Pets are not meant to be kept all day in a cage. Healthy and happy pets are usually those who engage in exercise. Playing with other pets also works for some. Training is also an activity that places pets in a pleasant disposition.
It is essential to train our pets, whether for competition or leisure. There are different kinds of training for dogs, and one of these is concerned with a dog’s agility. Dog agility training helps handlers and pets to bond while exercising your dogs in both physical and mental aspects.
“While military-level obedience isn’t necessarily the goal (nor is it a great deal of fun), there are practical behaviors you can start to train, such as hand-targeting, making eye contact and checking in with you, dropping toys on cue and other ‘tricks,'” Ilana Reisner, DVM, PhD, DACVB, says.
Starting dog agility training can be a daunting task. You probably have different questions about the commands and equipment for dog agility training. Thus, The Furry Companion compiled the essential information you need to know about this kind of training.
The Importance of Dog Agility Training
Handlers execute dog agility training to prepare for agility competitions. Some pet owners also do this training as recreation for them and their pets. Here are the reasons why this type of training is crucial for you and your dogs.
Physical and Mental Exercise
Since dog agility training requires physical activities, it is a form of exercise. During training, your pet needs to run and jump through obstacles. Through these physical tasks, your dog will have strong muscles and joints. Thus, dog agility training makes your dog healthier.
It is also a mental exercise for the dog since it improves mind and body coordination. During training, your dog needs to follow complex commands, which will challenge your pet’s mental capacity to understand instructions.
As a pet owner, dog agility training is also beneficial for you. You will need to exert effort and end up exercising since you need to guide your pet through the courses. Following your dog through obstacles is a compelling way to teach your dogs the techniques required for competitions.
Aside from the physical benefits, you can also develop patience and determination through teaching your pet. You can learn positive attitudes through this venture. Thus, dog agility training is beneficial for both of you.
During training, you will spend a lot of time with your pet. Through this, you can improve your bond with your dog. And when you are aiming to join a competition, you can hit two birds with one stone since you are creating a relationship while reaching new milestones with your pet.
The set up of obstacles in this type of training is designed for handlers and pets to establish a connection. Hand gestures and verbal communication are necessary for your pet to go through the obstacles. During competitions, owners are not allowed to give reinforcements. Thus, it is crucial to condition your dog to follow instructions voluntarily.
Trust is also built during training since your dog is facing new activities. There are physical risks because of the obstacles but, with proper trust-building, your pet will excitedly take on the new challenges presented to him or her. Winning a competition is only secondary to your dog’s disposition about the training.
The Training Proper
If you are personally training your dog, here are the essential commands you need to know. You must follow these steps in chronological order to avoid unfortunate events that may happen to your doggo.
Handlers need to start giving basic commands first before shifting to complicated directions. You must teach basic pet commands such as sit and lie down. It is also crucial for your puppy to know the moving commands such as come and stay.
If your goal with the training is to compete in tournaments, then age one to two is the usual period where puppies start to participate in agility games. Meet with a health professional for pointers on how your dog can avoid injuries. A veterinarian will be of great help in properly guiding you and your pet through this journey.
After introducing your puppy to basic commands, you can now teach him or her to go through contact obstacles. They are classified as contact obstacles since you will encourage your dog to touch particular sites of the challenges to give them reinforcements. It is essential to provide treats through every obstacle.
Throughout the training, you must remember to sustain a lively and happy disposition. Moreover, you should always consider the feelings of your dog during training. It is essential to know your puppy is enjoying the journey since it is primarily for your dog, and not for some medal.
An example of a contact obstacle is the A-frame. It is a triangle-shaped passageway for basic dog agility training. With this, you must teach your dog to walk on an inclined path. During the execution of this obstacle, you need to give your dog further treats. The A-frame is a new sight for the puppy; thus, he or she might be hesitant to try it. When training your dog, you can give verbal commands such as “A-frame.”
Jumps are a more complex command. It is also a starting point for agility training. You will need to seek a veterinarian’s approval before starting to train your dog to jump. Once the veterinarian approves, you can decide to teach your puppy this command.
The height of the jump obstacle must be appropriate to the size of your dog. You must train medium- to large-sized dogs by adjusting the bar between one or two inches above the ground. On the other hand, you must train smaller dogs with a bar set on the ground.
During this kind of obstacle, it is crucial to boost the confidence of your puppy. Your dog must feel excited to perform the command. Showing an exciting disposition will also reinforce the puppy to execute higher jumps. It is also advisable to give treats during jump training to implement a positive nature.
