Dog agility: getting started
Agility is a fantastic way to exercise and train your dog, and it’s great fun as well. Healthy dogs of all shapes and sizes can compete making it a truly accessible canine sport.
We’ve outlined everything you need to know to get started in agility.
What is agility?
In agility the handler (that’s usually you) guides your dog round an obstacle course, trying to complete it in the fastest possible time, with as few errors as possible.
Depending on the level of difficulty, obstacles can include jumps, weaving poles, see-saws, A-frames, tire jumps and more, all testing your dog’s agility, speed, balance, and focus.
In a competitive environment, dogs are grouped into categories based on their experience and size. Dogs graduate through the experience levels by scoring points in classes and competitions.
How to get started
It’s really easy to get started in agility. Before training any obstacles, you need to practice obedience – this strengthens to bond between you and your dog and ensures you’ll have their attention and focus when training on obstacles.
Once you’ve got the obedience side of things down, the next step is to find a local club and join their beginners’ class. They will have secure areas to practice in, high quality equipment, experienced instructors, and a great social atmosphere.
Alternatively, you can get started yourself at home by purchasing a basic agility starter kit, or even building your own. You might want to watch some videos and read up about how to teach your dog to complete certain tasks, such as weaving, to make sure you teach them correctly from the start.
Which dogs can do agility?
Agility is a sport that can be great for dogs from all walks of life, but there are some dogs who are better suited than others. Most agility clubs will not let dogs compete if they:
- Are under 16 months (can vary depending on the breed)
- Are currently rehabilitating from an injury
- Are pregnant or whelping
- Have any health issues that could be exacerbated by intense activity
As long as your dog is fit and healthy, they can usually train for and even compete in agility. This includes all breeds (including mixed breeds) and all abilities. It’s fair to say though that some dog breeds are favourites for agility – particularly the Border Collie, a breed so dominant that the Kennel Club run special competitions that specifically exclude Border Collies and working sheepdogs to give other types of dogs a chance to shine.
Don’t forget, agility is a high intensity sport that counts towards your dog’s daily activity – to avoid over-exercising them, use a PitPat dog activity monitor to keep track of how much exercise they’ve had, and let them have a good rest after spending time on the agility course. This will help them perform at their best and avoid injuries.
What are the benefits of agility?
Agility has tons of benefits, for both you and your dog.
- It will help you both get fit – both you and the dog will spend time sprinting around the ring – you’ll both see your fitness take off once you start agility
- It strengthens the bond between you and your dog
- It poses a mental challenge for your dog, as well as the physical challenge
- It makes all types of training easier for you and your dog
- It can help solve behavioural issues
- It’s great fun and a great way to socialise with like minded people
So what are you waiting for? Time to seek out your nearest agility club and get started with this fantastic canine sport!