Welcome to our complete guide to agility for dogs. Giving you all the information you need to get the right kit, and begin your new hobby! Including video of an agility dog in action.
If you own an active canine, then dog agility could be the perfect way to channel his energy.
It is an activity suitable for handlers of all ages and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
And above all, it’s lots of fun!
Fancy giving it a go?
Then let’s find out how you and your dog can get started in this popular sport.
What is dog agility?
Dog agility first emerged in England during 1978, as a half-time display at the Crufts Dog Show.
One of the committee members, John Varley, wanted to create something new and entertaining. An activity that would demonstrate a dog’s speed and agility.
He based his idea from the equestrian sport of show jumping and enlisted the help of Peter Meanwell, a trainer of Working Trial dogs.
The display received a great reaction from the audience, with many owners wanting to try this new activity with their dogs!
Thus, dog agility was born, leading to competitions and interest worldwide.
So, what does an agility dog have to do?
What does agility for dogs involve?
Dog agility is all about teamwork.
It demonstrates the communication, skill and training between human and canine, while off the leash.
The handler guides and directs their dog, as quickly as possible, around a set course of obstacles.
These include jumps, weave poles, see-saw, tunnels, etc. The dog needs to navigate them with minimal faults to win.
You can only use voice and hand signals, and the equipment must not be touched.
It tests the dog’s balance, coordination, speed, strength and endurance.
Can any dog do agility?
Often referred to as a “sport for all dogs,” every size, age and breed, including mixed breeds, of dog participate at various levels, both in training and in competitions.
Puppies should not do agility until they are at least one year old, older if your dog is a large breed. The reason being that their bones are soft and jumping could do serious long-term damage to their joints.
Your dog must have a good temperament, as he will spend much of his time off the leash.
He must come when called and not show any aggression towards strangers or other dogs.
Agility for dogs is strenuous, so first, ask your veterinarian to check that your pet is physically able to participate.
Dogs that are old, overweight, or have medical conditions such as heart, joint or visual problems need careful evaluation.
Even at a class, if your dog is limited physically, most instructors are very accommodating.
They will adapt obstacles by missing one or two out or lowering jumps so that he can negotiate them.
What is most important, is that your dog enjoys himself!
Benefits of agility for dogs
Whether you wish to compete or not, attending agility dog training classes has many benefits:
Agilty for dogs promotes health through exercise
No need to go to the gym! Dog agility is great exercise, acting as a cardiovascular workout for both dog and handler, as well as being mentally stimulating.
Dog agility improves behavior
Boredom is often the cause of many behavior problems in canines.
Agility challenges dogs by teaching them to understand new commands while tackling a variety of obstacles.
As a result, you have an obedient dog you can take anywhere.
Agility for dogs strengthens the bond between you
Dogs love nothing better than being with their owners. Dog agility allows you to spend quality time with your pet, strengthening the bond and trust between you.
Dog agility is sociable
Attending agility classes and competing in events allows you to meet like-minded people and make new friends. Your dog also has the chance to socialise with others and improve his outlook on life.
Agility for dogs uses natural instincts
In the wild, dogs hunt for food, chasing prey by running fast, jumping over fallen logs, squeezing through bushes, and climbing uphill.
Dog agility courses imitate these natural situations.
Dog agility training
Before you consider going for agility dog training classes, it is important that your pet knows the basic commands. Sit, lie down, heel, stay and come.
Discover what motivates your dog as a reward for doing things well.
When training your agility dog, everything should be kept low and slow, to begin with, gradually building your dog’s confidence.
Express clear commands to your dog, by using your voice and hand signals, so he understands what you are asking.
Keep sessions short, reward often and always be positive.
Dog agility classes
So, now you have the bug, search online to find agility courses for dogs in your area.
Dog agility clubs regularly offer classes once a week over a six-week period.
It is a good idea to watch a class and meet the instructor who can answer any questions you may have before signing up.
You and your dog will start in a beginner class. It may be possible to do one or two taster sessions first to see if you and your dog like it.
Dog agility is not easy, but your instructor will teach you how to communicate effectively with your dog while introducing him to different types of obstacles.
