What is dog agility?
You may well have seen it on Crufts. Dog agility is an obstacle course for dogs: jumps, hoops, tunnels, even see-saws! You run alongside your four-legged friend whilst directing them through, over and under various obstacles and are judged on your speed, and your dog’s accuracy and obedience.
My dog Max so loved puppy training classes as a wee pup that when the tutor asked if anyone would be interested in a puppy agility class, I jumped at the chance (cheesy pun no 1!). Health and safety of man’s best friend being of prime importance, I should say immediately that dogs should not be agility trained until they are at least 1 year to 18 months old (depending on the breed) as it can damage their joints. Our tutor was a qualified instructor, and the “jumps” were literally an inch from the floor, and the pups simply stepped over them. We concentrated mainly on tunnels, weaving through a line of poles, and the stay mat, all of which are used in official competitions.
A few years ago I heard of a 10 week agility class at Kingston Maurward College, and enrolled immediately. Now that Max was older, we could do “the real thing” and were taught sack tunnels, see-saws, a dogwalk (the dog walks along a plank of wood which is at human shoulder height) and an A-frame. We had both an agility competition and an obedience competition in the final week, and Max absolutely excelled (Proud Mama moment). He shot round the course like a rocket, and I had to run to keep up with him and guide him round in the right order. We won first prize in both, and carried home our boxes of gravy bones in triumph!
- Health. I have never seen Max looking healthier. He was toned, his coat shone, his eyes sparkled. Agility gives your dog both a mental and physical work out
- Obedience. It improves your dog’s general obedience.
- Bonding. You form a much closer bond with your dog by working as a team to get through the hurdles.
- Fun. Dog agility is amazing fun for both of you, and despite being training, feels like R & R
- Rewarding. It is truly rewarding to see your dog’s achievements as they learn and improve, and the obvious improvement in Max’s general wellbeing was wonderful to see.
- Competitions. How far you have to travel to find them, I don’t know, but if you wished, you could compete with your dog, or save it as just a bit of fun for the two of you.
- Tuition. You definitely need some tuition when first starting out. Your dog’s health and safety is paramount.
- Courses. They can be thin on the ground. In Dorset there is an agility group called Purbeck Agility Group. Unfortunately, I have been dogged by knee problems (cheesy pun no 2!) and have not yet been able to join
- Fitness. You need to be able to go round the course with your dog. If your little fella shoots round the course like a rocket, it means you have to run. At slowest, you probably still need to manage a light jog.
- Equipment. Whilst you can buy agility equipment much cheaper on eBay than in stores, it’s still an outlay.
- Weather dependant. You can’t train in the rain – the equipment becomes slippery and endangers your dog. You could potentially train indoors but….
- Space. ….you need a pretty large space to be able to set up equipment.
If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend giving agility a go. Max absolutely thrived on it – he was happier, more obedient (he’s a little scamp when he puts his mind to it!), fitter, more affectionate. I can’t wait for these doggone (cheesy pun no 3!) knees to improve so we can get back into it.