A Beginner’s Guide to Dog Agility

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Looking for a sport that both you and your dog can enjoy? There’s a number of activities that owners and dogs can share and participate in together, and one of the more popular ones is dog agility. What makes dog agility unique is that pet owners and their dogs can either participate in it recreationally for fun exercise, or really commit to it and enroll in competitions to test your skills against other teams of dog owners and dogs.

What is Dog Agility?

Dog agility is a sport where a team of a handler and a dog is handled run through an obstacle course. The sport originated in England in the 1970s as a demonstration sport. The new, fast sport immediately took off and within a couple of years it was given official dog sport status in the UK. Today, agility is one of the most popular dog sports around the world, and is broadcasted on television and online to large audiences.

Dog agility is a timed event, with the fastest time through the course without errors or penalties being crowned the winner. A typical agility course will feature 12-18 obstacles. Obstacles can consist of tunnels, jumps, hurdles, weave poles, or ramps. The goal of the course is to force teams to encounter a variety of obstacles to test different forms of agility.

Unlike dock diving or treibball where the handler is largely stationary, in dog agility the handler moves around quite a bit. The handler needs to quickly lead their dog through the course in order to secure a competitive score.

Who Can Participate in Dog Agility?

Agility can be practiced with any breed of dog, no matter their size. The obstacles on a course are adjusted to fit the size of the dog. A dog only needs to be healthy enough to run through the course, and the handler must be healthy enough for the physical activity they’re going to exert as well. If you’re interested in getting into dog agility, a good way to start is to contact your local agility club or an experienced coach, who can help you to start your new hobby safely and well informed. The age of your dog also does not bar them from participating in agility. The game can be enjoyed by puppies and older dogs alike!

How to Train Your Dog for Agility

An awesome part of dog agility is that you can train them to play just for fun in the backyard with one or two obstacles, or go all out and join a local club to train on a more advanced course. In either scenario, you’re going to need to start with the basics with your dog. Here’s a brief overview of how to train your dog for three of the common obstacles you’ll face in a dog agility course.

Jumps

When practicing jumps you should lower the bar so it is only a few inches off the ground. Before taking a run at leaping over the jump, let your dog explore the equipment. Let them walk near it and take some sniffs to feel more comfortable with what is surely going to be a unfamiliar object for them. When your dog seems comfortable, lead them over the bar on a short lead and praise them when they clear it. Repeat this process slowly raising the bar over time but never to a height where they knock the bar. With enough practice, they’ll get to the point where they can clear it on their own.

Chutes and Tunnels

While two separate obstacles on a dog agility course, chutes and tunnels have the same training basics. First fold the chute so that it is shorter in length making it a easier challenge for your dog. Place a long lead on your dog’s leash that feeds through the chute and get them to sit at one end. Head to the other side and verbally encourage your pup to come through. If they don’t, try using their leash as a gentle guide. As they learn to travel through the chute or tunnel, make sure to shower them in praise. As they get more comfortable going through on their own, extend the chute or tunnel slowly until you finally hit the full length.

Weave Poles

Weave poles are common obstacles in dog training, and take a bit of work from a training perspective. A good way to start is by leashing your dog and walking them through the poles slowly. After a few rounds, ditch the leash and try deploying voice commands to guide them through the poles. As with the other steps, celebrating their progress is a great way to condition them to get through the the poles on their own.

Learn More at PetPlace

Teaching your dog to maneuver their way through an agility course is a great way to establish a bond with your dog, and for you both to get some exercise. If you want to learn more about dog obedience and training, PetPlace is a great resource for you. We have thousands of vet-approved articles that are stuffed full of unique and informative insights to guide pet owners thought the awesome experience of pet ownership.

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