Are you looking for fun activities and exercises for your pet’s body and mind? Then you should try out dog agility training!
Agility is a sport for dogs, originated in England. Nowadays, agility training is known and used worldwide. Dog agility training is not only improving the skills and fitness of your four-legged friend, but builds confidence as well.
Agility is fun!
The two most important things in agility training is fun and physical activity. Almost every dog can do agility training. The only requirement is a good health. The different obstacles are adapted to the size of the dog. Before you start the agility training, a certain level of obedience is quite important – further down you will see why.
What is Agility?
The dog runs through a course consisting of around 20 obstacles. The obstacles range from simple hurdles, a viaduct, long jumps, a tyre, a table, a flat tunnel and a tube tunnel to the contacts consisting of a 1,70 m high A-frame, a dog walk and a see-saw. As part of the course the dog also has to do a slalom. The slalom consists of 12 bars and the dog has to go through independently.
The dog-handler team must complete the course within a predetermined time and the obstacles must be negotiated in the correct order, without any errors. The handler is allowed to position himself anywhere on the course, with a bit distance to the dog. Only commands and signals are allowed during the run through the course. The dog and handler are very focused on each other and each hint from the partner is understood and performed. Dog agility training is all about building a common language between dog and owner. The focus and strong connection has a positive influence on the overall dog-human relationship.
Every beginning is hard! In order to manage the obstacles properly and without fear, the dog must be introduced to a variety of obstacles and become familiar with them. Don’t ever let your dog do an obstacle that he hasn’t tried before. Did you dog ever fall down from an obstacle? Or is he afraid of the see-saw because he thought is was a dog-walk? These things can happen and you are very lucky if your dog has enough confidence to quickly put away such experiences. If not, you have to work really hard to overcome the fear and rebuild the trust.
To minimize the risk of injury the collar or harness should be removed before each workout. This brings us back to the importance of basic obedience. Since the dog is working without collar and leash basic obedience is necessary if the handler wants to control and train the dog.
If you have a very lively and active dog, who enjoys running around and chitchatting with other dogs, this might be a challenge… but also quite fun! My little macho-man has a soft spot for female Shelties and when he started his agility training he always ran away from the course to greet the ladies. However, as time passed, his love for agility training and our team work grew so much that he now saves his male instincts for after the training.
It is a good idea to start the agility training with easy and simple obstacles like a small jump, where the bar is still lying on the floor, or a straight, short tunnel. You should first increase the level of difficulty and the number of obstacles when the exercise are performed flawlessly. You have to clearly define exactly what you want and set clear goals. Before you bring your dog to the course, you should know exactly which movement you want to use. The more secure you are in your movements, the better your dog understands you.
At the agility tournaments you are not allowed to touch or feed your dog while running. During the training it is, therefore, very important to motivate your dog with praise, toys and treats. Be careful that you don’t overtrain your dog – it has to be fun for both of you.
A training with 2 to 3 short workouts (5 minutes each) followed by a break is the perfect amount of training. Always end the agility training with lots of praise and a small reward. Remember to give the reward before the dog gets unfocused and tired, as he might then loses the lust for agility training.
The agility equipment can be a bit expensive. However, it is possible to find cheaper hurdles and tyres from different manufacturers. The best thing to do is to go to a dog school and ask if they offer agility classes. There you’ll find high-quality equipment, a qualified trainer on your side and you’ll be in a group of like-minded people.
Have fun with agility!