Agility Training 101
All pet parents know that teaching your dog basic tricks is essential in order to control your pet. In puppyhood, your pet begins with a blank slate; this is why it’s relatively easy to train your puppy. Potty training, crate training, and dog tricks can all be taught, but for the pet parents who want to go the extra mile, there is agility training.
What is dog agility training?
A type of dog sport (yes, there is such a thing), agility training consists of a dog being guided through an obstacle course. Dog shows have an agility portion; these animals are highly skilled and aided by equally talented handlers. Types of agility training exercises include:
- Contact obstacles – assorted ramps, teeter-totters, that the pet is required to navigate
- Jumping – hurdles, through tires/hoops
- “Pause” tables and boxes – the animal pauses, sitting/lying down on the surface
- Weave poles – similar to slalom in skiing
Why should I start agility training my dog?
Obviously it’s a great way to provide your pet with exciting exercise, but agility training also provides an opportunity for you to bond with your pet. As you attempt to teach your dog how to navigate obstacles, you will learn more about each others’ needs and personalities. Agility training also gets dogs in touch with their natural instincts; in the wild, dogs exhibit similar behaviors, jumping over logs and climbing up slopes. If you’re looking to get your pet into dog shows, seriously consider beginning training.
Can all dogs perform these tasks?
Some breeds and sizes of dogs are more suited to agility training. Medium to large dogs perform the best. Smaller breeds may not be able to attempt some agility tasks like jumping. Giant breeds (Great Danes, wolfhounds) may not have the energy to participate, while short-nosed dogs (pugs, bulldogs) can have difficulty breathing heavily. Refrain from starting agility training with puppies under nine months old, as growing bodies can be easily injured. If your pet has a high energy level, consider agility training as an outlet for these emotions; if your dog enjoys lazing around and snoozing, skip the intense training. And although every dog is lovable and unique, let’s face it – some dog breeds are more intelligent than others, and thus better suited to learning the complicated commands.
How do you teach a dog agility training?
Classes are available all across the United States for those pet parents who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with intense dog training. These courses vary in price depending on their length and the credentials of the trainer. If you are looking to teach your pet yourself, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you familiar with many dog training techniques?
- Have you had experience with dogs your whole life?
- Is your pet free of any joint or muscle conditions and has not been injured recently?
- Do you have lots of free time to put into training?
- Are you patient with your pet?
- Do you have a large training space available?
- Is your dog older than nine months?
- Does your pet learn quickly and respond to your commands?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then congratulations! You can begin training right away. But be warned, start slow; dogs can become easily bored or tired with repetitive training. It takes six to nine months on average for a dog to competently perform agility training tasks. Many books and instructional videos are available on the subject.
Agility training is an intensive dog sport that can be entertaining and healthy for pets and pet parents. Some types of dogs are well-suited to agility training, while others are not. Always consult your veterinarian if you think your pet has been injured or is at risk for injury. Be cautious not to overtrain your pet to the point of injury or exhaustion, and always reward him or her for a job well done. Happy training!