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The nature of agility training and how dogs and owners can harness its benefits

Updated on April 20, 2013
A dog on a dog walk at the Nex Dog Park in Singapore.
A dog on a dog walk at the Nex Dog Park in Singapore. | Source

Agility Training-basic jumping

The first possible notion that pops in every pet owner’s mind when it comes to agility training is “My gosh, do I really have time for this?”

This answer to that rather drained question would be a yes, especially if your dog is rather frisky and has much pent up energy to expend. If a dog is rather impatient with or does not obey you completely, agility training might be the answer to a chagrined prayer.

So what exactly is agility training and what are its benefits? What are the things to consider when putting a dog through agility training?

Dog agility is for all, but there are some dog breeds just made for agility - we will discuss some of them.

What is agility training?

Agility training for dogs is a sport which involves a handler directing a dog through an obstacle course without touching him or putting him on a leash. The handler relies on voice, movement and body signals to give the dog direction.

The dog moves through standard obstacles of the handler’s choosing in an area of specified size. The surface can be made of grass, dirt, rubber or special matting. with obstacles laid out in the order in which they should be completed. They should be complicated enough so that a dog cannot complete them without human direction.

Dog on an A Frame
Dog on an A Frame | Source

Equipment found in agility courses

Agility courses, especially competitive ones make use of equipment that may be structured to accommodate the requirements of competition, though not necessarily so. Here is some of the equipment that is used in agility courses.

A frame

This is a frame usually 3ft by 9ft, hinged together so that the central portion of the frame is about 5 and 6 and a quarter feet above ground level. The bottoms of the frames are usually painted in a bright color onto which the dog must place the paw while ascending and descending. Many organizations require that the A frames have horizontal slants across them assisting the dog in going up and down. Some might require a rubberized surface or the top of the frame to be narrowed.

Dog on teeter totter
Dog on teeter totter | Source

Teeter Totter

This is a 10 to 12 ft plank that works like a see saw, only constructed slightly off balance so that the same end always touches the ground, usually by weighting that end of the board. The teeter totter, however, does not have slats like many of the other obstacles. The weight of the plank must be light enough to allow a small dog like a chihuahua to cause it to descend.

Dog on a dog walk
Dog on a dog walk | Source

Dog walk

The dog walk is 8 to 12 ft wide, connected at the ends, with the centre plank about 4 ft off the ground. This obstacle also has contact zones Some have horizontal slats to assist the dog going up and down. If you are sending your dog for agility competitions, the presence of the horizontal slats would depend on the organization conducting the competition. The dog walk also has contact zones which the dog must touch when going up and down the piece of equipment.

Dog in agility tunnel
Dog in agility tunnel | Source

Tunnels

This is a vinyl tube about 10 to 20 ft long and about 2 ft in diameter. It is constructed with vinyl and wire so that it forms a straight line or curves that the dog has to move through.

Dog in a sacktunnel
Dog in a sacktunnel | Source

Collapsed tunnel

This is made up of fabric that forms a barrel like cylinder. It extends about 8 to 12 ft. The dog pushes his way through the tube.

Dog on a double jump.
Dog on a double jump. | Source

Jumps

These are two uprights joined by a bar over which the dog jumps. They are varied according to course requirements.

  • winged single jump: a jump adjusted in height for small dogs.
  • double and triple jump: two or three bars spread forward or backward from each other, supported by uprights
  • broad jump : 4 or 5 slightly raised platforms over which the dog must jump over.
  • tire jumps: Rubberized material shaped like a tire, suspended by a frame for the dog to jump through.

Dog on Pause Table
Dog on Pause Table | Source

Pause Table

This is a table on which a dog must pause upon direction of the handler.

Source

Weave poles

This is a series of 5 to 12 upright poles, about 3 ft in height that a dog must weave through.

A poodle about to go through agility training
A poodle about to go through agility training | Source

What are the benefits of agility training for dogs?

There are many benefits a dog can reap from agility training, difficult to list because there are too many, some of which must be experienced first hand.

However, here are a few that will be obvious to many.

Agility hones a dog’s natural instincts.

