Dog agility is a canine sport that has not been around for long, with the first performances taking place in the late 1970s. Despite the fact that dog agility has not yet existed for even 50 years, it has gained quite a bit of traction and is now enjoyed throughout the world. Now let’s take a look at the basics of dog agility:
What Is Dog Agility?
Dog agility is largely based on a dog’s ability to successfully navigate through a course that is filled with various obstacles. Dogs are free to run as they please, as they are not bound by a leash or any sort of restraining device. A dog’s success will be based off of its speed and efficiency as they travel through the obstacle course.
A dog agility trainer, commonly known as a handler, will aid the dog in their quest to complete the obstacle course. However, the handler can only assist the dog with vocal commands, movements, and signals. The handler is not permitted to touch the dog or any of the obstacles during the dog’s trial.
Dog Agility As A Competition
Dog agility competitions are popular worldwide. Dogs and handlers are not aware of how the obstacle course will be arranged prior to the competition. A judge will set up the obstacle course shortly before the competition, and before their turn, a dog and handler can take a short time to walk through the obstacle course. The obstacle courses are quite nuanced-a dog certainly would not be capable of navigating it themselves without the guidance of their handler.
The obstacles that may be present within a dog agility course are variable and require a dog to have a wide array of different skills and abilities. Common obstacles include tunnels, ramps, seesaws, hurdles, tire jumps, weave poles, and more. Therefore, dogs that compete in dog agility must be excellent jumpers while being fast, nimble, and obedient.
Dogs are scored on their speed and efficiency as they navigate the dog agility course. Points may be deducted from a dog’s score for a variety of reasons. For instance, if a dog knocks over an obstacle as they navigate the course, it will incur a fault and get points taken off of its final score. Moreover, dogs will be penalized for taking wrong turns, failing to navigate an obstacle correctly, or for taking too long to navigate around a certain obstacle.
Judges have high standards that dogs must conform to at high levels of dog competition. Even minimal errors as a dog runs around an obstacle course could derail a dog’s score. Dogs and handlers have to find the optimal balance of speed and accuracy to achieve the highest score possible in a dog agility competition.
How To Get Started
Dog agility is a fascinating experience for both dogs and handlers. Those interested in becoming dog agility trainers (dog handlers) will have to be prepared to commit substantial amounts of time to work with individual dogs. Being a dog handler certainly requires lots of one-on-one time with individual dogs
to be invested by dog handlers, as they must develop a strong bond with a dog that will be competing in agility trials.
Those that are interested in becoming a dog handler can use one of several approaches as they work towards becoming proficient in this field. Before committing to one strategy or another, a prospective dog trainer should decide if they’re only interested in training their own dogs or if they want to train other’s dogs. If a prospective dog trainer is only interested in training their dogs, then they can certainly acquire plenty of practice at home if they have the space to set up obstacles. If one is interested in training other people’s dogs, then they may have to seek out a dog agility mentorship.
Dog agility classes exist for those that are interested in getting into the field. These classes are helpful for those who wish to establish a solid foundation of knowledge as they learn some of the basic skills and abilities associated with dog agility training. While dog agility classes are good for those who are just getting started, most do not teach advanced dog agility training skills. Those who are interested in learning advanced skills will need to seek out professional expertise or try to learn those skills themselves.
While much of the success when it comes to dog agility training stems from a handler’s knowledge and a dog’s experience, much of it is also dependent on the traits and tendencies of a handler and dog as well. Being a dog handler is a very involved occupation, as handlers have to run around and navigate agility courses so they can communicate with their dog and put them in a good position to succeed. Likewise, some dog breeds are simply better at dog agility than others. For instance, chihuahuas may be cute, but they are just not cut out for the trials and tribulations of dog agility. Before going through an assortment of competitions with you and your dog, make sure your dog is fit for agility.
Those that want to get into the dog agility field should prioritize getting as much experience as possible. After a year or two of training and practice, enrolling in various low-level dog agility competitions may be a good idea. If you find that you have success in these competitions, you can work your way up the competition level until you find peers that are well-matched for your abilities. Training a dog for competitions usually takes at least six months of dedicated work to put them in a position for success. Ultimately, dog agility training is a fun, active form of dog training that can be immensely rewarding for