When it comes to sports for dogs, there is a variety of different options to from which to choose. One of the most popular and challenging activities is dog agility. Dog agility is a sport that tests a dog’s speed and his ability to navigate certain obstacles. The handler may direct the dog through the course to some degree but cannot touch him – the dog is responsible for going through the course on his own. If you are looking for a fun way to give your dog a little more exercise, consider training him for dog agility.
Basics of Dog Agility
When it comes to the basics of dog agility, all it really involves is a set of obstacles set up by a judge in an arena. Depending on the type of competition, the obstacles might be numbered so the dog must complete them in a certain order. Though the obstacles themselves may not be hard, their order and arrangement is typically difficult enough that the dog would not be able to complete the course correctly without the guidance of his handler. It is up to the handler to assess the course and to direct the dog through it with the greatest speed and accuracy possible. Each competition has its own rules for faults and qualifying scores – a qualifying score is simply a run that is completed which passes the minimum defined standards for time and points. A clear round or a clear run is one in which no faults are identified.
Types of Dog Agility Obstacles
Agility courses consist of a variety of different obstacles, and different organizations use different rules for the construction and dimensions of their obstacles. Some common obstacles you are likely to see on a dog agility course include:
- A-frame – This obstacle consists of two broad ramps hinged together at the top to form an A shape. The frame may also have horizontal slats to help the dog move up and down, as he runs over the frame.
- Teeter-Totter – In this obstacle, a ten- to twelve-foot plank is positioned to pivot on a fulcrum. The dog steps onto one side of the teeter-totter then runs across it, coming down on the other side.
- Tunnel – This obstacle consists of a vinyl tube measuring between ten and twenty feet long that the dog runs through.
- Hurdles – These obstacles consist of two uprights, between which is suspended a horizontal bar. These hurdles may be placed at different heights depending on the size of the dog.
- Tire Jump – For this obstacle, the dog must jump through a tire-shaped ring suspended inside a frame, without touching the sides of the tire.
- Weave Poles – This obstacle consists of a set of vertical poles through which the dog must weave without skipping any poles.
- Pause Box – This obstacle is simply a square that sits off the ground on which the dog must perform some type of “pause” behavior like sitting or lying down.
Tips for Training
You can start training a dog for agility at any age, though care should be taken with dogs that have not yet reached adulthood, to avoid straining the developing joints. When you first start training your dog, you should use simplified versions of each obstacle and you must be patient, because each dog learns at his own pace. If you are using agility training as a bonding experience with your dog, you can do the training yourself. If you simply want your dog to get good enough at it to compete in competitions, you can hire an instructor or enroll him in an agility training class. May the best dog win!