Agility training - the perfect way to get a dog in motion
Agility training is excellent for each and every dog
I trained Killian, the beautiful Australian Shepherd there in the picture, in canine agility for three years. Killian is a full bred Austraiian Shepherd whom I adopted 9 years ago. Not only was Killian not trained to even the "sit" command when he came to me, but he was a whirlwind in motion with a very erratic path in his sight. A totally unschooled Aussie combined with the herding instinct native to his breed meant that either he or I had to go. And, since I had promised him that I would never let him go, this rescued dog stole a very large piece of my heart. He also gave me a wonderful insight into the world of an intelligent dog.
When I got Killian, I knew nothing about training an intelligent dog - I was, after all, a basset lover. But, I knew I had to get that dog and myself in motion and forge ahead with some obedience classes. It wasn't until we wandered, Killian and I, into an agility training class that I knew we were hooked. And, 3 short years later, I not only got the most obedient Australian Shepherd I'd ever seen out of the deal, but the bond between Killian and me has only grown stronger over the last 8 years.
Note: all of the photos on this Squidoo article are my own photos. I take a lot of pictures of dogs! And, I take most of them with my Nikon D5000 SLR camera or my Sony DSC-TX10 digital compact camera.
Any and all of the items I've got in this article are items that Killian and I have personally used and loved - not the same brand, mind you, but the same pieces such as the agility weave poles, agility tunnels, etc. I think this stuff would be a wonderful Christmas present, Chanukah present (hint, hint) or birthday present for anyone who loves their dog.
Beginner's Guide to Agility Training
I'm a bit interested in the people who have commented on this article about how dogs must be trained well to do agility or why their dog didn't do well in agility and I'd like to give some insight into how Killian and I started in agility.
First off, I bought this book. Before you get into any kind of training with your dog, you have to be trained first. Stepping into a home made agility ring with no understanding of what your dog feels will set you and your dog up for certain disaster. For example, tunnels must be fastened to the ground sturdily. If they wobble even a bit, the new agility dog may develop a fear of even approaching a tunnel. Start SLOW!
Second off, Killian had some basic obedience when we started agility but mostly just the 'sit', 'stay' or 'come' commands. Agility with train your dog to a stronger response when you call or tell them to stay. The dog does not have to be 100% (or even 50%) obedient to start in on agility training. Consider agility training just another aspect of your dog obedience regime.
Lastly, have fun with agility training. You must set your dog up for success, not failure. So get yourself trained first!
The grandaddy of the beginner's agility course
This would be a fabulous Christmas, Chanukah, or birthday present for a person who loves their dog and is interested in agility training.
Everything, and I mean, everything you need to get your dog trained in agility is in this kit (I love kits...). But, remember, start S-L-O-W. Don't expect to set everything up and have your dog running the course like a veteran - ain't gonna happen. For example, start slow with the tunnel in the collapsed position and increase the length until your dog is comfortable.
Agility course in a bag
If you're not too interested in making your own agility equipment, a starter kit like the one to the right might be the way to go. This agility kit contains all of the basic agility you need to get that dog off the couch and into motion! And you too.
The heavy duty carrying bag includes self standing weave poles, a "tire" jump, a regular jump (adjustable for the smallest to the largest dog), and a barrel shute. You'll have a blast guiding your dog through you very own agility course. And, you can even set up an agility course inside as all of these canine agility items are free standing.
What is agility training?
If you're not familiar with canine agility trials, they're sort of like obstacle courses - in fact, there's no "sorta" about it - they are obstacle trials, and not just for the dogs! Human handlers of dogs trained in agility are rarely overweight (present company is excluded...) as the humans have to run the agility course right next to the dog.
Training in canine agility is really a lot of fun and doesn't have to be expensive. Oh, sure. you can hire a personal dog agility trainer or go to professional classes where your dog may be one of ten dogs running an agility course, or, you can just as easily set up a canine agility course in your backyard.
That picture above is of of Killian and me after running through an agility course at a week long dog training camp I used to take him to in Vermont.
Beginner agility equipment
Beginning agility equipment really doesn't have to be expensive or difficult to use. Start off small and buy a few beginning pieces that are very easy, such as the weave poles. A fast dog weaving through weave poles is really a thing of beauty.
Killian loves the agility tunnels the best
An open agility tunnel is a pretty easy thing to train a dog to run through
The key to training an 18' long tunnel such as that below is to not curve the tunnel - you're going to want the dog to see you at the other end as you call and prompt him through the tunnel. After he's comfortable in the tunnel, curve it so that he has to run around blind corners. He'll be looking for you right when he comes out - trust me!
This heavy duty tunnel secures to the ground so that it doesn't wobble as the dog runs through it. This is a very important point as dogs don't like when the tunnels shift.
Canine agility weave poles
Weave poles are one of the most fun things in agility, as far as Killian is concerned. He loves to go really really fast through them, at my urging, of course.
These agility weave poles are easy to put together. I think Killian would love to have a set in our own backyard (note to self: buy weave poles for dog).
Items in a beginner canine agility course
For those of you just interested in getting that dog and you in motion and starting in on canine agility, I thought it might be helpful to have a list of the common obstacles in an agility trial so here we go (keep reading!).
- Single jumps. These jumps are usually made up of PVC piping and are easy to make. They are adjustable so that the smallest dog with 4 inch legs or the largest Irish Wolfhound will have an obstacle to clear.
For more information about making your own agility jumps, click Standard jump instructions.
- Agility weave poles. Agility weave poles come in sets that can be strung together. In agility trials though, a dog must weave through a certain number of poles as quickly as possible.
For more information about making your own canine agility weave poles, click Weave poles.
- An agility tire jump. A tire jump is usually a round ring through which the dog must, upon command, clear without making the tire fall. Most dogs love to run and jump so this is a pretty easy agility obstacle to train.
For more information on making your own tire jump, check out Homemade agility tire jumps.
- A pause table. When running a dog in agility, there is a point where the dog must jump onto a "pause table" and wait for a certain amount of seconds before continuing the trial. Some dogs get so worked up with getting the job done that they don't like the pause table too much.
Killian didn't like the A-frame at first but nailed it within 2 lessons
Some helpful links about doggie agility may get you interested.
I research every sport Killian and I enter thoroughly before we start in. Killian and I spent 5 years doing canine freestyle along with his agility training - what is canine freestyle you ask? It's dancing with your dog, of course.
Ah, but I digressed....
Below are some helpful links if you're considering getting your dog in motion with canine freestyle
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- Introducing my dog Gizmo - Born to Ride!
Little Gizmo entered our lives in October 2010 when she locked eyes with me as I was minding my own business. Little did I know that this charming animal would change our lives. Now, with 5 existing dogs, I have NO interest in yet another dog but...
- USDAA Dog Agility webpage
You'll find all kinds of helpful links at the US Dog Agility Association website, including news and events, awards, rules and regulations along with more fun stuff like where to go see a local agility trial.
- Dog play website
This is a fun website to peruse for information on how to start very casually into the sport of canine agility.
Some fun pictures of people and dogsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Dog training books
I think that being a good dog trainer is as much about respecting the dog as training the dog. No dog is going to work for someone they don't like so earn his or her respect by your actions every day. And, when training, never end a training session on a bad note. Always, always let the dog win so there's a positive feeling associated with training.
Here's your chance to let me know what you think about this dog agility article. Was it worth reading? Did you get anything out of it or did it leave you flat? Come on - give me your comments, my dogs and I can take it!