Agility Training For Your Dog

Want to have creative fun with your dog? Think about Agility Sports for your dog. What is it? It is basically an obstacle course for dogs. If you’ve ever caught it on Animal Planet or ESPN, you may have seen dogs running through tubes, clearing hurdles, weaving through poles and jumping through hoops. And for most dogs, what is more fun than running over, under, and through stuff?

Dog Agility TrainingYou don’t have to compete. Have fun. Many people train their dogs in agility for competitions such as the AKC competition, but you don’t have to be that serious. Agility is still a great way to spend time with your dog. Why?

  1. Playtime! It’s playful running through, over and under stuff. And dogs love to play.
  2. Giving and Getting Love. You and your dog have to communication when training for agility. You both are learning to navigate the obstacles and she has to learn to understand your signals and body language. Agility training is actually a terrific way to truly mesh with your dog in a new way.
  3. A Job for the Noggin. Agility training is a mental as well as a physical challenge for your dog. She has to think about what she is doing, calculate, figure out and improve technique (at least if she doesn’t want to fall on that hurdle again). and exercising the brain is as healthy and stimulating for a dog as it is for you. Plus a dog that gets mental activities tends not to spend the brain energy figuring out how to empty the garbage can on the floor or which shoe to chew on.
  4. A Good Workout. Agility training is physically challenging. He will have to work a little bit as he jumps, runs, and climbs. So he gets a good physical aerobic workout that is good for his heart, lungs, muscles, and joints and he is (happily) tired at the end of the day.
  5. But Not Too Much. While the winning dogs are the fastest, agility is first and foremost about, well, agility. How well can the dog navigate the course? If you are doing this for fun, your dog travels the course and a comfortable pace that is maybe slower but still fun. Agility is fun and safe for slower dogs, smaller dogs, and even older dogs.
Dog AgilityHow to Start Agility Training

As with beginning any new exercise program, for dogs or humans, start slow. This not for puppies under a year, however, young dogs should not jump because landing on immature forelegs and shoulders can cause injuries. Your dog should be in relatively good shape. This means you walk her at least 5 days a week, at least, 30 minutes each time. You should not start this type of training unless your dog is getting this type of activity already.

The Course

These are the typical parts of the course. There is good specialty agility equipment available if you are serious about training. If you just starting out and want to test the waters, start with an inexpensive kit like Agility in a Bag or be creative with what you might already have.

Hurdles

Dog AgilityThe dog runs and leaps over a bar that is suspended above the ground with side posts. The hurdle height is based on the dog. These are adjustable. A beginner’s “jump” can be anything from a broomstick propped an inch or two off the ground. It is very important to start VERY low when beginning to let the dog get used to jumping and landing.

A beginner’s “jump” can be anything from a broomstick propped an inch or two off the ground. It is very important to start VERY low when beginning to let the dog get used to jumping and landing.

Weave poles

This consists of 5 to 12 narrow poles, about a meter high, that the dog zig-zags through. Again, you could start with broomsticks or garden stakes, but you need to really push them in the ground—they will be knocked over by beginning dogs. To make training easier, you can get weave poles with guides attached the direct the dog how to weave.

Rigid Tunnel

Also called a chute, the dog runs through this dog-sized tunnel made of a light material like nylon stretched over a light wire frame. Chutes are usually not too expensive, you may have purchased one for your kids. If you have a largish cardboard box, open both ends and start with this. This is much shorter than a competition chute but is good for starting out, especially if your dog is apprehensive. Entice her with a treat if necessary.

Dog Walk

This is kind of like walking the plank, the dog walks up a ramp, across a plank above the ground, and down the other ramp. Obviously, you can use any smooth, sturdy planks that you might have already, but you should keep it low to the ground, 6 inches or less.

Tire Jump

Just like it sounds, the dog jumps through a big hoop. Professional tires are usually wrapped with tape so that there are no places in which the dog could catch. You could try with a hula hoop or a bike tire to ensure jumping success.

While Agility training is fun for most dogs, make sure you are going at it properly to prevent injuries.Check out good sites like Dogplay.com Dog Agility-Just For Fun or try a good agility training book like The Beginner’s Guide to Dog Agility by Laurie Leach for teaching basics. To get your dog ready for agility activities, particularly with quick turns and jumps, tools like PetFlex poles are great for warm-ups or pre-training activities.