School’s In Session – 101 Introduction To Agility Training For Dogs

Agility Training for dogs has a multitude of benefits. It gives your dog a mental and physical challenge. It puts their natural instincts to work in a positive manner. And it gives you the opportunity to deepen your bond with your dog. Once your dog masters the obedience basics, you may find that agility training is a natural progression in your dog’s skill advancement.

Agility training is a competitive sport for dogs. They must make their way through an obstacle course made up of jumps, tunnels, and walkways in the shortest time possible with the least amount of mistakes. Dogs must run the course with a handler, who guides them with voice, movement and body signals only – no treats or touching are allowed.

There are dog trainers and classes you can pay for that will put your dog through his paces, but if you can’t afford the sessions, you can train your dog in your own backyard. To set up your own agility course, you’ll need a few things that can be found around the house or at a hardware store.

Here’s what you’re going to need to get started:

  • Tunnel: A collapsible child’s tunnel will fit your purposes for this kind of training. It needs to be large enough for your dog to crawl through. Pick one up at a local toy store.
  • Teeter board:  You’ll need a long piece of wood and some PVC pipe.  Cover the board with astroturf, indoor/outdoor carpeting or antiskid paint. This will ensure that your dog won’t slip when he walks across the board. Here are the detailed instructions on how to build a Teeter board.
  • Standard Jumps: All you need is a couple of cinderblocks stacked together with plywood on top. Or you can build them with adjustable poles from scratch if you’re handy – here are the instructions on how to do it yourself.
  • Tire Jumps: This is an easy one. String a car tire from a rope to a sturdy tree. The tire must be large enough for your dog to jump through and you’ll have to hold on to it when you first get started.
  • Weave poles: Make your own with PVC pipe. Stick them in the ground far enough apart so that your dog will have enough room to weave through them.
  • Pause Table: A coffee table can double as a Dog Walk. It just needs to be stable and low enough to the ground so your dog can jump onto it.
  • Walk Table: If you’ve got a picnic table, you can use it for a Walk Table. If you don’t a coupled of cinderblocks and plywood does the job too.

Although this list is subjective, most medium-sized dogs with a working background perform well in agility training competitions. Here is a short list of breeds that tend to excel at this kind of training:

  • Terriers
  • Shepherds
  • Retrievers
  • Sheepdogs
  • Spaniels
  • Poodles
  • Schnauzers
  • Cattle Dogs
  • Pinschers
  • Corgis
  • Canaans
  • Malinois
  • Tervurens

Exercise for the body and mind:  On a physical level, agility training will improve your dog’s coordination, increase endurance, and improve his overall health. On the mental side, expect you dog to be more alert and confident, and you’ll be astounded by his advanced problem-solving capabilities.

A deeper bond between dog and master: Agility training takes quite a bit of attention and time. You’ll notice how his basic obedience levels and his ability to communicate will improve. As well, the time spent together will strengthen your bond.

You’ll get some exercise: This isn’t all up to your dog – you’re going to have to move to keep up. You have to stay close to him to give him commands, so that means running alongside your dog as he navigates the course.

Building on his natural instincts: Agility is already built into your dog – this type of training helps him rediscover his natural instincts. In the past, dogs would have to chase and capture prey, and agility training mimics the thrill of the hunt.


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