Dog agility is a sport whereby a handler directa a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. The course consists of various equipment such as tunnels, jumps, teeter totters, and pole weaves. The handler must lead the dog throughout he complex course using only their voice and body signals.
There are many benefits to trying agility for you and your dog.
Agility is great mental and physical exercise
Both you and your dog will get a workout. But for your dog, it’s more than just getting a good run. Agility training takes a high level of concentration from your dog which exercises his mind as well as his body. When dogs aren’t challenged, they can become frustrated. Boredom is one of the biggest culprits of dog misbehaviour such as destructiveness and hyperactivity. Even obsessive behaviour may be curtailed by challenging your dog mentally and physically. The added stimulation achieved through agility training will keep your dog tired and happy. Fit and healthy dogs live longer and behave better.
Agility improves your dog’s self-esteem
Since handlers are not allowed to touch the dog or the equipment during competition, agility improves your dog’s communication skills and independent thinking. Your dog will build confidence as he masters each piece of equipment. Dogs thrive when they know exactly what to do and receive praise for doing it right.
Agility satisfies your dog’s instinctive prey drive
Agility fulfills your dog’s natural instincts. Running, chasing, jumping, squeezing through obstacles and generally out-foxing prey are all elements that a good agility course mimics. Dogs love it because it feels natural to them. Herding breeds especially need to have “a job to do” and agility fills their need to be useful. When you give him something to do, you stimulate his drive, curiosity and natural intelligence.
Agility improves your relationship with your dog
Agility courses are created so that dogs cannot possibly run through them accurately without the help of their handler. The sport is very much hinged on the bond between dog and handler. Not only will your dog be more obedient but he will start to associate you with having fun and be happier around you! Agility is a great activity to deepen your bond with your dog while giving both of you an enjoyable hobby.
Which breeds do well at agility?
Without question, Border Collies are the best breed for agility. They are highly intelligent, driven and lightening fast. In fact, most herding dogs such as Australian Shepherds and Australian Cattle Dogs enjoy agility. Hunting dogs such as Retrievers, Spaniels, Weimaraners and Vizslas also excel, but any high energy mid-sized dog could be a good fit. As for smaller dogs, Papillions, Terriers, Schnauzers, Corgis and Daschunds all love agility. Just make sure your dog is between the ages of 9 months and 8 years because the physical demands are too high for puppies and senior dogs.
As for other breeds, sometimes mixed breed dogs excel at agility. Several handlers have found champion agility dogs at the local shelter. Why? Because destructive, hyperactive dogs get brought to the pound by dog owners in over their heads. These mutts just need a job to do! Just what the agility course ordered.
Which breeds shouldn’t do agility?
Brachycephalic dogs (dogs with pushed in faces such as Boxers, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs) are not good candidates for agility as they have trouble breathing and can overheat. These dogs can participate in agility at a hobby level as long as they are able to run at their own pace.
Large dogs don’t have the stamina for agility so give them a pass unless you want a mutiny on your hands.
Agility trial run
Agility requires absolute obedience and focus. If your dog doesn’t want to listen to you, it will be frustrating for you both. Since most agility classes require intermediate obedience as a prerequisite, why not try a challenging obedience class to see if your dog loves to perform for rewards? If your best friend is oozing with pride, agility could be a fun next step for the both of you!
So before signing up for your next Zumba class, why not consider something you and your dog can do together?
Where to sign up
You can take your requisite intermediate obedience training and try agility at any of the following training centres: