Are you looking for a great way to get in shape mentally and physically? Do you want the same for your dog and strengthen the bond you two share? Consider agility training. Agility is an exciting sport for dogs and their human companions. Seeing a dog maneuver through an obstacle course is an amazing sight!
On an agility course a contending dog must successfully conquer a variety of obstacles in a predetermined pattern. Obstacles include tunnels, teeter totters, weave polls, jumps, tire jumps, a pause table, dog walks, and contacts. On a dog walk, the dog must ascend to a platform and descend as well; however, sometimes they are a-frame in shape. Those called “contacts” have bright yellow zones. The judges will watch for where the dog makes its contact in the zones. Footing position, speed, height, and faults are all considered when the contestant is scored. Obstacles are adjusted for breeds’ heights and weights. Agility does not discriminate. Breed does not prohibit a dog from competing. An incredible mix of people are trainers, too. From seasoned athletes to handicap children, the range of trainers is inspiring. The bottom line is that if you can control your dog, then you can be an agility trainer. Controlling your dog means it must obey commands from afar. When a dog is on an agility course, it will be working at a distance from its trainer, plus a crowd will be watching. Mastering this skill alone is one of the great benefits of agility training; many owners report their dogs improve their obedience off a leash after having trained for the sport.
Agility training gives a dog a purpose. This sport is like work for a dog and requires more complex thinking than when a dog is walking with its master or running at the dog park. Agility training is fitness for both body and mind of the dog and trainer. These dogs learn to get work done while becoming more confident and less anxious. You will gain confidence, too! Another bonus is the social aspect of the sport. Whether you are at a training facility or the competition, you and your dog will have ample opportunities to socialize.
If you think you would like to become involved in agility training, watch experienced contenders online or at a live event. Consult the American Kennel Club Agility (AKCA), United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA), or North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC) for information on upcoming competitions. These professionals can put you in contact with local clubs and trainers. You are encouraged to first attend as an observer without your dog. This gives you an idea of what to expect. Know that competitions often require the help of many volunteers. As a volunteer, you gain knowledge, meet people with similar interests, and possibly earn credit towards the cost of training camps or competition entry fees.
Before signing up for anything, schedule a meeting with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy enough for agility training. Young dogs could be put at risk if their bones are still growing. Likewise, be cautious with older dogs whose joints and bones may damage easily. If you plan to join an agility group or enter a contest, check eligibility requirements. Documentation regarding vaccines and physicals may be required.
Do-it-yourself agility training is always an option, especially if you don’t have extra time and money. You can try making your own obstacles from materials like broom handles, hula-hoops, plywood, PVC pipe, and cardboard boxes. Agility training can be an enriching experience for you and your K-9 companion.