Dogs, like children, crave structure. I’m not talking about becoming your dog’s pack, or even controlling every aspect of your dog’s lives (though both these methods do work for some people and some dogs!). I’m talking about agility. Yes, agility is about fun and running really fast and seeing how well you and your dog work together, but in order to achieve that level, you need structure.
How can you develop structure for agility?
- Be consistent: ask your dog for the performance you want, and keep working with them until you get it. Reward it! Consistently ask for the same performance of the same obstacle. If one day you’ll accept one toe into contacts when previously you wanted a two on two off, your dog will continue to push at their boundaries, and consistency will be lost.
- Be clear: This goes along with consistency. We all do this one! I know I certainly do! I am running with my hand out, pointing where my dog is to go – and my other arm is out like an airplane wing! How is my dog to choose? That’s only one example of how your signals can be unclear – there are more!
- Be concise: most dogs, like most children, have short attention spans. (I know they can spend hours digging, but think about how constantly rewarding that is for them – it’s constantly regaining their attention!) Work within that span and keep practice intense and rewarding both physically (treats) and emotionally (praise and petting).
By structuring your agility practice, you’re setting yourself up for success in your relationship with your dog. You will enjoy it more, because they will be more responsive to you, and they will love knowing exactly how to please you and earn their rewards!