How to Prepare Your Dog for Agility Competition

Training a dog in agility

Dogs compete in the sport of agility. Agility training is popular among owners of high-energy breeds because it can simultaneously test a dog's body and intellect. Working together as a team, the handler guides the dog through the obstacles in the proper order.

What is agility training for dogs?

Dogs participate in a timed obstacle course made consisting of jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and pathways during agility training. Agility training keeps dogs active, healthy, and cognitively engaged for both the dogs and their owners.

While some individuals love competing in agility competitions, others prefer training in agility for enjoyment. Teams of dogs and handlers compete in the trials to determine who can go through the obstacles the quickest and with the fewest errors. Although most breeds may take part with the proper instruction, agility is a fantastic sport for working dogs.

Start Training Early

In agility, dogs often begin competing between the ages of one and two. Jumping over obstacles may be dangerous for puppies and young dogs. Find out from your veterinarian when your dog will be prepared to try the jumps.

Your dog can be trained before they are old enough to participate. Teach your puppy to sit, lie down, come, heel, and stay as a starting point for basic obedience training. Attending training sessions can help your puppy learn the fundamentals of obedience and become accustomed to working with plenty of different dogs and people. It's a good idea to have your pet take and pass the AKC Good Citizen Test.

Finding a class or club in your neighborhood after your dog is prepared to begin agility training is your best chance. Many dog trainers also provide lessons, and the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) provides a database of agility clubs in every state. You may introduce the obstacles to your dog in the lessons without having to spend money on buying or creating them yourself.

Introduce Contact Obstacles

There are several contact obstacles, including the A-frame, the teeter-totter, and the dog walk.

  • The A-frame is a cone-shaped walkway. Dogs must be able to walk up the steep incline and back down the other side.
  • The dog walk works like a balance beam for dogs with ramps on either end.
  • The teeter-totter is just like the one you would find at the playground. Your dog must learn to walk across it as the board moves under its weight.

Because there are designated locations on one or both sides of these obstacles that your dog must touch with at least one paw, they are known as contact obstacles. By placing rewards in the contact zone, you may train your dog to create this contact because it will only be able to acquire the treats by placing its paw there. As you teach each barrier, be sure to put this into practice.

Make sure the obstacles are placed as low as possible before you start. Put your dog on a leash and use an obstacle-specific command, such "A-frame." As you get close to the obstacle, move fast and guide the dog over it. To get your dog to climb these obstacles the first few times, you might need to use some extra special rewards.

If your dog steadfastly won't climb, try teaching them to do it backwards. Your dog should be picked up and placed at the end of the obstacle. Usually, dogs will take the step or two it takes to get off. Once your dog is comfortable with this, you may place him a little bit higher so that he needs to take a few extra steps to exit.

Keep things positive and upbeat. Once your dog gets the hang of the contact obstacles, it will be eager to do them again and again.

Teach Jumps

Once your vet gives the all-clear, you may begin practicing leaps. Don't get off to a high point. Keep the bar one or two inches off the ground for large and medium-sized breed dogs. You might begin by placing the bar on the ground for smaller breeds.

Teach your dog to leap by keeping it on a leash so that it cannot navigate an obstacle. Give each leap its own command, such as "large jump." Your dog will often clear the obstacle by hopping over it if you approach the jump quickly. Praise and treat people generously. You may gradually increase the jump height as your dog acquires confidence.

Practice in a small corridor if your dog won't jump a barrier. Put your dog on one side of a little jump and yourself on the other. Your dog shouldn't have any other option but to move forward and jump. With food and a cheery voice, encourage your dog. Your dog will quickly gain confidence in jumping if you have a little patience and use positive reinforcement.

Once your dog has learned the basics, it's time to begin teaching agility specifics.

Try Tunnels

Typically, tunnels are a simple hurdle to educate. Begin by building a brief tunnel that your dog can look through to the other side. Prepare someone to hold a favorite toy or some snacks at the other end. Then, have your assistant start calling the tunnel and giving rewards while you lead your dog there.

Throwing some snacks inside could entice your dog if they're being wary. The majority of dogs will easily cross to the opposite side. You may progress to longer, curving tunnels as your dog is more at ease.

Move on to Weave Poles

Weave poles are a row of poles that your dog must weave in and out of. This can be a difficult obstacle to teach. Plan on lots of practice and repetition before your dog masters this skill.

Start by spacing the poles so that your dog can stand between them at least shoulder-width apart. Don a leash and guide the dog through the passageway in the midst of the poles. Once you've repeated this process several times, slowly bring the poles closer to the center. This makes it necessary for your dog to slightly bend its body in order to pass through the center channel.

Your dog need to be familiar with the bending motion required to weave around the poles by the time you get them in the ideal place. For a dog to master the weave poles, from weeks to months may pass.

Stay on the Pause Table

Your dog must climb up onto the pause table in order to do a "sit-stay" or "down-stay." It is usually easy to urge your dog to jump up on the table because it is typically no higher than your couch. Most of the time, all that is required is to pat the surface and tempt your dog with some treats.

Keeping your dog in a stay during this obstacle is difficult. Most dogs are eager to move on to the next challenge. Your early training will help you in this. Your dog will be prepared for agility training if you have performed fundamental commands.

Start simple if your dog is having problems. Give it a count of one before offering a treat. Increasing the dog's stay time gradually is a good idea. Practice with a lot of distractions to simulate an agility trial once it can hold a position for at least five seconds.

Complete Training With Sequencing

Once your dog has mastered all the obstacles, it's time to put it all together. This is called sequencing. It's your job to let your dog know the order in which it should approach obstacles.

Start by connecting two barriers, such a jump and a tunnel. First, say the order "big leap" to your dog. Then, as you advance toward the tunnel, shout "tunnel" before it touches the ground on the opposite side.

Timing is important with sequencing. If you wait too long to give the command for the next obstacle, your dog may make the choice itself, and it may not be the right one.

You may add another obstacle once your dog has mastered completing two in a succession, and so on, until it can finish a whole course. You are prepared to compete as soon as it is able to accomplish it effectively.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

Over 150 dog breeds, including mixed-breed dogs, participate in agility, according to the USDAA. Some breeds are renowned for excelling in the sport, including the Australian Shepherd and the Dutch Shepherd. But you shouldn't allow having a or a discourage you from giving it a shot. Your dog will likely like agility training if it is lively and spirited.

Your backyard is probably a controlled setting with few distractions if you practice agility at home. As a result, it may be challenging to take your dog to a competition because it is not accustomed to the busy setting.

To get your dog ready for distractions, test your dog's training in a variety of settings. To help your dog get acclimated to a crowd, invite some buddies over to support them. You can also wish to discover nearby trainers that have the obstacles set up in their backyards or travel to a training facility. You may even bring your obstacles to a park if they are transportable.

Remember that your dog might not find competition enjoyable. No matter how much you want your dog to win, running the hurdles at home may have to suffice. Take pleasure in the bonding experience that agility training provides you and your dog if you're not the kind to flaunt yourself on a huge platform. Enjoy it, and your dog will as well.