Dogs are natural hunters like their wolf and coyote cousins in the wild, jumping over logs, going through burrows or climbing steep slopes to catch up with prey. It stands to reason that the faster a dog makes it through these obstacles, the better chance he will have of catching it! Agility training works to cultivate the chasing desires of dogs.

It is great exercise for your dog!

No matter what breed or size your dog is, it benefits from the exercise that agility training involves. It strengthens muscles and improves coordination.

It is great exercise for you too.

As your dog takes a run through the courses, the owner has to run along with him, and thus benefits from a great amount of exercise.

It strengthens bonds.

These courses are set up such that no dog can complete them without the help of a handler. The verbal and hand instructions a handler gives increases the trust between you and the dog, and reinforces basic obedience commands.

Source

What you must consider before sending a dog for agility training

If an owner has a great dog that would benefit from agility training, there are some considerations the owner has to make before putting him through it for a better outcome and to reduce the risk of injury.

Raise a good family pet.

A dog should be a good family pet before it is put through agility training so that the trust it has in the owner can be fully developed. The foundations of a great family pet - being obedient, trusting and loyal - should be laid before agility training is considered. Agility training is performed better when proper off the lead controls, like “come” and “stay” are already in place.

Basic obedience skills like sitting and staying should be well performed before putting your dog through agility. These can be better reinforced with the training.

Consider your dog’s health.

If your dog is not in the condition to do much physical exercise, common sense should raise the red flag and tell the owner not to put the dog through the training. It might collapse from the stress, just as high impact exercise would on a person who is not fit to perform it.

Sense your dog’s moods.

Not all dogs will enjoy agility so it is good to read the signals a dog is sending out. Agility will repel a dog if an owner forces him through it, and even more depressed.

Not all activities in an agility course will gel with all dogs, so it is good to find those which the dog likes at the beginning so that you have a pleasurable partnership with him. If your dog is young, progress slowly so that better trust and control is developed.

Make sure your dog is well fed.

Make sure that your dog is well fed and has enough strength to move through the courses so that it will not experience discomfort

A border collie
A border collie | Source

Top 5 agility breeds

Though all breeds, big and small, will benefit from a little agility training, here are 5 which are really structured for such training.

The Border Collie

The border collie was bred to control sheep in the hilly border country between Scotland and England. Hence its name, the Border Collie. A dog with unlimited stamina and working drive, it excels at all sports, including agility, flyball and tracking disc competitions.

A cute Sheltie
A cute Sheltie | Source

The Shetland Sheepdog

Alert little fellows that are quick to bark if something is amiss, the sheltie used to stand guard for farmers in Scotland. A little training is necessary to keep this trait from becoming a nuisance.

Their gentle willingness to please and intelligence makes them excellent dogs for agility training. Like the border collie, the sheltie excels in competitive sports.

A Pembroke Welsh Corgi going through a single agility jump.
A Pembroke Welsh Corgi going through a single agility jump. | Source

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi was originally bred to herd cattle and is an intelligent dog. It has a docked tail and an intelligence that makes it suitable for agility training. Great with kids and pets, it can be found with different coats and markings.

A Jack Russell Terrier
A Jack Russell Terrier | Source

Jack Russell Terriers

The Jack Russell Terrier was developed in England years ago to hunt foxes. Charming and affectionate, he is a handful to manage, but enjoys anything athletic, including agility.

Not quite a breed for first time owners, though.

It came to being when Parson John Russell, known as Jack to his friends, needed a hunting dog to hunt foxes. People soon came to appreciate its intelligence and portable size.

An Australian Shepherd
An Australian Shepherd | Source

Australian Shepherd

No, this dog does not hail from Australia. Originally developed in the era of the Gold Rush to herd livestock, the Australian Shepherd can be a wonderful companion if his energy is channelled into other activities, like agility training. It excels in competitive sports!

Conclusion

The benefits agility training can have for dogs are plenty and should be experienced, with a little careful consideration on the part of the owner.

I would like to thank the writers who answered the question "What are some of the benefits of agility training for dogs?" They have provided insight that has contributed much to this article.

Copyright Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin All Rights Reserved

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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      An article on agility training for dogs.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Definitely wonderful tips here and so much valuable information about agility training for many different types of dogs. Thanks as always Michelle for sharing and have, of course, voted way up and shared, too!!

