Agility for dogs is an increasingly popular discipline. Many dog owners decide to spend time with their pet in this way.
What is Agility?
Agility is a dog sport originating from Great Britain. It involves the dog overcoming a special obstacle course in the appropriate order, in the shortest possible time and with the greatest possible precision. This discipline requires agility, speed and courage, and above all, perfect cooperation between the dog and its human. In Poland, official agility competitions are organized by the FCI in 5 categories depending on the height of the dog at the withers. Dogs aged 15 months to 8 years can take part in them.
Advantages of agility for dogs
Practicing agility is a great opportunity for the dog and its owner to improve fitness and coordination. It allows you to spend valuable time with your pet, build bonds and practice commands. It is primarily suitable for those who like physical exercise and challenges, and are not afraid of systematic work. Dogs that enjoy this sport the most are those who are agile, love to run, jump and go crazy, enjoy working with people and have inexhaustible amounts of energy.
Psy do agility
Agility can be trained with almost any dog, but the breeds that are most predisposed are: Border Collie, Belgian Shepherd Dog, Poodle, Papillon and Golden Retriever, as well as their mixtures. Mutts can also train, because the most important thing is the predispositions of a particular individual. He should have the appropriate body structure – disqualifications from this sport include, among others: a shortened muzzle (as in pugs and bulldogs) and huge dimensions (e.g. in the case of a St. Bernard). In addition, the dog should derive genuine joy from working with a moving person and have the courage to overcome obstacles that may be difficult and intimidating. And above all, the dog must be healthy. If he suffers from joint dysplasia, habitual luxation of the patella, spinal degeneration or other diseases of the musculoskeletal system – unfortunately he should not practice agility because it will be too burdensome for him.
Especially in active dogs, it is worth taking care of a healthy diet, where we will have full control over its calorie content. Therefore, the BARF diet is often the best solution.
Obstacle course for a dog
The agility track consists of several obstacles placed in different orders. This order is different in each competition. The handler gets acquainted with it just before the start and must properly direct the dog on the track. Thanks to this, it is impossible for the animal to learn the track by heart, and each subsequent competition becomes a completely new challenge.
Obstacles for dogs
What types of obstacles can be found on an agility track?
- Slalom – is made of 8, 10 or 12 poles placed every 60 cm.
- Tunnel – There are 2 types of tunnel. One is a rigid tunnel, open on both sides, the other is the so-called soft tunnel (with a bag), where the dog cannot see the exit from the tunnel and has to run through a piece of material lying loosely on the ground.
- Stationary obstacle (so-called jumpka) – this is an obstacle that looks similar to the one in equestrian competitions, only in a miniature version. It can be double. The dog’s task is to jump over it.
- Wall – an obstacle to jump over.
- Circle – another one an obstacle requiring a jump – here the animal must jump through the center of a circle suspended above the ground.
- Swing – a moving obstacle requiring courage and a good sense of balance, which changes the tilt during the passage. It resembles a children’s “horse” swing.
- Palisade – a rather steep and high triangle-shaped obstacle through which the dog must run.
- Footbridge – a narrow obstacle placed at a height of 40 to 130 cm above the ground.
I also encourage you to read the article: “How to train a dog – key rules”.
How to make an agility track for a dog
To create an agility track, first of all, you need some free space outdoors. To organize the competition, an area of at least 30 x 40 m is required, but for training, even a small piece of lawn in front of the building, where we will place obstacles, is enough. Nowadays, you can easily buy basic track components online. You can also try to make obstacles yourself. When designing such a track, we must take into account the height of our dog at the withers – this determines the size of the obstacle.
Homemade obstacle course for a dog
If you decide to train agility with your dog, it is worth creating a home obstacle course. Some of them are very easy to make and do not take up much space. The easiest way is to create a slalom. All you need to do is collect a few poles at least one meter long and stick them into the ground. You can also buy bamboo or metal poles for this purpose. You can also do stationary quite easily. Poles will come in handy here again, but a bit thicker so that you can drive nails into them on which you will place the crossbar. It cannot be permanently attached, it must be able to fall down if the dog hits it while jumping. Another easy obstacle to complete is the wheel. They can be made using poles to which we attach a hula hoop. Once folded, all these obstacles will be small enough that we can easily fit them into our apartment once we finish training for the day.
How to start training agility?
First of all, you need to find out whether your dog is healthy and fit. It must also be properly socialized, open to new challenges and full of trust in its guardian. It cannot show aggression towards people or other dogs. Before we decide to exercise with obstacles, we should take care of basic behavioral training – the dog must be able to come on command, walk at your heel, sit, lie down and stay in one place. Otherwise, we won’t be able to direct him properly on the agility track. Therefore, at the beginning we must make sure that we become a real guide for our pet and motivate him to cooperate. Then you can calmly and patiently introduce the dog to subsequent obstacles, giving him time to get used to them without pressure or violence. We can do it ourselves, relying on videos and guides available on the Internet, or join a local agility club and take advantage of the advice of its experienced members.
When training a dog, we must remember not to do it on very hot days. It is also worth knowing what the symptoms of overheating are in your dog.