Dog Agility Training: A Guide To Getting Started
by Lorie Huston, DVM on August 4, 2013
Many dogs find the sport of agility to be great fun, especially those who prefer to spend more time playing than lounging on the couch.
Today, we’re proud to offer a guest post prepared by Sebastian Paulin. Sebastian will offer some tips about how to get your dog started in agility. Enjoy!
Dog Agility Training: A Guide To Getting Started
Dogs like sporting events as much as humans do. Agility training is a fine way for your dog to work off extra energy and stave off boredom.
Is your dog full of energy and easily bored? Consider giving dog agility training a try. Agility training is a sport in which the dog runs a specially designed obstacle course without a leash. Many dogs find this sport to be great fun, especially those who prefer to spend more time playing than lounging on the couch.
Is this the right sport for your dog?
Any dog in good health can benefit from the fun and mental stimulation of agility training, but the competitive side of the sport is best suited for medium-sized working breeds such as poodles, retrievers, and sheepdogs. The obstacles courses include jumps that short-legged pooches would find difficult and obstacles to weave around that less-mobile dogs will find challenging to navigate. Neither of these are problems for the hobby level of the sport, however.
Most clubs require that a dog will be finished growing before joining the club. You don’t want to put too much strain on growing joints and bones. Preliminary training can start earlier in puppyhood at home.
Medical problems? As long as your dog does not have a contagious disease, this sport can be adapted for her. If she does have such a disease, you and she can pursue it at home, but of course you’d keep her away from other dogs so her illness doesn’t spread. A missing limb, deafness, and even blindness can be accommodated.
Skills should Fido have before starting agility
Agility is an off-leash sport. If you’re starting agility by yourself at home, it can be done along with basic obedience training. If you’re going to a club, Fido should already have the basic commands under his belt, and he should be pretty confident that if you are asking him to try a new “trick” that you have something tasty in your pocket to reward him, or that you’ll be lavish with praise and snuggles.
Finding a local club
There are agility training clubs all over Australia. Some are attached to obedience training schools, and some are completely separate. You’ll find that, like most sporting clubs, some clubs are more competitive than others. (Editor’s note: The same is true here in the US.)
Do a quick search online or in your telephone book to see what is in your area.
Then, call around to the nearest possibilities, and ask some questions. Is the club mostly a social one, or does it focus on competition? Are all kinds of breeds welcome, or is it specific to a certain breed? What is the minimum age for dogs in this club? Does the club meet indoors or out? Are there classes that meet when you can attend, considering your usual schedule? How big are the classes? Ideally, you’ll be looking for a class with fewer than twelve dogs.
Once you have some basic answers, arrange for a visit to observe a class at the clubs that sound best to you. Is everyone having fun, human and canine? Does the equipment look like it is well-maintained? Mud spatters and the like are fine, but be sure the obstacles are in good repair.
If everything looks good at this point, you’ve probably found your agility club. It’s time to sign up for a class.
What to expect in beginner competitions
Agility competitions, also known as agility trials, are held at all levels of ability and experience. Dogs are also divided by size, so a border collie won’t be competing against Chihuahuas.
In your first competition, your dog will be going through relatively short obstacle courses that only have easy obstacles. Your dog will be expected to be able to run obstacles in both directions. You won’t be using a leash because it’s an off-leash sport, and you won’t be able to bribe your dog with a treat during the course itself. There are many allowances for beginner dogs, and mistakes are expected. It’s a safe sport, and you don’t need to worry that your adorable pooch might forget what to do with a jump.
Also, many competitions have a beginner’s exhibition category, in which the dogs don’t compete against each other. They just show off their skill. This can be an excellent way to start off, for both of you. You’ll be able to see what is done in the competition, without the pressures of competing against the other athletes.
Where to go from here
Does this sound like fun to you? Does it seem like something your dog would enjoy? The next step is to find your local clubs and ask some questions. If agility training isn’t something that would suit you or your beloved K9 you can check out Love That Pet for some other exercise ideas to keep your dog in top shape.
About the Author: Sebastian Paulin is Director of Operations at Love That Pet. When not learning about the latest trends in pet supplies you will find Sebastian exploring the great outdoors with his Chocolate Labrador “Cadbury”.
About Lorie Huston, DVM Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.
This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette