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Dogs are an active species that require plenty of exercise to remain healthy. You may take your canine for walks frequently, but few activities compare to the high-speed thrill of agility training. This guide is useful for owners who wish to learn about agility training, its benefits, and how to get their canine started with it.
What is Agility Training?
Agility training or dog agility is a sport in which owners direct their dogs through an obstacle course within the shortest amount of time. While each obstacle course has a unique size and layout, they typically feature obstacles such as weave poles, jump poles, tire jumps, tunnels, see saws, and pause tables.
This sport has become quite competitive over the years, with owners spending a significant amount of time training their canines to cross different obstacles in the swiftest time possible.
Benefits of Dog Agility Training
So why start your dog with agility training? Much of this sport’s popularity is due to the numerous benefits it offers owners and their canines. This includes:
1. Being Able to Spend More Time With Your Canine
Agility training offers dog owners an opportunity to spend more time with their canine. You can take your dog walks or play “fetch” with them regularly. However, these activities tend to be less engaging than agility training. This sport blurs the line between play-time and training, which means you and your canine get to have fun while they learn a new skill.
This activity also helps you bond with your pet, as they learn to understand you and your commands better.
2. Offering Stimulation and Exercise
Certain canine breeds such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Sheepdogs tend to be incredibly active. These breeds were specifically bred to be agile and possess plenty of stamina for work activities. However, this also means these canines feel restless when kept indoors for long periods.
The average Border Collies requires around one and a half hours of exercise per day, while Sheepdogs require a whopping two hours of exercise per day. Agility training offers a great alternative for owners who do not want to take their dogs for long walks to meet their exercise requirements each day. This sport is incredibly stimulating for high-energy breeds that love running around, as it helps them expend their excess energy.
High-energy breeds that do not receive an adequate amount of exercise may start engaging in destructive behaviors or become depressed. For this reason, owners should consider starting agility training with their dogs.
3. Showing off Your Dog’s Training
Agility training can seem a bit challenging to get into initially. It requires specialized equipment and plenty of patience during training. However, once your pooch becomes skilled at maneuvering through obstacle courses, you will love showing them off to others.
Agility training is a fun sport to witness, even as a spectator. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of watching a dog jump through a tire, weave between multiple poles swiftly, and tip a seesaw, all within a matter of seconds. This sport allows you to show off your canine’s athletic skills as well as their ability to adapt to new obstacles.
4. Helping Your Dog Indulge Their Natural Instincts
Humans have been domesticating dogs for thousands of years. However, they have still retained many of the natural instincts their original ancestors possessed. Modern dogs still enjoy hunting and chasing other animals. While agility training may not offer the same thrill as hunting, it still allows your canine to indulge their natural inclination to run or chase things.
Which Dog Breeds Excel at Agility Training?
Earlier we mentioned that active breeds such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Sheepdogs excel at agility training. However there are many other breeds that do well in this sport. Some traits that determine how well your dog will fare with agility training include:
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Some breeds are built for speed and agility, while others prefer taking things at a slower pace. If your canine has good muscles, straight legs, and strong shoulders, they may do well in agility training. However, if they have bad hips or splayed elbows, they may struggle to keep up with other breeds.
Training is at the core of all agility training. After all, your dog won’t know how to cross an obstacle course until they are taught how to do so. However, this requires them to be intelligent enough to understand and remember different commands.
Canine intelligence is difficult to measure, so you may not know if your canine is intelligent enough for agility training. However, dogs that have already shown themselves to be trainable in other areas should also fare well in agility training.
Some dogs just have a natural tendency to be hyper or active. This “drive” is what motivates them to chase a ball or even their own tail for several hours of the day. This natural drive will be especially useful in motivating them to complete obstacle courses.
The average agility training obstacle course can be confusing for canines, especially during the early days of their training. If your canine does not know how to cross a particular obstacle, they may feel discouraged and quit. However, if they possess enough of a natural drive, they will persevere and complete even the most challenging obstacle courses.
Obedience is also another important trait when it comes to agility training. Your dog may be intelligent and physically capable of overcoming obstacles on the course. However, that does not guarantee they will listen to you.
You can train your dog to become more obedient with the help of a training course such as Brain Training For Dogs. In addition to this, you should consider starting obedience training while your canine is still a puppy. An older dog that is set in their ways will be harder to train, so you should start early while you still can.
Agility Training Equipment
Owners who are interested in starting agility training with their dog should familiarize themselves with the various types of agility training equipment. Each obstacle course consists of many different hurdles, each of which tests your canine’s athletic ability and determination in different ways. This includes:
Weave poles are special poles that are planted into the ground or set up vertically. They are usually arranged in a straight line with each pole separated from the next by a distance of two feet. To cross this obstacle, your dog will need to pass between each set of poles in a left-right or right-left zig zag pattern.
Jump poles are poles suspended horizontally between a pair of stands. These look similar to the jumping fences used in competitive horse jumping.
You canine will need to jump over the bar to cross this obstacle. Owners can adjust the height of jump poles to fit their canine’s size. However, it may take some time to train your dog to jump over the pole instead of running around it.
Tire jumps are a less frequently used obstacle. However, they offer a greater challenge than jump poles. This obstacle consists of a wide ring or tire suspended between a square or rectangular metal frame. Your canine’s objective is to successfully jump through the tire.
This obstacle is more challenging than jump poles as your dog needs to align themselves vertically as well as horizontally to fit through the tire. By contrast, they only need to jump as high as possible to cross a jump pole.
Agility training tunnels consist of a long metal coil structure covered with a strong fabric. These tunnels are placed horizontally on the ground and can be straight or arranged into winding curved patterns.
The see saw obstacle consists of a long narrow plank held up by a pivoting stand at its center. Your dog will enter the see saw plank at its lower end, cross past the halfway mark, and wait for the other side of the plank to lower down before jumping off.
A pause table is a square platform that is typically at a height of one foot or less. The goal is to get your canine to jump onto the pause table and then “pause” momentarily before continuing with the obstacle course. This obstacle tests your dog’s patience and obedience, and offers an interesting change-up from the other obstacles on the course.
How to Start Agility Training
Owners that wish to start agility training with their dogs should follow these steps.
1. Start With DIY Equipment
It is best to start agility training using simple homemade obstacles, such as long boxes for tunnels, or jump rope suspended between two trees as a jump pole. This training period will help you understand whether or not your canine is suited for agility training.
2. Join an Agility Training Class
If you require assistance with agility training, you should consider joining an agility training class. As mentioned earlier, this sport is becoming very popular with dog owners from various backgrounds. You should be able to find at least one agility training class or an instructor in your city.
These instructors can help your canine become acquainted with obstacle courses, and also teach you the best ways to guide them through each obstacle. The added bonus of joining an agility training class is being able to practice on their obstacle course without purchasing any equipment yourself.
3. Purchase Your Own Equipment
Once you are confident your dog possesses the right skills and aptitude for agility training, you should purchase training equipment and set it up in an outdoor space. You can create an obstacle course in your own backyard, or set up a temporary obstacle course at the park by bringing your equipment along.
You can set up your obstacle course however you like. Trainers typically recommend switching up the arrangement occasionally to test you canine’s adaptability. Your dog should be able to recognize different obstacles and how to maneuver through them over time.
4. Practicing With Your Dog
If you haven’t enrolled in an agility training class or hired an instructor, you can still train and practice with your dog on your own. Some training steps to keep in mind include:
● Starting Slow: You can start by walking your dog around the course with a leash. Allow them to touch and/or sniff the different obstacles so that they become familiar with them.
● Guiding Them Through Each Obstacle: You should then help guide them through each obstacle. For weave poles, you can lead them between each pole on a leash. For tunnels, you should ask a friend to stand on the opposite end and call out to your dog with a treat in-hand.
● Train for Faster Times: Once you canine builds up confidence, you can cheer them on to complete obstacle courses in shorter times.
● Switch up the Course: When your dog has attained their best run time, you should consider switching up arrangement of obstacles. This will test their ability to adapt to courses without sacrificing their speed.
As you can see, getting into agility training can seem challenging at first. However, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both you and your dog. So consider enrolling your canine in an agility training class and help them unlock their true potential.