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Agility training - the perfect way to get a dog in motion

Updated on October 30, 2014

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.

me and Killian
me and Killian

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

Killian loves the agility tunnels the best
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!

HDP 18 Ft Dog Agility Training Open Tunnel
HDP 18 Ft Dog Agility Training Open Tunnel

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.

American Kennel Junior Series Dog Agility Weave Poles
American Kennel Junior Series Dog Agility Weave Poles

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!).

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

Killian didn't like the A-frame at first but nailed it within 2 lessons
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

Some fun pictures of people and dogs

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Killian after I told him he couldn't get into the car after swimmingA tired dog is an obedient dogThese greyhounds (60mph couch potatoes) are simply Not in motion!Cocoa - Killian's Border Collie twinDog lovers and dogs at dog campBarley and Killian about to chase a squirrelRita is a lover, not a shaker. She's rarely in motion.
Killian after I told him he couldn't get into the car after swimming
Killian after I told him he couldn't get into the car after swimming
A tired dog is an obedient dog
A tired dog is an obedient dog
These greyhounds (60mph couch potatoes) are simply Not in motion!
These greyhounds (60mph couch potatoes) are simply Not in motion!
Cocoa - Killian's Border Collie twin
Cocoa - Killian's Border Collie twin
Dog lovers and dogs at dog camp
Dog lovers and dogs at dog camp
Barley and Killian about to chase a squirrel
Barley and Killian about to chase a squirrel
Rita is a lover, not a shaker. She's rarely in motion.
Rita is a lover, not a shaker. She's rarely in motion.

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!

Got game? - Or comments?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Dogs are different that humans and they need to be treated using what makes sense to them.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent Lens. Needless to say that if you start agility training with your dog it will give you great exercise as well

    • mariacarbonara profile image


      6 years ago

      This looks like a great way to keep your dog healthy and bond and have alot of fun at the same time.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      6 years ago

      I love your dog pictures! I'm working with a totally untrained two-year-old rescue right now, and Killian's story gives me hope for her. She's very bright, and we quickly learned that she could easily jump over the 6' side of our back fence. So we built leaners to prevent this... and within a week she could jump over the other side of the fence, which is 8' tall! We're still working on her basic obedience skills, but it's occurred to me that agility training might be a great way to work her mind while burning off some of her crazy energy. So nice to see your Killian performing such awesome doggie feats after coming to you similarly untrained!

    • awakeningwellness profile image


      6 years ago

      I did agility training with a couple of my goldens and it was a lot of work but great fun. Reading this has gotten me in the mood to take the dogs to the dog park and play on the agility equipment...they never took it very seriously so we just play. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This lens started me thinking that agility training would be great exercise for fat boy Simon who loves to lounge. A bored dog is not a good thing - Simons starts stealing things!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      6 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Saving this for when I do get a dog one day. Great article! :)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      Pretty much a perfect Squidoo lens. You are an expert on your topic, you have used the products you personally recommend, you accredit your photos and they are interesting. And you rescued a dog! As the dog mommie of an energetic border collie mix I know how hard those dogs want to work, they can drive you crazy. This is really utilizing the strength of the breed. I am seriously considering agility after reading this lens, before this I thought it was too hard because of my busy schedule. Now I am going to look into getting a tunnel. Bookmarked to facebook and linked to my lens on dog toys, which talks about why dogs need to play. Blessed.

    • Brandi Bush profile image


      6 years ago from Maryland

      I don't have a dog, but this is a great lens! Blessed! :)

    • lclchors profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens. I have done up to AKC UD and police and narcotics and Sch. but never agility

    • thememorybooksh1 profile image


      6 years ago

      nice lens,

    • Karli McClane profile image

      Karli McClane 

      6 years ago from USA

      I don't have a dog, but I bet this would be a rewarding thing to do with one. Nice lens!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I wonder if Scarlett would do this. Nah. She wouldn't. Killian looks like a great student!

