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About Dog Agility Training

By Ellie Anna
 
Dog agility is one of the most popular canine sports. It's a high energy, action-packed event filled with twists, turns and jumps. Dog and handler are graded on speed and accuracy, with the fewest faults and fastest times coming out on top. Training a dog for agility is not a particularly difficult endeavor, although it does take considerable time, effort and patience.

Significance

Proper agility training is essential to a winning performance. Agility is a quick, complex sport and a well-trained companion is a must to earn qualifying scores. Puppies can be started on the basics of agility as young as 8 to 10 weeks of age, as long as the exercises avoid any strenuous jumping. Older dogs can also be serious agility competitors, although it may take them longer to pick up on important skills. Ongoing training is necessary for agility competitors, so adapting your techniques to keep your dog in tune with you and excited about the sport itself will bring home qualifying scores run after run.

Function

Agility training teaches the dog to follow commands and navigate obstacles to avoid injury and achieve a proper score. Basic agility training is founded on a solid base of obedience skills that can be taught to dogs of any age. Agility training courses can be set up indoors or outdoors. Utilizing different locations is important, since agility competitions are held in a wide variety of venues. Agility training begins with simple-to-perform commands, such as tunnel. The easiest obstacles are taught first, with the more complex ones added as the dog grows in confidence and experience. Agility training teaches the dog to be quick, precise and to perform each object in succession for a winning run.

Considerations

A number of factors need to be evaluated before beginning an agility regimen. A dog's age is a vital part of agility training. Young puppies can be started on basic obstacles and commands, but no strenuous jumps or turns should be performed until the dog has finished growing to avoid permanent injury. Elderly dogs should be watched as well for signs of arthritis or other lameness while performing. Pay attention to the dog's personality while training obstacles. Some dogs are bold and show no fear of high, narrow obstacles, while more timid dogs may have difficulty learning. You can push a strong-willed dog a little harder than you can a passive dog, so adjust your training techniques accordingly. Ample time needs to be given before expecting a dog to run a course well. It can take months, even years, to have a reliable agility partner, so train in small, frequent sessions for best results.

Benefits

Agility training can be beneficial to all dogs, even if you don't plan to compete. Knowing how to navigate obstructions can help your dog while on a hike and can help give a confidence boost. Agility training is also very physical and can help add strength and muscle tone to an otherwise out of shape dog. Agility training is good for the handler, serving as an excellent bonding experience. It allows the handler to become more in touch with the dog and read its actions while teaching the dog a useful skill. Agility also helps to keep a handler in shape, allowing them to burn off extra pounds while spending time with their favorite canine partner.

Warning

Agility training should be done with caution. The narrow obstacles and quick speeds involved in proper performance can be dangerous if the dog is not well trained, so precision is necessary before encouraging a dog to run full speed. A dog that is shy should not be forced into difficult runs until it shows confidence on the simple obstacles like tunnels and jumps. It can be extremely frightening for a dog to be pushed into working a high, narrow obstacle such as the dog walk before it is ready. Pushing a timid dog too soon can ruin it on agility and damage its trust with the handler.
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