Never Too Much Dog Agility, Right?
Totally counts as two on, two off, right? (Courtesy of Fred Lutz, of www.pawsforagility.com.)
Is it possible to practice dog agility too much? I would answer that question with a yes and a no. I don’t think you can ever spend too much time building a stronger bond with your dog, but you can certainly put too much stress and strain on a dog’s frame and mind with constant drilling of the same exercises and the same routine.
Use your imagination and find ways to teach your dog specific behaviors through different lessons and breaking lessons down in to easily learned steps. There are so many options available even if you want to stay strictly with dog agility.
There are body awareness exercises that include ladder and cavalettti work, balance balls or peanuts, rally exercises like backing up and stepping onto and into boxes with all fours and onto steps with the hind end. Tricks such as perching, dance, twirl, hip check and check wagging, all have the bonus of teaching body awareness, balance and control as well as keeping your dog waiting on you for cues.
There are body strengthening exercises like the “wheel-barrel,” “dancing,” running and climbing hills. You can also bike with your dog and walk or jog in the sand at the beach and even just going on a nature hike and have your dog negotiate natural obstacles like logs, rocks and hills. You can try fetch, flying disk and tug with toys all the while incorporating agility commands during play. Some are even able to go swimming with their dogs as a very low impact form of exercise. And if you are stuck indoors there are dog treadmills to help keep your dog fit all year.
You can work different elements of the dog agility course without the dog knowing. You have balance boards and rocker boards that you can ask your dog to perform different balance moves on such as the perch, leg lifts and pivots with either front or rear end off the board. You can practice striding and contacts with a board on the ground. You can work on handling sequences without height to the jumps and also use jump bumps for grid work. And this is only scratching the surface of what you can do to keep your agility dog fit, safe and sane and not soured on agility.
Keep in mind that all successful teams have a solid foundation of body and mind building elements before even attempting a course. They are certain their dogs are fit and ready to run both physically as well as mentally. That is not to say that those first runs are always a success, it just means they have their dogs as prepared as possible before adding the stress and distraction of a competition.
Remember when you go to practice with your dog that there are so many constructive ways to work with your dog that there really is no excuse for drilling. And while you may find your dog practicing his new found agility and talents on his own like our picture above, don’t fret it doesn’t mean you have been practicing too much.
If you have any special routines or tricks you use to keep things fresh, we would love to hear them.