Many people ask me what Dog Agility training consists of, and even more so how you should get started with this popular pastime. There are a lot of informative articles on the internet which cover the subject, but many of them do not spell everything out in black and white for the beginner, let alone provide any form of free training guide for your dog. I have happily been training my canines for over 8 years, and am happy to cover any Agility-based dog questions, answered for free. So, let’s get started!
Q. What is dog agility all about?
A. Have you ever noticed how some dogs just seem to grin while they run up and down, to and fro, jump, bark, chase birds, fetch sticks, and generally enjoy life? Well, that is the starting point for dog agility. In addition to the sheer enjoyment for the dog and its owner, it also encourages a stronger bond between them and aids general behavioural training for the animal. The general idea is that dogs complete an obstacle course as quickly as they can, with penalty points awarded for missed or incorrectly tackled obstacles: the animal which completes the course in the shortest time and with the least amount of penalty points, is the winner.
Q. Is it specific to any particular breed of dog?
A. No. All shapes and sizes of dog can take part, although the type of course that the dog follows can vary according to the physical size of the animal. For example, you would not expect a Chihuahua to be able to clear a high jump built for a Great Dane! Dogs do not have to be pedigrees, either. Any mutt off of the street can have a go.
Q. If I wanted to get started with dog agility, how would I go about it?
A. First of all, decide if you want to do it for fun, or if you want to be fully competitive. Then decide whether you want to try it with the dog you already have, or (if you hope to become fully competitive) if you need to find a dog which is likely to do well in competition. Then find a local club or individual trainer who can get you on the way. Although there are many dogs who compete in both obedience and agility, there is no necessity for agility dogs to be as well trained as obedience animals. Nevertheless, next to a strong and happy relationship between owner and dog, control is essential to satisfactory and successful participation in agility events and competitions. Therefore, basic obedience is a necessity, and most clubs will require a demonstration of some of the more basic commands before accepting a dog (and owner) for an agility training programme. The commands that you and the dog will need to master to get accepted are: drop on command, down, sit, recall, wait, etc..
Q. How long will it take to train my dog for participation in agility events?
A. First and foremost, it is very important that you do not enter a dog into a competitive environment before it is at least eighteen months old. Any earlier, and there is a very real risk that the animal may suffer physical problems or illness, as the animal’s body has not fully developed until then. After that, it all depends on the enthusiasm of you and your dog, and your dog’s intelligence and ability to absorb training.
Q. What is the most important thing in dog agility?
A. For you and your dog to have fun!