seeing the dog multiple times in a variety of environments, maybe away from the shelter, a little bit away from the other dogs, dogs can behave very, very differently. It's, it is no different from puppy testing. I, I think I recall part of puppy testing being you take the puppy away from its litter mates and its moms and then you kind of see what it does,

right? And so, you know, it's all about context. Yeah, absolutely. And, and so then I think, I guess the last place that I would talk about getting an adult dog would be, or actually again, I'll split this one into two is, is from breeders. And I think that there are sometimes, I think there are kind of two main situations that I think of.

One is that there is a dog, basically a rehome. Now Rehome I think are, are not always, i, I think it's gonna be very specific situations where I think that's going to be a great agility dog for a person because there is a reason that the dog was rehomed. So it, it's not always, but It might be perfect for you.

It's not always bad, which I think is the key. Yeah. Because everybody assumes a dog that has been rehomed has been rehomed because of bad things, right? It could be, it's not the case. It could be size, it could be this dog just outgrew the international height cut, right? It could be a real mismatch in energy levels.

So let's say that a breeder has a litter of eight and six went to work homes and the last two were quote unquote pet homes. And then one of them went to a pet home with like a, an elderly person who I don't know, wasn't very mobile. And then they're like, this dog is way too energetic. You know, the dog really suddenly turned on the,

the energy level and they're, oh, that Actually sounds like what we want for agility, right? Yeah, Yeah. This dog would be better suited to a sports home. And so, you know, that that's gonna be a surrender back to the breeder and They may have a lot of skills. I mean, and especially if it's an agility re home,

like imagine a, a dog that's been trained all the way through to the excellent level, but the, but outgrew the, the cutoff that the handler was looking for, right? I mean, you could end up with a dog that you could go the very next weekend and compete with. Now I would say that those are fewer and further between than going and getting a rescue,

right? There's like lots of rescues out there. These kind of situations just kind of come up in ones and twos and randomly. But that's why even in the other podcast where we talked about the puppies establishing relationship with breeders and letting them know what you're looking for, that's how you are going to be one of their first calls when they say, Hey,

I know you were looking for a puppy, but this adult dog just came in and I think it's perfect for what you're looking for. And so I I I do think it's a lot more chance based that you're gonna, that that situation's gonna work out for you. But it does happen. And I think the other way that sometimes we see adult dogs get placed is essentially the breeder holds onto a dog and sometimes it is like the pick,

it is like the best dog in the litter that they keep for themselves. Yeah. This Is really sneaky. This happens more than You think. It happens more than you think. They keep the best dog for themselves and then for some reason that dog is not suitable for breeding. They have two Few teeth. Do you care about breeding? They have an undescended testicle.

Do I care about breeding? No. Do I exactly. Like these are things that I do not care about as an agility handler. And then now here's this adult dog known quantity. Can't They carry their tail? The tail carriage is not right appropriate for the ring. They'll never win. Right. They don't want that in their breeding program. Exactly.

And so you get this, this adult dog known quantity, fantastic. You know, presumably if you were gonna take it fantastic structure for jumping, you know, they've Been going around dog shows since they were little at traveling. Exactly. Because you know, they were supposed to be a big part of the Exactly. Program. And so this kind of all goes back to one of the things we talked about on the puppy podcast was being flexible.

Like I think when you know that your next puppy is happening anytime in the next like three years, you start laying the groundwork because getting an adult maybe one year before you had planned two or maybe delaying six months and then, you know, getting one of these situations like it might be worth it. You might end up in a really, really great situation that you wouldn't have been open to if you were just out there trying to pick one breeding,

putting down your deposit, waiting for the dog to come into heat, see how many puppies they have, get a puppy or not. You know, it's like having that, being a little bit more flexible and then opening your mind right to the possibilities I think is a really great Strategy. Well now I think I can go back to the point about being in control and frame it the other way by pursuing an adult dog rather than a puppy,

you are actually given a lot more control in certain areas, right? You don't have to guess about the way, the height, the temperament, what they look like. So pretty, pretty interesting. Yeah, absolutely. And I think a lot of times too with adult dogs and especially I would say these kind of rehome situations and things like that, I almost think of it as the opposite of foster fail.

You can get a dog and you can kind of quote, be getting it for yourself, but you can set it up with the breeder to say, I need to know if I'm gonna take an adult dog, I need to know that it's going to be the perfect fit for me and my family, so I'm going to take it as a foster for two weeks,

one month or whatever. And then we'll decide. So you kind of like make that agreement with the breeder ahead of time so that there's, so that you have the time and the space to truly evaluate that dog before you make that commitment. Of course. That's if the breeder is willing to do that. And yeah, I'm even thinking about the a dog that I'm working with a little bit right now.

They're doing some of our exercises for VIP program, some of our monthly small space, and she was a rehome and now it's doing great in agility. It was, it is on the IFCS team. Right. So yeah, With, with another handler, just to be clear like, like we are working with this dog, but, but her current handler got her as a rehome.

Right, right, right, right. All right. And Jen, anything else that we missed about adult dogs that you wanted to say? I think we covered a lot of it and you know, you hit really hard on the parts about establishing open communication and a relationship with a breeder. As a person who does breeding, I have had people reach out and say,

you know, hey, I'd be open to an adult dog. And so letting people know that that might be an option for you, I think will go a long way. Perfect. All right. And that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, hit aboard.com and magic Mind, happy training.


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