Posted : 7/25/2007 10:35:29 AM
First of all, I don't think anyone should run an entire course with a dog who is not trained well enough in agility to be able to successfully complete the course off leash.
That said --- In the beginners class most, if not all, of the dogs tend to learn the obstacles on leash. One at a time. Then you start stringing a few things together, but you still keep it very short because the longer the "course," the more likely it is for the handler to get left behind and yank on the dog (thus discouraging them).
I think that the average adult is more than capable of handling a leashed dog over jumps and through weaves. I short child is not.
In my beginners agility class we had a small 10-12 year old girl with her overly rambunxious young dog (the mother came but only watched and attempted to catch the dog the many times he got loose). It was obviously very difficult for the girl to keep up with her dog while at the same time raising her arm high enough to clear the jump standard while holding the leash. The end result was that her dog would spring over the bar only to be lynched and flung backwards when he hit the end of the leash. The weave poles were physically impossible for this girl to get her dog through, even with the use of guide wires, because she could not maneuver her arm over and through the poles as we adults could. Both girl and her mother "hit the mats" while chasing their dog because the dog got loose many times thanks to the young girl not being able to adequately control it.
This trio did not come to any further classes after the first night. My instructor offered them private lessons (starting with obedience) and they did not take her up on it. We were all so thankful to have them out of our agility group.
While I want to encourage junior handlers in agility, I do think that perhaps their training approach needs to be done a bit differently --- starting by taking more than the average number of obedience classes to ensure that they are coming into agility with a dog who responds well off lead and has a very reliable recall. This will make their journey into agility far easier and more enjoyable for everyone (dog included). Taking these classes in obedience will also teach the kid HOW to train and give them the tools they need to properly read their dog.