Agility is a great team sport for you and your dog. It is
purported to be the fastest growing dog sport. It is a rewarding and bonding experience for both you and your
Any dog ( small or large, mixed or pure-bred ) can participate in Agility. Obstacles are
designed to be set at various heights in consideration of the dog's size.
Some breeds such as Border Collies and Shelties excel in
Agility. Other breeds such as Mastiffs just have fun.
In simple terms, in an Agility competition:
The handler ( you ) direct your dog through an
obstacle course in a race against the clock
Accuracy is a must
Dog's run off leash without motivational aids
such as toys and treats. Therefore the handler's tools are limited to voice,
movement and body signals.
A Typical AKC ( American Kennel Club ) sponsored Obstacle
Course consists of:
Tunnels & Chute
Today there are numerous organizations that sponsor Agility
Competitions such as AKC, USDAA, CPE to name a few.
Of course, not
everyone aspires to compete in Agility. The bonding experience, exercise and
backyard fun are rewards in and by themselves.
First and foremost, always consider your dog's Health and
Welfare. The physical exercise and mental stimulation associated with Agility is
wonderful for almost every dog. However,
a check with your Vet regarding your
dog's physical capabilities is recommended.
Special consideration should be given to puppies. It's best
start to your dog in Agility at an early age, but puppies bones and joints are
not fully formed. Again ask your Vet or Trainer for specifics, but puppies jump
height, weaving, etc. should be limited until they reach about 18 months.
Akin to your Dog's Health & Welfare, safety should be
top of mind. Special consideration should be given to equipment design and your
dog's running surface. A few thoughts on each:
Weight-bearing equipment ( Dog Walks, A-Frames,
Teeters, Tables ) should be sturdy and stable.
All contact surfaces should be non-slip ( either
sand encapsulated in the paint or rubberized ).
Stripes on obstacles should painted or a quality
vinyl tape. Avoid duct tape and low grade vinyl tape. These tapes can peel and
the sharp edge could then cause injury to your dog.
Use molded Jump Cups and Strips without sharp
Avoid Jumps with an elevated bottom bar that
does not displace easily.
Avoid hard surfaces such as cement or blacktop. Similar
to humans, hard surface are hard on a dog's joints.
All running surfaces should provide traction to
avoid slips. Grass and rubberized mats are recommended.
A few Agility guidelines:
Make Agility Fun, Fun, Fun for your dog. As a famous instructor once said... you need to
be more fun than chasing a squirrel.
use positive reinforcement such as treats and the "Yes" word when starting Agility. Later you will be able to
reduce the frequency as your dog gains proficiency.
Reward with small
high-value soft treats. In their
excitement, dogs tend to swallow without
the use of the "No" word. "No" typically comes across as
harsh. "Oops, Try again" is a softer sounding, friendlier phrase.
In the early stages of training:
is helpful in guiding your dog over a Jump or through Weave Poles, etc.
Keep training sessions short. After about 15
minutes you'll lose your dog's attention. Schedule multiple sessions throughout
Set your criteria and only reward when your dog
meets your criteria. "Close
enough" is not "Good Enough". Strive for accuracy ... speed
will come in time. You may set your criteria at a fairly low level when first
starting Agility and then raise it over time. Make sure your dog understands
you raised your criteria. For example:
When 1st starting Agility, you may reward your
dog for running through the Uprights of a Jump ( no Jumping required )
Later your criteria may be that your dog must
Jump 4" before receiving a reward
Ultimately a reward is given when your dog jumps
his or her specified height