The Beginner’s Guide To Dog Agility Training And Equipment
Dog agility isn’t just for crazy Collies and over-the-top dog owners, nor is it necessary to shell out hundreds of dollars to join a fancy dog agility training school. Dog agility can be practiced by any dog and any owner in the comfort of your own backyard!
Why Dog Agility?
Dog agility is the perfect solution for an intelligent and active pup that can’t be calmed by a simple run around the block. Certain breeds, especially those bred to be working dogs, won’t be satisfied with a trip to the dog park or even an energetic walk. Smart dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical exercise, and dog agility training is a mixture of both.
What Is Dog Agility Training?
Dog agility training is a competitive sport in which a dog completes an obstacle course with the help of their human. Only verbal cues and gestures are allowed. A typical obstacle course contains a range of equipment which the dog must navigate as quickly as possible.
Dog Agility Equipment
In dog agility training, a typical obstacle course consists of the following equipment.
You can purchase agility weave poles online, or simply build your own by inserting plastic pipes, or ski poles, into the ground. Start off by spacing the polls 2 feet away, so there’s ample room for you and your dog to walk through the poles.
Lead your dog slowly through the weave poles on a leash, and reward your dog with a treat at the end. Keep repeating this step, eventually removing the leash and teaching your dog to run through the weave poles with a verbal cue or gesture. Once your dog is familiar with the routine, you can gradually decrease the distance between the poles.
Dog Obedience Jump
A dog obedience jump is pretty much the same concept as a horse jump, except lower. Deep down inside your doggy’s DNA, a part of them remembers the thrill of the hunt. Hunting involved jumping over fallen logs and racing through the undergrowth to earn their supper. In a way, all dog agility training is a way to recreate the natural chase that dogs long for.
You can create your own dog obedience jump by laying a plank of wood on two bricks. Start as low as you can go, and slowly walk your dog back and forth over the little jump, rewarding them with a treat when they skip over the plank, rather than walk on it. Once your dog has the hang of it, slowly increase the bricks to raise the height of the jump. Make sure that your dog is fit enough to complete the jump. Because puppies are still developing their joints, never make puppies leap over objects.
A fold-up tunnel can be bought inexpensively in a toy store or on Amazon. It’s easy to set up and store, while providing your dog with a fun activity that you can even do inside on a rainy day. Crawl through the tunnel, and leave a trail of treats. Your pup shouldn’t need any more prompting to play with this piece of agility equipment.
Also called a dog walk, the A-frame is an elevated walkway for your dog. If you’re handy with wood and a hammer, Instructables offers a detailed guide to building your own A-frame.
Finding A Dog Agility Course Near You
If you think your dog is ready for the big leagues, try enrolling in a professional dog agility class which will have all of the equipment ready to roll. To find a good dog agility course near you, contact some well-respected, local trainers to find out their recommendations.
You can also visit the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) website to search for agility groups in your area. The AKC also offers resources on dog agility training, but they’re famously tight-lipped about mixed breeds and may not allow your rescued mutt to compete.
Have you built your own obstacle course for your dog in your backyard? Share your tips in the comments below!