Do you have a dog that’s simply bursting with energy? Would you like to be involved in an activity together, that involves reward-based training, competing in shows and hanging out with lots of other lovely dogs and their owners? Then dog agility could be just right for you and your canine chum.
Agility was first introduced at Crufts in 1978 and the The Kennel Club describes it as “an action–packed rollercoaster of excitement for you and your dog. It’s made up of various obstacles for your dog (not you!) to run through, jump over, and weave in and out of – and all against the clock! Not only does agility test your dog’s fitness, it also measures your ability as a handler to direct your dog through the course.”
ALL ACTION AGILITY
For successful agility training, communication between the handler and the animal is key. Dogs learn that it’s essential to actively listen to their owner and will then want to show off what they can do.
Which dogs enjoy agility?
The answer is all sorts – whether big, small, short or tall – all kinds of canines can excel at agility training. PDSA vet Anna says: “Agility is not only fun but is a great way to improve fitness for you and your dog. It also helps with obedience as it encourages them to focus on your commands and they quickly learn it’s really rewarding when you work together as a team. Some people choose to start agility to compete, but for others it’s a way to spend time with their pet and provide them with stimulation and exercise.”
There are lots of different ways to get involved with agility, even trying out a basic weave and jump set in your back garden. But the most important thing to consider is whether it will be fun for both you and your dog. PDSA vet Anna has some recommendations of things to consider before deciding to take up agility with your best furry friend.
WATCH Blink, Bonny Quick (aged nine and a half), Pace, Snazzy and friends compete in the the small and medium agility championship final at Crufts 2022 here >>
ALL ACTION AGILITY
Because your dog has to think on their paws and follow commands in a split second, this sport keeps canines interested, focused and mentally stimulated, which can do wonders for their emotional, as well as their physical, wellbeing.
Will agility suit your dog’s personality?
“Firstly, think about your dog’s temperament. Do they like trying new things, or are they more nervous in strange situations? Do they enjoy learning? Agility involves using a number of obstacles and can involve lots of new experiences for your dog – especially if you’re thinking about competing. So think: is this something your dog might enjoy? If not, then agility might not be for you. If you’re not sure, try a few of activities at home and see if they enjoy the challenge or find the experience a bit too much!”
ALL ACTION AGILITY
When taking part in agility, dogs have no incentive in terms of treats or toys and the handler cannot touch the dog or obstacles – they must control their dog’s movements through voice and body signals alone. Building this connection can help with all other aspects of your dog’s training.
Will your dog’s breed affect their ability to enjoy agility?
“The second thing that you might want to think about is your dog’s breed. Although there’s no black and white line to say if a breed will or won’t enjoy agility, some breeds may struggle more with obstacles depending on their size or shape. Generally, breeds that are more active and naturally inquisitive will find agility easier.
“Some of the most popular breeds for agility include Collies and Spaniels as they are often very active and intelligent dogs who love to learn. It’s important to consider your pet’s ability to run and exercise as some breeds will struggle, for example with their breathing, if they get excited, overheat or do too much strenuous exercise.”
Are you and you dog in good health?
“A final consideration could be your pet’s medical history. Agility does put your dog’s body under pressure especially in terms of their joints, heart and breathing. So, if your dog has any medical concerns, it would be best to discuss these with your vet before starting any training. And you might want to think about these things for yourself too – most of us know that running to keep up with your dog can be a challenge even if they have tiny legs like my little terrier!”
Try an agility class out for size
Taking a class is a good way to see if your dog enjoys agility and, with an instructor to guide you, both you and your dog will learn the best techniques. PDSA vet Anna advises: “Although agility basics can seem quite simple, things quickly get more complex and there’s a whole range of commands that can be a fun challenge to learn as you progress. When picking an instructor, it’s important to make sure they are using positive methods to help your dog learn, that they are understanding of your dog’s individual needs, and they are comfortable taking things at a pace that works for you both.”
- The Kennel Club has information about agility and picking an instructor as well as a list of registered agility classes.
- Agilitynet is a website where people post agility news and information about classes on offer.
- UK Agility has more than 14,000 registered members and runs hundreds of days of competition throughout the year. All shows offer 5 regular jump heights, 5 select jump heights and 4 levels, enabling competitors to compete against dogs of similar size and ability. Casual classes are also available for older dogs and nursery classes for the young or less experienced.
WATCH agility champion Anthony Clarke explain some of the things you need to know to get started in dog agility here >>
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CARE MORE Find out more about caring for your dog from the pet experts >>
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