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- Dog agility training is essentially an obstacle course designed for dogs that they must get through in a limited time with only the commands from their owner.
- Before a dog can start any agility training, a clean bill of health from the veterinarian is needed as well as basic obedience class.
- Agility dog training is an excellent mental and physical stimulation for dogs as well as a great way for them to bond with their owners.
Lately there has been a growing trend towards agility training for dogs. Aside from being an excellent bonding hobby for owner and dog, it is also a fantastic outlet for dogs that require both mental and physical stimulation. I highly recommend agility training especially for highly active dogs and owners with the same kind of lifestyle.
What is dog agility training?
Dog agility is essentially an obstacle course. This course is designed for dogs that they must get through in a limited time with only the commands from their owner. No incentives like food or toys as well as no touching from owners. All of the courses are tough enough to need dogs to turn to their owner for assistance. Agility courses provide an excellent way to bond with your furry friend while also giving them much-needed exercise. Thus it is a team sport between human and canine.
Dog agility can be traced back to the United Kingdom in the 1970’s. Where trainers used various obstacles (weave polls, collapsed tunnel runs) to entertain audiences between the obedience and breed standard shows. In 1990 agility dog training in the United States started to catch on and official rules and competitions were introduced.
Owners were excited to find a sport that they could do with their dog that encompassed exercise, obedience and dedication. While dogs have been domesticated, they generally retain traits from when they were wild and thus a Bearded Collie will always want to herd someone or something. Rat Terrier will always want to chase and corner a rat.
Agility is a place to direct these behaviors and a great way to let your dog’s natural skills thrive; some dogs’ speed will win them a contest while other dogs’ ability to jump will do the same. While the United States Dog Agility Association sets the standard for dog agility and hosts national competitions, local breed clubs or regional dog sporting clubs often have their own set of rules.
We’ll also discuss what you need to know before signing up for agility training classes or competing in an agility trial. Agility courses provide an excellent way to bond with your furry friend while also giving them much-needed exercise.
Is it right for your dog?
Most dogs will thrive at the opportunity to chase down a Frisbee or jump over a panel. It’s really up to you how far you can take the training commands and practice. Agility is especially good for intelligent, high-energy breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers and most Spaniels.
Agility training is also an excellent way to improve the bond between owner and dog. “The more time spent involved in this activity can only strengthen the bond between dog and handler. It’s like a mom taking her child to the playground for the afternoon,” says Terri Crisp, Animal Resource and Rescue Consultant for SPCA International, “This focused, one-on-one time is priceless. For dogs that need to stay busy and have something purposeful to do, agility training can meet this important need.”
Indeed agility training forces a dog’s mind to concentrate on the task in front of them, challenging both their mind and body. It takes as much cerebral energy for a dog to focus on jumping over a gate as it does physical. That is why agility is so popular among high-energy, high-intelligence dogs like Border Collies who absolutely need an outlet for their smarts and vigor.
“Agility is a fantastic way to calm and settle a dog’s mind,” dog trainer Tibor Feigel of Zen Canine says. “It uses all of a dog’s physical and mental concentration and leaves them in the relaxed, peaceful state that owners want.”
How can I start agility training with my dog?
Before anything you will need to get a clean bill of health from your veterinarian. After that you will need to pass a basic obedience class. Just like with off-leash training, if your dog hasn’t mastered the “sit” and “stay” commands he is not ready for advanced training like agility. If your dog’s health and basic commands are all set then you can find a local agility class by searching on the Internet or contacting your local animal shelter. Many shelters use agility training to calm their high-energy dogs and thus improve their chances of adoption.
Well-behaved puppies at around 8 to 10 months are excellent candidates as most dog agility competitions usually require a dog to be 18 months to compete. Some dog competitions separate dogs not just by size but by age. So don’t let your dog’s age put you off from agility if he is up for the challenge. Often older dogs have a stronger bond with their owners which make them easier to handle and trust on the course. If there is any joint issue with your older dog, glucosamine or chondroitin supplements can help.
Basic Agility Training Do At Home
Jumps – You can improve your dog’s jumps by putting a piece of wood on stacks of books. Have him jump over then reward him with treats. Adjust the height of the jump by adding more books, and so on.
Dog Walk – For this one, you’ll be practicing your dog’s capability to walk on a raised bar that should normally be narrow—a bench is commonly used for this. Encourage your dog first to go up the bench and then slowly guide him from one end to another. Keep repeating until he gets more comfortable to walk back and forth.
Weave Poles – You’ll need to first position 10 to 15 vertical poles in a straight line with about 60cm distance per pole. Guide your dog to go through each spaces in a weaving-like manner. Flexibility is important here. Practice this movement more until your dog understands what to do and can weave through the poles without your guidance.
Tunnel – Set up a tunnel at home using children’s plastic tunnel toys. Simply lure your dog inside by using treats or toys. Keep repeating this until he gets comfortable going through this space. Nver force him in it especially in the beginning!
Things to Consider
If you’re thinking of giving dog agility a try, there are a few things you’ll need to get started. The first is a good quality dog agility course. You can buy or build your own, or if you’re lucky enough to live near an agility dog training club, you may be able to use their facilities.
Agility training equipment for small dogs
You’ll also need some basic agility equipment, such as a dog walk, A-frame, and tire. Again, you can buy this or make your own if you’re handy with tools.
Benefits of agility training for dogs
Furthermore agility training is a great way to excite children about the importance of training for canines. While young children are not appropriate handlers for dogs. Kids do like to watch agility competitions and get in on the training. It’s a great family activity that includes the family dog! Agility dog training is an excellent method to both intellectually and physically stimulate any dog while also improving the connection between owner and pet. “This training takes as much work from the owner as the dog.” Feigel continues, “but the result is the perfect balance between dog and owner.” And isn’t a calm, balanced relationship with our pooch what we are all after?
Agility Training For Dogs: Always make sure that both you and your pet are having fun. Training Sessions should be upbeat and positive, with plenty of rewards (treats, playtime) given throughout. This will help keep your dog excited about the process and eager to learn new tricks.
When should a dog start agility training?
You can start agility training when your puppy is over one year old. However, you can already practice and teach the foundations of agility training at a sooner time.
How do I train my dog for agility at home?
You can train your dog for agility at home by doing jumps on stacks of books that can be adjusted, getting him to o the dog walk on an elevated and narrow bench, develop his flexibility through weaving poles, or making him go through a children’s plastic tunnel.
What is the purpose of agility training for dogs?
Agility training for dogs is a way to stimulate your pet physically and mentally. These exercises keep them fit, flexible, strong, and smart.
How do you do agility training?
You can start doing agility training for your dog at home by setting up obstacle courses and then guiding your dog through each of them by using treats and praises. You can also enroll your pet to an agility training class.