Collie Agility Training: How to Train a Dog for Competition
Collie agility training is a fun sport for both the Collie and the owner. During an agility trial, the dog demonstrates its agile nature and versatility by following the cues of its handler through a timed obstacle course consisting of tunnels, jumps, weave poles and more. The dog must follow your directions through the correct order of obstacles. This amazing sport helps strengthen the bond between the dog and the handler and it provides plenty of fun and exercise for both of them. If you have fun with it, your dog will too.
Collie agility training is one of the best ways to get your Collie to calm down, behave better and stay fit. The sport requires a lot of training and finesse but it is incredibly rewarding.
Agility competitions are held nationwide and are overseen by multiple organizations including the USDAA, the NADAC, and the AKC. These organizations can connect you with local programs to help you get started in the sport.
The agility course consists of the following obstacles:
- Weave poles
- Standard jumps
- Pause table
- Tire jump
The dog must go through each obstacle in the proper order and his performance will be scored based on his speed, how he handles each obstacle (like the height of the jump) and the number of faults he made.
Sometimes getting involved in Collie agility training can be intimidating and you may wonder if you or your dog will have what it takes to compete. The best way to get started is to set up a practice course at home. We’ll tell you more about how to do that later in this article.
Your dog will see his training as playtime. Collie agility training can really boost a dog’s sense of well being because it works on the part of the brain that is associated with getting tasks done. So participating in agility training can make your dog feel like he’s done something productive. It is a great way to help keep your dog calmer and to fight anxiety.
To learn more about agility training, read A Beginner’s Guide to Dog Agility.
Overview of Collie’s Athleticism
Collies are very athletic dogs who enjoy agility training. You may want to speak to your veterinarian before beginning agility training to make sure that your dog is up to the task. Also, make sure your dog is old enough to perform the sport. The bones of puppies and younger dogs are not yet mature enough and if you start too early, you will be facing the risk of broken bones if something goes wrong.
Regardless of how athletic your dog is or how much he enjoys the sport, you must always be conscious of heat during the summer months. Make sure to give your dog plenty of breaks and to provide water so he will not get overheated.
Collies in Agility Competitions
Collies are very eager to learn and can do well with agility training. Most Collies are very trainable and they excel with the use of positive training techniques. Collies don’t do very well with lots of repetition, so break your training time up into shorter sessions and remember to keep it fun.
Tips for Agility Training
To get started with Collie agility training, you might want to enroll in a local training class, attend a seminar or take private lessons. You can also read books about agility training and watch instructional videos. One way to find a good instructor is to attend local Agility Trials and talk with the competitors. Tell them that you are interested and ask for suggestions on good instructors.
Start slow when it comes to training. First, teach your dog to master the commands necessary to finish the obstacle course and then you can work on speed and accuracy.
If you plan to compete in official agility events, it will require a great deal of practice and a good understanding of the rules. With the right training and some persistence, this is a sport that both children and adults can enjoy with their Collies. Your dog will compete with other larger dogs including Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Dobermans.
To be competitive in these official events, your dog must be in good athletic condition, at a good weight, and willing to work with his handler. Requirements of the agility event vary. Some are based on speed while others are more geared towards perfect execution of the obstacles.
Many owners start by setting up a home course. Purchasing professional obstacles can be expensive, but you can build your own training course at home with things like PVC pipes and benches. Many of the materials you need to build a backyard agility course can be purchased at local hardware stores – or you may even have them laying around your home.
According to Cesar Milan, here is how to create each type of obstacle:
- Weave poles – You can create weave poles by sticking 10 to 15 ski poles or PVC pipes into the ground. Allow enough space in between each pole so that your dog can safely navigate around each pole.
- Dogwalk – Use a picnic bench or construct a dog walk by placing a 12-foot piece of plywood across two cinder blocks.
- Standard jumps – Stack cinder blocks on top of one another and place strips of plywood on top. Adjust the height of the jumps appropriately for the height of your dog.
- Pause table – Try using an old coffee table that is low to the ground and stable.
- Tunnel – A plastic collapsible children’s tunnel can be purchased from a department store (usually for less than $20) and will make a perfect obstacle for your dog to crawl through.
- Tire jump – An old bike or car tire can be strung from a sturdy tree branch to create a tire jump for your course. Make sure that the opening is large enough for your dog to safely jump through. Hold onto the tire while initially training your dog to jump through it.
- Teeter boards – Build them with a long piece of wood and some PVC pipe. Mix an anti-skid additive with paint and cover the entire board to provide more traction as your dog walks across the board. Purchase a large plumbing pipe from a local hardware store. Place the pipe directly in the center of the board and drill two holes on either side of the pipe. Place a carriage bolt through each of the holes and through the pipe to attach it to the board. Next, place the bolts on the inside of the holes in the pipe and tighten a nut on each bolt to hold them together.
This sport is growing in popularity because of its many benefits, not the least of which is the sheer fun of the competition. It provides great exercise and encourages positive training techniques. It can also help to increase a dog’s self-confidence. To learn more about agility training, read our article Agility: An Exciting Dog Sport.
To learn more about owning a collie, read our article Owning a Collie: Things to Know.