Dog agility is a sport in which a dog moves through an obstacle course with the guidance of his or her handler. Dogs run off leash, so the handler's only controls are voice and body language, requiring exceptional obedience training of the animal. In competition, both accuracy and speed are important.
I took Roxi, the 9 month-old Standard Poodle to agility class last night, and I think I had more fun than her...and she had a GREAT time.
At first she was timid running over the dog walk. It's about 4 feet off the ground (regulation height is much higher). She ran up the walk, but when she got up the ramp, she stopped. If she could talk, she would have said, "Hey! Wait a minute. I'm up high!!" But, after about three attempts, she ran full speed ahead over the dog walk. It was if she was celebrating her newfound skill!
Many dog "schools" teach agility, but not all do a great job. I've trained Vino, Norman and now Roxi in agility, and here are my tips for making sure your dog has a fun AND safe time.
- Never force your dog to do an obstacle. This will only intensify his/her fear. I made this mistake with Vino on the teeter and he still doesn't like it.
- Let your dog succeed. If you let her run up the dog walk and fall off, she probably won't like the dog walk in the future. And she could get hurt. Start training with obstacles (dog walk, A-frame) low to the ground.
- Obstacles like the Chute (a tunnel with a closed tent of fabric on the end) are scary. The dog has to go into a dark hole and then be encased in nylon fabric. Roll the fabric up just start with the barrel. Have someone help you by holding your dog while you bend down and call her through.
- Start with jumps low. If your dog is real hesitant, put the pole on the ground. Dogs under 1 year of age should only jump very low heights. Their bones and joints are still developing.
- Praise, praise, praise. Agility should be a party!
By the end of the night, Roxi was flying through the obstacles and starting to anticipate the next, as well. She had a ball! If you've never seen a Poodle jump, you should try and watch one at an agility trial. In my opinion, of all the breeds, they are the most fun to watch!
For more information on Agility, go to my favorite web site on the topic, Clean Run Productions.