Canine agility training is the fastest growing dog sport in North America. Exposure on television has boosted the sport’s popularity and the fast pace and thrill of the training itself are attracting new people all the time. It’s easy to see why many owners and their dogs are hooked on the sport.
What is Dog Agility Training?
In agility training, dogs run a colorfully designed obstacle course full of hoops, hurdles, tunnels, the dog walk plank, seesaws, weave poles, and a 3-meter A-frame, all while being coached through the course at full speed by their owner. There are also designated places on the course for obedience cues such as heeling, sitting, down-stays, and send-aways.
Your dog performs these exercises off leash, making them even harder. No treats or food is allowed, and owners can not touch their dog or the obstacles. The whole race around the course is fun to watch and fun to perform. Fun is the key. While dog and owner try to do the course to the best of their ability, and in the quickest time possible, both are having a good time. The whole event looks something like a game show, but it’s a real competition for you and your dog.
Who Can Participate in Agility Training?
Anyone can participate in agility. It is not restricted to certain breeds or people. There are several different organizations in North American which hold training classes and put together teams and offer competitions. There is no age limit for people or dogs. Puppies and children are also encouraged to participate. There are different categories of competition offered, for different sizes of dogs, to make the competition more fair.
Just like humans, before beginning any strenuous training with your dog you should visit your vet to make sure your dog is in good condition and is up-to-date on shots.
What Equipment is Used in Agility Training?
Agility handlers need comfortable shoes (tennis shoes are fine) and clothes you can run in. The dog isn’t the only one who’ll be exercising on the agility course. The dog agility equipment you will need for your dog includes a leather or webbed buckle collar and a leather, nylon or rope lead of fairly long length. Don’t use a chain lead since it could get caught on jumps or other equipment.
Agility training consists of two parts. First there are the obstacles that the dog faces; and then there is the control portion of the training. The A-frame is the best place to begin the obstacle training. You will also train your dog on the dog walk plank, the low jump and to go through the tunnel.
The control training shows your dog’s discipline on the agility course and off. Your dog will show that he can heel and sit. Other commands include going left and right, lying down, and waiting. Your dog will also need to learn a normal recall (returning anytime you call), and the recall over obstacles. He will also need to know the “send away” command — going ahead of you when told to do so. You can practice many of these commands at home without using agility training equipment.
Canine Agility Training Tips
You should begin training by getting your dog’s attention. You can talk to him and give him a treat. You shouldn’t have any trouble holding his attention. Make sure your dog is able to follow basic commands such as sit, lie down, come, and stay. Start with the correct lead (six feet is usually good) and a comfortable collar (measure your dog’s neck and add two inches). Always be positive and praise your dog when he does what you ask. Focus on your dog and keep a good attitude about learning. Learning is fun, and agility training is a lot of fun for both you and your dog.
Agility is a fun thing you can do with your dog so training for it should be a lot of fun, too. Keep this in mind and your dog will have a blast.