Training Dog’s Agility is a sport in which a handler guides a dog through a series of obstacle courses in a race for time and accuracy. It is also one of the fastest-growing canine sports in the United States.
What Is It All About?
Agility training is all about building a ground between you and your dog. It teaches you how to use body language in order to communicate clearly and effectively to your canine. Agility is when a dog completes a 12 to 18 obstacle course in a specific order in the fastest time through obstacles like passing through tunnels, hurdles, performing tricks, and many more. Some courses are complex enough that dogs have a hard time completing them even with guidance from their handler. The handler’s techniques are just as important as the dog’s obedience skills.
Agility courses became popular in late 1978 after an exhibition called “Crufts Dog Show” according to The Baltimore Dog Magazine. The Crufts course consists of standard obstacles laid out by a judge in his preferred design based on the area with a specific size. The obstacle course also has different types of flooring, like dirt, rubber, grass, or special matting. This is to prevent the dog from slipping off while doing the activity.
So how to start the Dog Agility Training?
If you’re wondering if you can train a pup, then yes you can!
For beginners, simple and lower (in height) agility type of equipment is used. Always remember that dogs come in lots of sizes, even as a puppies, so it is much better to always use lowered equipment for them to jump over, keeping them from harmful injuries in case they tip off while practicing.
- Be careful with training with puppies, they still need to grow. Training them too much might affect their developing joints.
- Avoid letting your pup jump over any obstacles larger than itself. Their bones are still not fully developed. Jumping too much, especially a bit higher than normal, can give them serious injuries.
- Ask your veterinarian for advice before you start agility training.
What Type of Dog Do You Have?
In training, there are two types of dogs:
- The confident
- And the timid
Some dogs are more active than others as you may have noticed.
If your dog has a lot of stamina it obviously will want to keep going even when it’s time to call it a day.
If your canine is like that then try getting him more involved in sports activities. Tire him out. Find a place where there’s an equipped obstacle course and if your dog jumps around and tries to catch up playing with you in the hurdles then lucky you! You got yourself a potential agile dog.
Your Dog’s Behavior
Talking about behavior, does your dog have too much energy?
Did you know that agility training will help them tire their body and mind?
This is the reason why it can also help with behavioral problems; usually, the main cause of this is boredom.
If you train them, you are training not only their bodies but also their minds. They’ll be a lot more relaxed and you won’t have to worry about your pooch nibbling your shoes.
A Test of Trust
This training will test how reliable your pet is once they’re not monitored and it teaches your dog how to respect you.
If your pooch is enjoying listening to what you tell them during training, they’ll be more likely to listen to you at home as well.
And if you’re planning on adding more fur ball critters into your home, it means you’re confident enough to train the new ones.
Now, where were we? Ah, yes…
Confident dogs tend to be more active around the set and might play with the equipment instantly.
They show more interest when it comes to playing, but don’t think it’s easier to train these types of dogs. They are easily distracted and run around the set a lot, so you still need to invest much more patience in them.
The timid ones may need more time and patience before they can overcome their hesitations.
They may be wary and get overwhelmed with all the equipment that they are not used to seeing and playing around with, but you need to give them extra support to boost your dog’s confidence.
Some timid dogs tend to get playful once they see other dogs do it, while some get scared. Investing more patience is a must when you have a timid pooch.
Characteristics of a Successfully Trained Dog
Successful agility trained dogs have these characteristics:
- Motivated. Dogs are keen to work for toys or food, which means they are successfully trained in dexterity.
- Concentration. Following their owner or handler’s command without getting distracted is also a good sign.
- Confident about one’s self. Your pup should be able to work even without you around and be able to handle changes.
- Energetic. Dogs that get bored easily or get in trouble around your home often excel in agility.
- Athletic. Having good health and stamina means they are more inclined to do more obstacles than other non-active dogs.
Teamwork Is a MUST!
Agility is a sport where teamwork should be built.
A dog doesn’t know which obstacle to take or gets confused while running around the course without guidance from his handler.
The dog must learn how to focus on you even with all the distractions in his surroundings. You must draw their attention by teaching your dog how to make eye contact with you on cue.
First, you must start in a quiet location where you are the only interesting thing around; then slowly transfer to more distracting locations.
Always remember to give lots of encouragement and appreciation when your dog completes a trick. It will encourage them to remember what they were taught when they’re rewarded with treats.
The training techniques vary in equipment. Two of the most difficult obstacles are the teeter-totter and the weave poles.
The teeter-totter (or seesaw) is one of the toughest obstacles a dog can face due to its movements. They need to balance while crossing without jumping back; usually, when the seesaw starts to tilt to the other side it scares them and they will jump off or go back. You need to give them an extra push of motivation to make it.
The weave poles are the next other hard obstacles to tackle. Most owners have weave poles back at home. It may look easy because they’ll just have to pass a series of poles, but that’s not the case.
Keeping their focus from shifting from one side to another is tough and more difficult when they get distracted.
Are Any Classes Available?
If you thought about it, then yes! There are! Actually, there are a lot!
Agility can be trained independently (by the owner) or with a trainer.
There are clubs that offer classes. If owners decide to take their canines to class they’ll get more benefits, like they get to have access to agility equipment, especially the large obstacles. They can also ask experienced handlers for advice or guidance on how to train their dogs in a much more effective way.
Keeping Fit While Having Fun!
Talking about fitness, aside from keeping your dog fit, you will also be part of its fitness exercise and bond with your dog as well.
Always keep in mind that the dog must be fit enough to run and jump without causing injury to itself. Of course, we don’t want our pets to be harmed.
When Your Bond Is Stronger
Speaking of bonds, agility courses are created so that dogs would not be able to complete them without their handler’s guidance.
The dog relies on his handler’s verbal and hand gestures in order to navigate the course; the trust between the two of you will increase.
Passing through agility obstacles will help reinforce your canine’s basic obedience commands, enhance communication between you and your dog, and this will greatly help improve your dog’s behavior outside of the training grounds.
Natural Instincts Awaken
Did you also know agility training will awaken your dog’s natural instinct?
In the wild, dogs are natural hunters, chasing a variety of prey. Dogs often follow rabbits and foxes through a forest and navigate through a variety of obstacles.
Their natural instincts involve jumping over logs and boulders, climbing up slopes, and pushing themselves through bushes and other areas that are hard to reach for humans. Catching prey is what dogs do best.
Agility courses are designed to imitate such types of natural scenarios in order to satisfy your dog’s natural instincts.
What Benefits Will You Get?
Are there any benefits of training your pooch? Yes, a lot.
Agility training can give your dog many benefits, including increased health, improved behavior, and, most of all, a stronger bond between you and your lovable canines.
Always remember that you don’t have to be athletic or have any experience in dog training to get started with dog agility.
Dogs of all ages and breeds, as well as owners of all ages and capabilities, can participate in these wonderful sports. Some breeds of dog are more built for agility training, such as Shetland Sheepdogs, Jack Russells, and Pembroke Welsh Corgis. This is because dogs with a medium build tend to perform well, the same goes for some animals from a working background or who are naturally energetic.
Overall, dogs may vary in their speed and accuracy of finishing an obstacle, therefore handlers must modify their handling style to suit and support the dog. Whether it’s for competition or just leisure, the most important skill is teamwork by learning how to work together efficiently and safely. If one is stubborn or the other is not patient enough things won’t work the way you want them to.
If you want to train your dog, I suggest you pack more patience because you’ll need it big time. Good luck!