Since dog agility training is highly dependent on verbal and hand instructions, you must utter a command for each kind of jump. For example, you can say “big jump” for your pet to be aware of what to do. Giving verbal commands will not only train your puppy, but it will also avoid accidents should you join in tournaments.
Tunnels are always part of dog agility training. This obstacle is relatively easy to teach your puppy. However, some dogs can be afraid to walk through tunnels since they can seem suffocating. Thus, you must keep a positive attitude throughout the training to eliminate fear on the part of your dog.
Use a short tunnel at the beginning of your training. Your dog must be able to catch sight of the tunnel’s end and reach it before you give treats on the other side. However, if your dog is hesitant to move, you can offer positive reinforcements inside the tube.
It is also crucial to give a verbal command such as “tunnel” to keep your dog moving. Once your puppy becomes comfortable with the short tunnel, you can now opt for longer and more complex passages. Training your pet with more curved tubes is advantageous if you are preparing for a competition.
Weave poles are frequent sightings in dog agility training. It is also one of the problematic commands to teach. But, with proper reinforcement and controls, you and your dog will successfully execute this agility training.
Your dog must learn how to navigate through these poles to be successful in this obstacle. Repetition is one of the fundamental techniques when it comes to training for weave poles. You must start with poles at a long distance from one another. Once your puppy becomes familiar with the movements, you can gradually decrease the gap between the poles.
Have lots of patience when teaching this command because it can usually take months for dogs to pick up this skill. You can take this time to create a bond with your puppy while teaching him or her complex agility skills.
Sequencing is the ultimate test of dog agility training. After teaching your dog the individual commands and obstacles, it is now the time to systematize all of those instructions.
You can start by putting two obstacles together. Once your dog has mastered the sequence of the two obstacles, you can then incorporate other courses. Timing and repetition are two crucial things to learn during this last phase of the training.
Suitable Breeds for Dog Agility Training
You can train almost any dog breed for agility. However, other kinds are more suitable for dog agility training because of their body structure and mental ability.
“They’re good-tempered, affectionate, and easy to train,” says Mary R. Burch, PhD.
Here is a list of those breeds.
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Golden Retriever
With proper disposition and commands, we are sure that your dog will develop exemplary agility skills.
“I’ll bet in every hospital there’s somebody who spends a lot of time training their own pets and who’s dedicated to training,” Florence Sanford, CVPM, says.
We hope this helped you and your dog in your new-found journey of agility training. We wish you luck with your training!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is agility training good for dogs?
Yes, because it is good exercise for dogs. Dogs need physical movement to combat obesity, strengthen the joints and muscles, and improve endurance. Apart from improving the physical aspect, agility training is also good for the dog’s mind. This type of training enables them to learn by solving problems.
How do I start my dog in agility training?
To start agility training for your dog, you can use simple obstacles that are readily available at home. You can use a hula hoop for tire jump and an open box as a tunnel obstacle. There are many resources on the internet on how to train your dog.
What makes a good agility dog?
If you are wondering whether your dog will make an excellent agility dog, these are the traits you should look for:
- Good social skills
What breeds of dogs are good at agility?
The traits of the following breeds make an excellent agility training partner:
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Border Collie
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Golden Retriever
- Australian Shepherds
- Cocker Spaniel
How much does agility training cost?
The price of agility training is about the same amount of obedience training. Agility training may cost around $125 to $200 for six sessions. The cost may increase, the more advanced the training becomes.
How early can you start agility training?
At less than a year old, a puppy can begin pre-agility training. Before this, it would be best that puppies first master the most basic obedience commands. Pre-agility training includes repetitive actions, jumping, and using contact equipment.
Can all dogs do agility?
Any dog is capable of doing agility. Some dog breeds, herding and working breeds, are more natural than others, but every dog can do it.
What obstacles are in a dog agility course?
A dog agility course involves different types of obstacles. An agility course includes the following obstacles:
- Dog Walk
- Winged Hurdles
- Tire Jump
- Pipe Tunnel
- Weaving Poles
The primary purpose of doing an agility course is to showcase how dog owners and their furry friends communicate with each other.
Is dog agility training easy?
Honestly speaking, no. The learning process, however, is definitely fun. Being able to communicate well with your dog and being able to make them follow your commands are among the key points in successfully performing agility training. It also needs a lot of patience and of course, dog treats to reward your pet. It can get frustrating sometimes but it takes patience and hard work to accomplish something, right? You just need tons of motivation and understanding!