We have all seen at least one dog show before and it can be an impressive thing. Well-trained dogs running about the obstacle course, moving swiftly through tires, around cones, across seesaws, and more.
It is also normal to wonder whether you could train your own dog to do so. That is where constructing a dog agility course can help you come up with the answer to that question. But there is a lot to know about those agility courses before you get started.
When Should a Dog Start Agility Training?
Some dog owners may not be quite so certain as to when to begin their dog in agility training. As is the case with many different types of training, the earlier in life you start them, the easier it will be to get them to adhere to the training.
That said, you should not start your dog out in agility training any earlier than 8 weeks. This is known as flat training. It is a great way to work on basic training skills with your puppy and get them accustomed to discipline early.
Should your dog be older than puppy age, there are a few simple things to look for. Their activity level can definitely play a role. So long as they don’t have any underlying health conditions, they might be ready to partake in agility training.
For a dog to compete on a full course, they should be a minimum of 12-18 months. Agility is known as a high-impact sport, especially on joints and knees. Any underlying health conditions could lead to further injury with the implementation of agility training.
Are Agility Courses Good for Dogs?
They are quite good for dogs, as a matter of fact. There are a ton of reasons why, so let’s get into the various reasons that you should be introducing your dog into agility training.
A Great Outlet
For starters, any physical activity is a great outlet for getting out their mental and physical energy. Getting out into the sun, moving about, and staying active can help them burn off that excess energy, particularly in more energetic breeds.
It can allow them to get moving at full speed, focusing on a specific task. On top of all of that, it helps to strengthen joints, improve their coordination, and to even build some lean muscle. But that is just the start.
There is also the mental release as well. If you have a young, restless dog, getting them out onto the agility training course can be a great way for them to release some of that energy.
When dogs are confident, they feel better and are happier. Working together with their owner (that’s you) can help to build that confidence.
Working on agility training can also help your dog get over fears and uncertainties about small spaces, unusual surfaces, scary situations, and also help them to complete tasks even when you aren’t right there next to them.
Whether in our own lives or on television, we have all known a dog that struggled with self-control. Most untrained dogs will go to whatever obstacle or task that they find to be most attractive at that time.
But with a little bit of training, working with or without equipment, your dog will learn to gain that all-important self-control. They will commit to the task which you are challenging them to complete, putting all of their focus in one place. It is a great way to get them to learn to look to you for confirmation first and to control some of that energy by focusing on a task.
Is Dog Agility Cruel?
Seeing a dog going through an agility course on television, you might wonder if your own dog could do something like that. You may also wonder whether performing on agility courses like that may do them harm, causing injury. This leads to the question: Is dog agility cruel?
The short answer is that, no, it is not. Not in the least. Of course, that is under the assumption that training is done with positive reinforcement. There should also be some natural ability on the part of the dog; you don’t want to take an older, unathletic dog through the dog agility course.
If anything, training your dog to be able to navigate the agility course can help to build the rapport between the two of you. Just keep an eye on your dog and make sure that the training and navigating the course is not becoming too much of a strain because they can burn out.
That said, it can become a cruel thing depending on the owner. Some owners are a bit too aggressive in their training methods. When it stops being about fun and bonding and becomes overly competitive, it can lead to mistreatment of the dogs.
There is also the case of having a dog that already has existing health conditions. In that instance, it might make it impossible for them to properly navigate the course in a healthy manner. Should your dog be a senior, have arthritis, any kind of muscular-skeletal issue, or vision problems, then the agility course might not be the best idea.
How Do I Start My Dog in Agility?
If you feel as though your dog is ready for a dog agility course, you may be wondering how you get started. There are a few things to know before getting started. The first is that you want to build those simple foundational skills that help to make your dog more agile.
Create simple obstacles, things such as an open box to create a tunnel or a hula hoop to mimic the tire jump. There are a ton of videos and books out there that can help any pet owner get their footing when it comes to creating an agility course.
It is also important to find an instructor that has a teaching style that suits you. Try to find beginner courses that have lowered equipment and positive training techniques. Going to full-sized equipment is something that should be left until your dog has mastered the basics.
If you feel that your dog is pretty good with the basics, look for local trials as well. This gives you a better idea for how the sport works, allowing you to become familiarized and allow your dog to acclimate to what it’s like to compete.
If you have seen those dog agility training videos or a competition in person, you may have an interest in your dog getting in on the action. Should that be the case, there are a few things to know before getting them started on an agility course.
It can be a bonding experience for the two of you and it can be a great way to boost their confidence and accentuate their athletic ability. Just make sure that you have the proper course obstacles, patience, and use positive reinforcement each step of the way.