How many times have you thought that your dog needs to do something more stimulating than going running or walking in the park? Do you find your dog still restless despite so much of physical activity? If yes, you do not have to worry much about it. It is more your mistake and not any problem with your dog. This is because while taking your dog for a long run or walk does burn your canine’s energy, there’s nothing mentally stimulating for them.
Most dog breeds are natural hunters where they have to use all their senses and even physical activity while hunting their prey. So while they burn calories through physical activities, they miss the mental stimulation. There, however, is a solution to the problem today in dog agility training. This is something you can do to keep your dog both physically and mentally challenged. Read on to find out more about it, and how you can start training your dog for it.
What is dog agility training?
It is basically an obstacle course with 12-18 obstacles which your dog has to run through in a specific order. They have to do this while doing things like jumping hurdles, dashing through tunnels and performing tricks, in the shortest time possible. Dog agility helps show off a dog’s natural speed and their mental agility because the course is complex enough for them to require their handler’s guidance to help them complete it. In other words, the dog and handler have to work together to complete the course.
This is a fast-paced exercise that is both exciting and entertaining for you, and you do not have to give your pet any treats or awards foe accomplishing feats. The art is today rather common at competitive levels and is a hobby dog owners will enjoy with their pets. Agility training can be done just to keep your dog mentally and physically fit, or even if you plan to take your dog hunting and want to get him fit and fine for it. It is also useful for training your canine if you plan to participate in some canine contest. This is because most pet contests today will test your dog for agility, making it an important skill to be tested and be prepared for.
Benefits of dog agility training
While some dog breeds, basically medium built dogs and dogs with a working background or who are naturally full of energy are best suited for agility training, this does not mean other dogs can’t try it out too! In fact, there are many dog agility training benefits and is something dogs of all ages and breeds should try out.
It improves the bending and relationship between the owner and pet mainly because they develop a common language based on movement and vocal cues to complete the course. You also have to figure out some strategies that will highlight your dog’s strengths while hiding their weaknesses.
It’s while giving your dog agility training that the connection, and any bonds between you two grows stronger. This is because you both have to practice a lot to understand each other to overcome the obstacles of the course. You as the handler must be able to give clear commands that your canine friend understands and executes while your pet should be competent enough to follow them and work as your partner.
Dog agility training is a great exercise for both the dog and the owner or handler. Beginners may have to attend weekly classes and then repeat or practice whatever is taught for about half an hour per day, with you trailing behind your canine friend. Of course, you can always spend more time on the sport, as required.
Improved overall body health
Agility training helps improve overall body health of both dog and owner. It improves stamina levels, induces weight loss, leads to greater flexibility in the body and also helps build muscles with better circulation. It also helps protect the canine from joint and hip problems as they grow older.
Sharpens your pet’s mind
Your dog’s mind is sharpened during agility training because of increased alertness and awareness, improved confidence and better communication skills. Even their natural instincts of chasing, hunting and foraging are improved because they use the same coordination during woodlands and countryside chases. It also satisfies urges in dogs meant to be workers as they feel their life is more fulfilled with the mental and physical stimulation.
A dog’s behavior and obedience levels also increase with agility training because of the reduced chances of him getting bored and restless. This is because agility training tires your dog’s mind and body, which drains them of any excess energy they may have.
Besides some agility training equipment like the pause table teaches your canine various skills like sit and lay down. They also learn how to behave even when off the leash, and learn to respect you. Once they enjoy doing whatever you tell them to do at the agility track, they are more predisposed to listening to you at home too.
It is always better to attend a few classes if it’s your first time with agility training. It is when you and your pet grows accustomed to the trail and your orders and cues, then you may as well set up an agility training course in your yard too. Do not worry if you do not have a yard, you can always set up a course with portable equipment in the park.
Depending on your budget, you can either buy equipment specially manufactured for agility training like wave poles and jumps. You can alternatively source materials from junkyards, second-hand shops, and scrap yards. Just make sure that the material and equipment you use are in good condition for your pet, and there’s no risk of any injuries to them. So make sure they don’t have any sharp edges or structural defects before using them for agility training.
