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If your dog has an abundance of energy, it’s important that you direct that energy into an activity that’s fun for you and her. Our guide will help you decide whether agility training is right for your dog.
Basic agility training can involve teaching your dog to weave-poles, go over see-saws and crawl under tables. It is an excellent source of exercise for both handler and dog and can be an incredibly rewarding and beneficial activity for both you and your dog whether you want to actually compete in agility trials or just do it for fun. Agility training can not only harness your dog’s energy and boost her confidence level, but it can also improve the special bond between dog and owner. After an assessment of your dog’s exercise needs, and recommendations from your vet, you may decide to embark on a whole new chapter in your pup’s training.
Agility training is often referred to as “the sport for all dogs,” because all types of dogs, from purebreds to mixed breeds, are allowed to compete. Whether it’s jumping hurdles, climbing ramps, or running through funnels, 150 different dog breeds (mixed breeds count as one group) have performed well in the sport of agility.
Organized agility competitions consist of a timed course on which a handler guides his or her dog through various obstacles. Much like equestrian jumping events, scoring is based on each competitor’s faults as they navigate the course. Also like equestrian events, agility competitions are very popular with spectators. There are videos online as well as televised events you can check out to see if it seems like something you want to pursue.
Agility is both a mentally and physically demanding sport, so it’s important that you consult your vet to determine whether your dog is a good candidate for such strenuous work. Throughout both the training process and competition, it’s critical that you always put your dog’s well being first, in terms of both health and psychology.
A great way to get started in the sport is an agility training class. These classes typically meet for one hour a week for six weeks. Classes tend to be enjoyable for dogs, beginning with playtime and warm-ups, which will allow you to meet other dog owners in the community. Be advised, the completion of a basic obedience class is often a prerequisite for agility training classes.
An important thing to keep in mind is that you should never force your dog to perform a task that makes her anxious or scared. If your dog isn’t comfortable with a certain obstacle, move on to another. It may take time for your dog to grow comfortable and confident, so start small and work your way up to complicated obstacles.
The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) has standardized the sport, promoting it as a fun, community activity with various levels of competition. Dogs are grouped together based on height, with each height division competing in either a ‘performance’ or ‘championship’ level event.
The performance level competitions consist of more generous time limits and lower jump heights, allowing dogs and handlers to have both fun and success with a modest training commitment. Dogs must be registered with the USDAA to compete in its events and are eligible to compete beginning at 18 months of age.
To get involved in canine agility, contact the USDAA or check their website for local groups and events. There’s even a junior handler program to involve school age children and promote responsible pet ownership.
This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.
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