    • James-wolve profile image

      Tijani Achamlal 4 years ago from Morocco

      Wonderful hub.It seems you are an expert in this field.You know many things about dogs .Are you a vet or..? I voted up

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great hub Michelle! You cover so many topics with all your hub about dogs; I definitely think that you must have enough materials to create an e-book!

      You can definitely train dogs more easily than cats! I must say that I play with my cats and it's funny to see how they learn to anticipate what I will do .... so I have to improve myself what to do to surprise them a little bit!

      I arrived to trains several of my cats to bring back little pompoms when I throw them away. It's funny to see them coming back with that in their mouth.

      Voted up, useful and interesting :-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Australian Shepherds are such beautiful dogs. That picture reminded me of how pretty they are.

      In an hour we head out for obedience training for our two-year old mutt. Once we get that done we will move on to agility training. Great suggestions here, Michelle.

    • Jenn-Anne profile image

      Jenn-Anne 4 years ago

      Nice hub filled with useful information! We have two dogs - a shepherd terrier mix and a beagle mix. We are considering both for agility training, although I think it will suit the temperment of the shepherd mix better. I was interested to read your recommendation that the dog have mastered basic commands before agility training. We had thought it might be best to train the beagle mix first, but since he is only 8 months old I think he still has some work to do before he'll be ready. Voted up!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Michelle, this is very useful, we are thinking about some agility training for Rodney, this is very timely. Thank you, I'll be saving for later and sharing.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Agility training is also a great way to instill confidence in dogs! I recommend it to clients of insecure dogs. And I always emphasize the importance of ruling out any orthopedic and any other medical problems first. Voted up~!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

      This hub on agility training is really interesting and I liked the comparison in the breeds of agility geared dogs. My daughter-in-law has done wonders with her dog using this training, but it is new to me. Voted up.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Michelle, I love the way you wrote this, easy to read and check out each section. My brother used to have a border collie and they are such intelligent dogs. easy to train, and great companions, great hub, voted up! nell

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      My Schnauzer, Baby, loves her nylon tunnel I bought for her. It is actually a child's tunnel, but it's just right for her. Baby is not too fond of heights but she is learning to up the ramp I made for her.

      You did a great job with this Hub (as usual). I like the way you laid it all out showing different breeds of dogs.

      Voted UP and will share all around.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      LOL! No James, I'm not a vet, but a passionate dog owner and writer. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for saying that, Kidscrafts. Yes, dogs are more trainable that cats, possibly because they are more attached to us. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, they definitely are, Bill! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Give it a go, Jenn-Anne, and you and your dog will enjoy the training! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      HI Jo and Rodney!! The two of you will certainly enjoy the training. Do give it a go, my friends!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Alexandry! It is, it is indeed. No health problems first!! Thanks for sharing!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Pamela! Agility does wonders for dogs. Really gets them calmed down! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Border Collies are frisky and a handful, but are great friends! Cheerful fellows. Thanks for sharing, Nell!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Tunnels are fun for dogs who love burrowing! Cloudy loves that too. I have to take her to Nex for agility training because there's no space at home, though! Thanks for sharing!

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 4 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      I don't have a dog, but two cats and they wouldn't go for this . . . hee. But I can certainly see how this would be so beneficial, especially for the dogs with a lot of energy! Great article, Kathi :O)

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      I haven't used agility training - haven't seen any around here although a little late for us. Many years ago we took our dogs to obedience training which was fun. I can see how beneficial this would be to many breeds, love border collies - so intelligent they can be hyperactive and would love this. It's like taking children to an adventure playground. My Nell is far to relaxed and sleepy - Great hub. voting up and all.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kathi. Yes, it helps dogs who are very hyperactive, like my West Highland Terrier! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yep, it's beneficial, Travmaj, but not for all dogs! It really depends on their temperament. Thanks for sharing1

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      My daughter and her friends usually build an obstacle course for our dog who inevitably runs around all of the obstacles instead of doing them. We all have a good time, but I have often wondered if our dog would do something like this. He probably would, but I bet it takes a lot of time and training.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      It takes a lot of time and training. And sometimes motivation to want to go onto the courses! Thanks for sharing, GLim!

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