When is it Safe to Start Dog Agility Training
If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that on top of being a valid sport, dog agility is a lifestyle. There are no set start and stop times when it comes to training as dog agility is far more than obstacle training. It is the building of a relationship and communication system that transcends understanding by the outside world. It is that relationship that makes dog agility so much fun. It is so much more than jumps and tunnels, though many dogs really would like more tunnels, always.
However, if you are asking about when it is safe to start a young dog on dog agility equipment, there is a definite answer. It is not safe to start a young dog on jumps above the hock before the growth plates in their bones close. It is a hard pill to swallow when you are excited to get started competing, after all, puppies run around and bounce and leap all day.
Fact of the matter is, dogs need to naturally stress their bones to help make them stronger. Some high drive dogs need to be monitored as they will try jumping and climbing on their own before it is safe. And there’s a big difference between ‘natural’ jumping and dog agility jumps, climbs, and jump lines. You are asking for repetitive movement that exhorts tremendous, focused stress on the limbs. Far more that playful leaps and bounds.
Don’t let that fact get you down! Dog agility foundation work such as body awareness and handling skills can begin as soon as your young dog as an attention span that accommodates some learning. Some work can even start as early as 8-10 weeks. You can use playtime to teach impulse control, encourage curiosity, and creative thinking. As your puppy gets older you can incorporate social skills, body awareness, and IQ games. In fact, building your relationship is far more important than getting to the equipment so that when you do introduce the equipment, your dog will already be bold and trusting of you and your ideas.
This is a real case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Allowing your young dog’s body to grow and mature correctly will give you both more time to play dog agility when they are old enough.