Here’s The Scoop on Dog Agility Pt 1

starting in dog agilityWiser words we challenge you to find than those of Sue Sternberg, trainer, shelter founder and author; “I think if every dog owner engaged in agility training with his or her dog, the dog world would be a better place. Agility is that good, that fun, and that important.”

And while all have gotten involved in dog agility for as many different reasons as their are teams, most if not all have experienced profound changes in themselves and their dogs. In fact, for many teams dog agility has completely changed their lives for the better.

Dog agility is like the wonder drug in dog training. It can solve behavior problems, give full body and mind work out, improve obedience, strengthen your bond and communication with your dog and provide a ton of fun no matter what level you go to with your dog.

How can it do all these amazing things while you are playing a game? Because the game encourages your dog to focus, learn, follow direction and gives them a job to do with you. Boredom is the leading cause of bad behavior in dogs. What we consider bad is just the dog dealing with pent up energy and frustrations. Unlike us, they cannot stuff nor can they ignore those emotions.

It also teaches you how to be more fun and interesting to your dog. When this happens your dog finds you and pleasing you far better than the other destructive behavior. You become his best friend, partner and trainer. You become a better person for your dog while he is becoming a better dog for you.

So just what, exactly, is this wonder sport called dog agility? It is a numbered obstacle course that a handler has to direct their dog through in the correct order and under the allowed time. The dog is off leash and the handler is not allowed to touch the dog or the equipment using verbal and body cues to direct the dog. It is normally around 12-18 obstacles that include tunnels, various jumps, weave poles, teeter, dog walk and a-frame.

Dog Agility has it’s roots England starting back in 1978, as a half time show at Crufts dog show. Based on horse jumping competitions, it’s intent was to show off a dog’s speed and agility. It didn’t take long for spectators to try it at home and soon the sport was born.

Today there are numerous organizations that put on dog agility competitions with NADAC, AKC, USDAA, CPE and TDAA topping the list in the United States. Each have their own rules and style. For example, NADAC courses are spread out and focus on speed and distance handling while USDAA and AKC courses are “tighter” and more technically challenging. CPE is known as the game venue with all kinds of fun “game” courses and TDA is targeted for small dogs with smaller equipment and shorter courses.

The great thing about dog agility is that it is open to people of all ages and athletic ability. It is also a sport for any breed of dog, including the All American, that enjoys the game. In both cases you may think handicapped dogs and people are exempt. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If the dog and handler can negotiate around a course they can compete.

And while seriously competitive teams will have large expenses, it only has to be as costly as you want. You will, of course, need to enroll in training if you are new to dog agility and dog training. Then, depending on your goals, you may just like coming to class or decide to “play” at home

For those that want to dabble in earning titles you can figure on about one trial per month for October to February for most areas and fall and winter for areas with really hot summers. To help with costs, many clubs offer discounts on training and/or entries if you work at their trials or facilities. Plus, fees for junior handlers are considerably lower.

Either way, you will need to spend time at home practicing. This doesn’t have to be a huge investment either and you can get a good supply of practice equipment from Affordable Agility.

Be sure to check out part two as we go over more of the competition details in this great sport, dog agility.