Is Agility Training Right for Your Dog?
By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President
Anyone who has ever watched an agility competition – whether on TV or in person – knows that it’s one of the most exciting dog sports around.
Handlers guide their dogs around a pre-determined course featuring various obstacles like the teeter totter, tunnels, weave poles and jumps. Timing and communication within the team is critical since points are taken off for mistakes, or “faults.”
Although many dogs that compete are the speedier, more agile types like Border Collies and Cattle Dogs, competitions are available for dogs of various breeds, ages and abilities.
Even if you’re not the competitive type, training your dog to do agility has many benefits. It can strengthen the bond between you, improve how well you and your pup communicate with each other, and keep you both mentally and physically fit.
Before you sign up for an agility class, though, there are a few things you should consider to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your dog.
What is your training history?
How many training courses have you and your dog completed together? Does your dog know basic commands like sit, stay and come? Do you feel confident in how you communicate with your dog? Do you enjoy working with your dog even in stressful situations?
If your dog has never even taken an obedience class, it’s probably best to start with the basics. Chances are, most trainers you speak with will require it anyway before admitting you to a class. However, each trainer and facility is different, so it never hurts to call and ask.
Visit the veterinarian.
Even at the beginner level, agility is a demanding sport. Dogs are asked to jump, run and make sharp turns. That’s why it’s so important to make sure they’re healthy first. When speaking with your vet, let him know that you’re thinking about getting your dog into agility. He should thoroughly check your dog’s heart, lungs, eyesight, hearing and joints.
After you begin agility, pay extra attention to your dog’s physical health, including limping, difficulty sleeping or heavier-than-normal breathing. If your pup has a Voyce Health Monitor, alert your vet to any anomalies you notice. Better yet, ask your vet if he would be willing to monitor your dog on an ongoing basis via the Voyce Pro Wellness Monitoring Program.
Assess your dog’s personality.
Dogs who have a lot of energy or enjoy working are a great fit for agility. However, just because your dog is a couch potato doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be good at agility. If he likes getting out of the house and doing things with you, he may do great…even if he doesn’t break any speed records.
Because there’s a lot of movement and noise during agility, it’s also important that your dog is able to shut out distractions and focus on you. This is especially important for pups who may be easily aroused or reactive to other dogs. If your dog is especially afraid of noises or new experiences, but you still believe he would enjoy the sport, try looking for a trainer who offers one-on-one training.
Once you’ve determined that you’d like to give agility a try, ask for references for agility trainers in your area. Before enrolling, be sure to sit in on a class to get a good feel for the trainer’s personality, experience and training style.
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