By Linda Cole
I love watching dogs and their owners running agility training competitions. The dog and owner work as a team to run through tunnels, jump over hurdles, maneuver over a seesaw and weave through poles as well as completing other obstacles. Agility training is a sport for owners who want to add a little excitement and exercise in their life, and dogs love showing what they can do. If you have a dog that needs more exercise to keep him from being bored, or you have a dog with behavior problems, you might want to consider agility training to help correct your dog’s bad behavior.
Dogs are active by nature, but some need more action than others. A dog that is confined inside all day can develop inappropriate dog behavior that’s destructive or annoying to the neighbors, such as constantly barking or howling. Providing exercise is the best way to help a dog burn off excess energy. A quick walk in the morning before leaving him on his own all day works well for some dogs, but dogs who love to run and jump need more exercise to ward off inappropriate dog behavior. Agility training gives a dog a chance to do what he loves to do and learn something new which keeps his mind stimulated.
Dog agility was invented by accident in London in 1978 during the Crufts Dog Show. In between events, a horse enthusiast, who was in charge of the entertainment, decided to use dogs in place of horses to do equestrian type jumps. The people loved watching the dogs jumping and the sport began to gain a following in England. In 1986, the U.S. Dog Agility Association was created as agility began to grow in this country.
Agility training not only corrects and prevents unwanted dog behavior, it can also make your dog more alert and confident. His problem-solving abilities improve and he becomes focused on you, and the bond you share with your dog grows stronger. He learns to watch your movements, listen to your voice and read your body language for instructions on what you want him to do. Your little athlete will have better coordination and endurance as he becomes physically fit and healthy. Dog owners who participate in dog agility are passionate about this sport, and it’s a great way for humans to stay physically fit as well.
Dog agility is not for every dog. This is an activity that requires stamina and timed racing around a course, which is hard for some dogs. Some larger breeds also have a hard time because they don’t have as much energy as a dog like a Border Collie. It’s the medium size dogs who excel at agility training and it’s the perfect outlet for these dogs to keep them from developing bad dog behavior from lying around all day waiting for their owner to come home. However, no dog is turned away and if you have a dog who has the right type of personality and is physically fit, go for it. It might turn out to be the best thing you could do for your dog and for yourself.
If you have a bored Terrier, Poodle, Corgi, Border Collie, Retriever or any dog who loves to run and jump, agility training is perfect for them. Except for AKC, all of the dog agility clubs accept mixed breeds. The only exceptions are puppies under the age of 9 months because they are still developing, and dogs who are older than 8 years. This is an endurance sport that requires a dog to think and follow instructions from their owner to complete a course in the fastest time.
Competing in agility training trials is a real workout for you and your dog, but the rewards make it well worth the time and effort. It’s not something you or your dog can master overnight, but once your dog learns how to focus on you and follow your instructions, he’ll be racing through tunnels, climbing A-frames, flying over hurdles and weaving through poles like a pro. It’s a sport that once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked when you see the smile on your dog’s tired face. A dog that trains and competes in agility competitions has no bad dog behavior because he doesn’t have any pent up energy left to get into trouble. Give it a try if you think you and your dog has what it takes.
Would it surprise you to learn that cats can also be trained to run an agility course? It’s true! Julia Williams wrote an interesting article on Feline Agility and how you can get your cat started in this fun sport.
Photo by Ron Armstrong
Read more articles by Linda Cole
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