How to Get Started with Dog Agility Training
Want to have fun with your dog, get healthy, and fulfill your competitive spirit? Read more here about dog agility where dogs of any breed can compete in an obstacle course directed by their handlers.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
What is Dog Agility Training?
Dog agility is a sport where dogs of various breeds race through an obstacle course directed by their handlers, competing for speed and accuracy.
Dog agility training provides many benefits for both the dog and their handler, including:
- Provides good exercise for both you and your dog
- Uses your dogs’ natural hunting instincts
- Bonds dogs with their owners in a positive, natural training method
- Fun for you and your dog!
In dog agility, the handler controls their dog using only their voice, body movements, and various signals. The handler cannot use food or toys as rewards. During the competition, dogs are off-leash and the handler cannot touch the dog or the obstacles. Dogs show their athletic ability, level of training, and response to their handler when they compete. Each obstacle course is different, requiring handlers to practice and train often with their dogs.
What to Think About Before Starting Agility Training with Your Dog
Agility training is an active and physically challenging exercise for your dog. Consider the following before starting agility training with your dog:
- Physical fitness: Make an appointment with your veterinarian for a physical exam to ensure your dog is healthy and ready to begin this type of activity.
- Motivation: Know your dog and what motivates him/her to train. While you can train with food and toys, your dog must also be motivated by your hugs and words.
- Temperament: Your dog must be comfortable around strange dogs and people encountered at a competition. Since they’ll be off-leash, it’s important that your dog responds to your voice commands at competitions, even with all of the distractions.
Getting Your Dog Started with Agility Training:
Search for local agility groups where you live. You can search online, talk to your vet, ask fellow dog owners, or reach out to local dog trainers. If competing in the sport of canine agility sparks your interest, contact a professional in the sport to teach you the skills, regulations, and methods necessary.
Start at home by setting up a simple dog agility course in your backyard and see how your dog responds:
- Look for a soft, collapsible tunnel in the children’s toy section and encourage your dog to walk through it using treats, toys, and voice encouragement.
- Set up a wide, 2 x 10 wooden board on 2 cinder blocks for your dog to jump over and to walk on.
- Hang a hula hoop from a sturdy tree limb or pole and see if you can get your dog to jump through it, again using treats, toys, and voice encouragement.
Read more about canine agility training on the following links:
Daisy Peel (agility coach)
Have questions regarding agility training and starting a program with your dog?
Schedule a video appointment to chat with one of our vets.