Types of dog agility training equipment
Dog agility training equipment comprises of a variety of obstacles like cones, paw pads, tunnels and jump over. It tests your canine’s agility and skills at maneuvering around the obstacles with help of proper coordination between the eyes and paw while getting rid of any excess energy in their body. It also helps improve your dog’s awareness of the surroundings, and self-awareness levels.
Agility training can be implemented from an early age when your dog is a puppy aged 3-5 years. This is, in fact, the best way to bond with him, if he is healthy enough to make the jumps and use other training equipment. There are four main types of obstacles you can find in a typical agility training course which are tunnels, jumps, contact obstacles and miscellaneous. The standard obstacles found in most courses are:
The A-frame comprises a pair of planks joined at the middle in an angle to look like the letter A, which is the reason for its name. The frame’s contact areas are indicated using contrasting colors.
The spots are painted onto the frame to show your dog the spots that are safe enough for him to step on. It is your pet’s duty to go up and down the frame while maintaining contact with the right places on each side plank.
The seesaw is an obstacle resembling the typical seesaw you find in playgrounds. It comprises of a plank with a midway pivotal support that lets you lower either side towards the ground as needed. The dog’s task is to walk from one end to the other where based on the canine’s weight the plank shifts up and down as he moves from one side to the other. Dogs tend to hesitate slightly upon reaching the pivot point, before heading downwards perhaps because of the high height.
Canines also have to be trained to exit the obstacle as quickly as possible once the plank reaches the ground, especially if you are training for some competition. There are some clubs which mandate that the seesaw should have some safety precautionary measures to prevent your pet from falling or slipping while walking along it like grips or threads.
Different types of tunnels are used for agility training. The first type is made of joined rigid hoops with a U-shaped bend. The second version is a tunnel with a stiff collar. It’s usually a few feet long and has some fabric fastened to one end.
While the first tunnel is comparatively easy for dogs as they just have to go through the U-shaped tunnel, the second one can be challenging to some. This is because they have to go through the collar portion and then find their way out from the flat fabric part.
Like the tunnel, obstacle jumps also vary in design. They are more like miniatures of hurdles used in equestrian competition and include tire, log or fence jumps. In case of the tire jump, the dog has to be trained to jump clear through it, instead of over it like in other jumps. In case of a broad jump, the canine has to be trained to soar over various jumps to be able to clear the boards.
It is rather exciting and interesting watching dogs as they go weaving their way between these poles, just like snakes. These weave poles comprise of various vertical poles which are set up in a row in both offset and straight courses. Dogs then have to weave back and forth through them like a snake. Training canines for this obstacle is considered to be one of the most challenging tasks in agility training.
In case of this obstacle, the canine has to first jump onto the top of the table. This is where it has to stay there in place for 5 seconds in either a sit, down or stand position. It’s after these five seconds that the dog should be able to jump when instructed to do so.
Besides checking out how well the dog can follow instructions, the five seconds gives the dog enough time to regroup himself for the next obstacles.
How to choose your equipment
With so many obstacles and equipment to choose from, you may find it difficult choosing the right one for your agility training course. This is why the best way to decide and make your choice is by taking a look at local competitions, especially those you plan to participate in with your dog. If you are not so particular about participating in any competitions at the moment and want to try out dog agility training only for the many benefits it offers, then you can always check a few online videos to get an idea of what happens while using different equipment and accordingly make your choice.
If you are interested in entering any particular competition, then it’s better to first find out which club the competition is associated with. Then visit their website to learn more about their regulations. This is because many competitions don’t allow dogs to participate with collars with tags on them. Some competitions don’t even let canines wear just any form of a collar. There is a remedy for this where you can use agility collars instead, which don’t have any tags or attachments. It’s always better to check with the organizers about the type of collar they permit at the competition and to find out about any other rules they have.
In case the competition does not permit using any type of collars then you can think about using a slip-on leash which you can take off before the start of the competition. If you wonder why the competitions do not permit canines from wearing collars, well it is mainly for your own pet’s safety. There is always the chance of collars or tags getting snagged in other equipment. The best way to prevent this from happening is by not letting the dogs wear any collars at competitions.