Dog agility training is becoming an increasingly common term. But what is it, exactly? Don't worry. Here's everything you wanted to know about agility training, but were afraid to ask.
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What is agility training?
Agility training began in England in 1978. The American Kennel Club held its first agility trial in 1994. According to the AKC, it's one of the fastest-growing dog sports in the U.S.
It's essentially a fun, challenging obstacle course for your dog, with you, the human, following along. Agility training is an increasingly popular dog sport in which a handler guides their dog through an obstacle course, which may include obstacles like seesaws, tunnels, tire jumps, and more.
Most organizations that offer agility training have classes for a range of levels, from beginners to advanced.
Which dogs are best suited for agility training?
Many different types of dogs will enjoy and benefit from agility training. It's especially good for athletic dogs, energetic dogs, and hunting breeds, but plenty of other breeds make good candidates as well. Just make sure your dog is physically up to it — schedule a consultation with your vet first, to make sure your dog is free of any ailments that might make agility difficult or unenjoyable for them.
In addition to their physical wellness, consider your dog's personality and likes. If they enjoy games and lots of physical activity, that's a good sign that they'll like learning agility skills.
What's the difference between agility clubs and agility schools?
As agility training continues to grow in popularity, more and more cities are offering it. In the United States, there are both agility "clubs," and agility schools that offer agility classes.
An agility club is a group of agility training enthusiasts who have self-organized and decided to offer training. A club will have various members teaching different levels of agility training.
READ MORE: How To Build Your Own Agility Equipment
An agility school, on the other hand, is owned and operated by one or more instructors, who teach the various levels using consistent criteria. Yelp is a great resource for finding both clubs and schools in your area. You'll want to do some research on the various schools and clubs you find to determine which one is right for you and your dog.
Why agility train your dog?
If you're looking for a way to provide stimulation for your dog and bond with them in the process, agility training can be a great option. Agility courses provide exercise as well as mental stimulation. Since agility dog training involves chasing "prey" and maneuvering over, under, and around various things, it's a great way for your dog to use their instincts in a way they don't typically get to.
Plus, agility training provides exercise for humans, too!
Some common agility obstacles include:
- weave poles, which can be made of PVC pipe
- planks set into an A-frame shape that the dog has to walk over. these usually have aa "contact zone" of differently colored areas that your dog has to touch.
- a teeter-totter
- a pause table, where they have to take a moment's rest
- a wobble board, where they have to catch their balance.
When you're trying to get your dog to do some new tricks, bring out the positive reinforcement and keep it fun. Try out a few at-home training sessions with some homemade agility equipment, or set up a couple of training classes with a dog trainer. If your dog likes it, the sport of agility can be a lot of fun for both you and them.