    • ae dc profile image

      ae dc 

      6 years ago

      oh..i want to buy those agility equip- my lab is going to love it- she needs some exercise LOL

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      6 years ago from Sweden

      My Jack Russel just loved to get tasks and challenges. She was jumping up and down with all four paws at the same time hehehe

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very much worth reading. Since our dog, Goldie, is pretty well trained and almost past the puppy phase, we are considering Agility Training for this September! What a timely lens, thanks for the excellent info.

    • Tas3000 profile image


      6 years ago

      i have two year-old puppies, which i am trying to teach agility. i think this article will help loads. thanks!

    • gottaloveit2 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @kerbev: Sorry, Kab - you had operator error. A dog won't just immediately go through a tunnel without training. You have to start SLOW and you have to secure the tunnel so it doesn't move. I suggest that you collapse the tunnel and stand it up so she has to walk through it. Prompt her with a treat and praise, praise, praise. Slowly add length to the tunnel. THat's what I had to do with Killian.

    • gottaloveit2 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @intermarks: OH trust me - Killian became beautifully trained WHILE we started on agility - Agility is a great way to bond with your dog and get them to respond to you. And, a dog isn't going to just start running through the tunnel; you have to start slow like not expanding the tunnel at first and slowly adding length.

    • intermarks profile image


      6 years ago

      Yes, definitely it is worth reading. These agility training is probably for dog that has been trained and can follow instruction, isn't it? Many dog may be fear to go through the tunnel, there must be a good to start with this one, but how?

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 

      6 years ago from Mobile, AL

      Iooks like fun. Maybe I should do some agility training.

    • erin-elise profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi gottaloveit,

      Excellent lens! It was definitely worth reading. Agility training totally interests me and I want to try it with my four dogs. I am so happy to find out how easy it is to set up an agility course for my dogs right in our own backyard so I think I'm going to start working on one soon. Thank you so much for the information. Again, your lens is great! Erin

    • PlethoraReader profile image


      6 years ago from Silicon Valley

      We have been doing agility with our German Shepherd and our Siberian Huskie and loving it. One is a little easier than the other, but they both seem to enjoy it. If nothing else it tires them out!

    • fireauthor profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens ,thank you

    • gatornic15 profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens and Congratulations on the Purple Star! I have thought about agility training with my dogs because they love to run and are very fast, but they don't follow directions very well. Blessed

    • kerbev profile image

      Kerri Bee 

      6 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I bought one of those tunnels in a yard sale for my cockapoo. When she steps one step into it, the whole thing wobbles and scares the toot out of her. She won't go in. I tried luring her through by calling her and even with treats, but she won't go. I left it up and put treats in the middle so she could venture in at her own speed - nothing. Then I put it in the hallway so if she wanted to get to the kitchen, that was her only choice. Still nothing. In everything else, she is fearless. How can I lure her through?

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      I loved the pictures of you and Killian doing the obstacle training courses. Original pictures really do bring the point home. Agility training for dogs really is a great way to get a dog up and fit.

    • BorderCollie LM profile image

      BorderCollie LM 

      6 years ago

      It's wonderful exercise and the dogs love it too!

    • Deserthorse profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens and wonderful photography!

    • octopen profile image


      6 years ago

      Me and my belguim shepard love agility, good methods here thanks

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Gotta keep those pups moving! Great stuff - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • bordercollieluvr profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens and love the photos. I volunteer for a BC rescue and have several lens that feature border collies - if you get time pay us a visit.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      I can see how agility training would be very bonding. I'm wondering if my two new adopted dogs would enjoy this sport. I expect that certain breeds are much more natural at this than others. Is that true? Congrats on your feature!

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 

      6 years ago

      Very good the pictures. Your dog is a sweetie! And glad you threw in the greyhound the greyhounds.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love Killian - what a sweetheart! Great lens.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Looks like a lot of fun for everyone! They need an agility course like this for kids.


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