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The idea of introducing dogs in a competition of agility, first appeared in England in 1978 when Crufts annual dog show presented an agility display as a half time entertainment. Based on horse jumping, agility training is a way to show off a dog’s natural speed and agility using various obstacles. If you want to compete, you should know that a dog is expected to navigate 18-20 obstacles in the fastest time possible.
The first step is to decide if your dog is suitable for agility training and this means taking into consideration several factors.
Older dogs tend to have weaker joints and tire more easily than a dog in its prime so again the training needs to be adapted. Your dogs’ breed – all breeds are suitable for this kind of training though the kings and queens of agility are undoubtedly the border collies.
Smaller dogs will need lower jumps, pause table’s etcetera and will inevitably be slower than larger dogs. Larger breeds may come with some difficulty in negotiating the obstacles because of their bulk. Temperament of certain breeds may also make them slightly harder to work with but with patience, the right motivation, and praise, all dogs will progress.
Obedience wise, even crazy mischievous whirlwinds of fur can participate in agility training and may even benefit from it in more ways than one. Once you have decided agility training is right for both of you, it’s time to create your own agility course. Four basic pieces are usually enough to start the training: jumps, chutes, tunnels and weave poles being the most popular. Tunnels are a longer, dark, completely rigid space, 18 foot being a good length that you can decrease and increase the difficulty of as your dog becomes more skilled. Once you’re ready to start your training decide on which obstacle you want to try and master first. Go to the other side and encourage your dog to come through using the leash as gentle guidance if they need it. Probably best saved until last due to their difficulty, the weave poles have a couple of training ideas for you and your dog to achieve success. Alternatively you could attach a wire at your dog’s eye level which forms a pathway through the weave. Once your dog has mastered the four basic pieces of equipment you can start to tie them together. Designed for your dog to jump onto, stop and stay for five seconds the pause table is an ideal piece of equipment for those dogs who could benefit from a little additional basic command training.
The teeter table or seesaw is one of the more difficult pieces of equipment for your dog to gain confidence on.


One of your dog’s paws must always touch the contact board on both ends if you want to compete.
Improvements in behavior – most dogs’ bad behavior is down to being bored due to lack of mental stimulation.
Strengthening bonds – most dog owners would say they have an extremely strong connection and friendship with their pooch. Aiding communication – strengthening bonds and trust though agility will aid all areas of communication and training with your dog.
The most important aspect of training your dog’s agility is that you and your pooch will be having loads of fun. This cannot be highlighted enough: if it isn’t fun your dog will not like it and the activity will be more of a punishment than a fun activity. John Brown lives in Somerville, MA, with her two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate.
The information contained on this website meant to be a substitute for advice from your own veterinarian or dog trainer. Competitors are generally provided with a course map prior to competing and allowed to walk the course to help them (and the contestants) to get used to the course.
Lowering the jumps will help protect joints and shorter training sessions will avoid over exertion. You can always add more equipment later as your dog builds up his skills and speed with the existing pieces. If you plan on competing they are a must have and need to be sturdy enough not to fall over when brushed against by your dog. It is better to practice each piece of equipment separately, only putting them into a sequence as your dog becomes more skilled, confident and able. First fold the chute so that it is shorter in length making it a smaller challenge for your dog.
First, you could put your dog on a short leash and gently guide him slowly through the poles rewarding with each successful completion.
Set all the equipment up in a course and guide your dog through using good body language and verbal command such as tunnel, chute, jumps, and weave. As your dog gains more confidence, allow them to increase control over the drop of the plank but always remember to have them pause and stop at the centre point.
It will also take some time for your dog to gain confidence on this equipment and it is still recommended that a friend helps with initial training. A long walk in the park or woods may tire your dog out physically but it will not tire them mentally. Training however will build on that partnership creating an even stronger and more trusting bond that cannot be broken.


This is why agility training for dogs for competitions or simply for fun, is quickly becoming a popular activity among owners and their pooches. Many dog owners choose to take their dogs to agility classes which can be found up and down the country but this isn’t the only way to participate. Puppies also have a very short attention span and are more awkward than older dogs so training will need to be adapted and kept shorter to accommodate for this. If you want to do the training at home it’s recommended to go to a couple of classes and make sure both you and your dog enjoy it before investing in any equipment.
Bear in mind that you are asking your dog to pass through an area it cannot see out of, so it’s best to purchase a chute that can be fastened to the ground to avoid it moving and scaring your dog. As your dog becomes more used to weaving, raise the wire until they no longer need it as a guide.
Keep your dog steady with a tight lead and use your hand and a treat to focus and guide your dog across the plank.
Thus, you may come home with a dog that is panting furiously, but mentally he’s just as hyper and ready to go as before you left the house.
If your furry friend fails an obstacle speak to them in a positive way saying something like ‘oh dear’. However if your dog is not one that mixes well with others you should probably be best investing in some DVD’s, or watching YouTube clips to get an idea of what agility training is all about. Of course you should not consider buying competition quality equipment at this stage, it can be horrendously expensive.
If you are planning on competing with your dog always remember to have your dog enter the poles from the right hand side, this is a competition must.
Also remember that, as your dog becomes more skilled, their speed will increase and your body language and command will need to accelerate with it. Ideally you will be able to start moving off before you release your dog from the table giving you a chance to get ahead and guide them.
Have your friend ready to lower the other end of the equipment to avoid it dropping too quickly and scaring your dog. Your dog cannot be expected to figure out your body language at the last second and ideally you will be ahead of your dog at all times clearly showing the next obstacle.
Edge your dog slowly forward so the plank lowers at a slow pace ensuring the plank touches the floor before your dog moves off.



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