Each dog goes one at a time. The challenge is to make you the most important thing to your pet, ignoring outside distractions and other dogs in the class.
The speed of progress differs for each pair and depends if you have time to practise in between classes. It is important that the basics are established correctly from the start giving you both a good foundation to build on for the future.
Dog agility course
You don’t need to join a dog agility group to have some fun with agility for dogs.
It’s possible to set up a course in your own back yard.
First let’s look at what happens at an official dog agility course.
Official dog agility course
There are approximately 15 obstacles on a dog agility course (up to 20 at advanced level). With the heights of jumps depending on the size of the dog.
At dog agility shows, competitors walk and learn the course plan beforehand, so they know where to guide their dog.
Here are some of the obstacles your dog will encounter and common handler words used:
Dog agility jumps
There a variety of jumps on a course. These include an upright bar, spread, broad jump (or long jump) and a tire.
Words: jump, hup, over.
The dog weaves in and out of between 6 to 12 poles fixed to a metal base in a straight line.
Words: weave, in, out, wiggle.
Dog agility tunnel
Open tube shaped by a metal coil. Words: tunnel, through.
The dog must either sit or stand on the table for 5 seconds.
Words: table, rest.
Dog Agility A-Frame
Two large wooden or aluminium planks shaped like a triangle.
Dog climbs steep ascent; then his paws must make contact in the yellow area as he comes down.
Words: Climb, frame.
Dog agility equipment at home
While you can see that this is a lot of kit, don’t be deterred from trying to get involved at home.
You can totally set up an agility course in your back yard. DIY dog agility!
Either to have fun informally, or to help your pup’s progress by practicing between classes.
On Amazon, you can purchase separate obstacles or a dog agility set, such as this dog agility kit.
Alternatively, you can buy separate pieces and make your own amazing layout.
Dog Agility Jumps
There are two types of dog agility jumps you might like to try at home.
This hoop jump comes with pointed poles that you just push into your lawn when you want to use it.
This set of four travel jumps is a great way to set up your jumps anywhere, as they sit flat on the floor. So you don’t need a soft surface to use them.
Dog Agility Tunnel
This simple dog agility tunnel is a great way for your dog to practice agility at home. Or just have fun!
Dog Pause table
This simple pause table will help your dog to practice waiting. Also a great obedience skill!
Dog Weave Poles
These weave poles can be popped up anywhere, for your pup to practice winding in and out.
This dog walk is a fairly hefty piece of kit, but it’s perfect for practicing his balancing skills.
If you have less space, this dog teeter totter is a brilliant alternative. And a great way to have a go at a challenging agility skill.
Dog agility videos
Have we caught you interest? Think you’d like to give agility for dogs a go, but you’re not quite sure.
Then check out a few dog agility videos.
This is a lovely one.
Watch how Trick, a Border Collie, completes a foot perfect round to win the 2017 Masters Agility Championship!
Best agility dogs
Just about any breed can participate in dog agility, but certain types seem to excel in the sport.
Common traits needed to succeed as an agility dog are:
- Fit and active with enthusiasm for energetic training
- Highly intelligent
- Trainable temperament with a keen desire to please
- Good conformation and physical build
Here are five of the best breeds for dog agility:
Bred as sheep herders, this is a dog that loves to work and is considered the world’s most intelligent breed.
They have boundless energy, are quick, agile and incredibly smart, making them easy to train.
They have dominated the sport, winning numerous championships.
Eager to work, these energetic, tough herding dogs have speed and intelligence with a very trainable temperament.
German Shepherd Dog
Originally bred as a herding dog, they are often used as police dogs, so develop a good bond with their handler.
They are robust and active with a high level of intelligence.
Jack Russell Terrier
These fearless little terriers excel in the small dog categories.
Energetic and smart, they easily become bored, so agility is the perfect sport for them!
Often seen in the show ring, they were originally water retrievers, so are athletically capable. The breed is the second most intelligent after the Border Collie, and are very trainable.
They love different activities, and their long legs enable them to move quickly around an agility course.
But any healthy dog can have a go and even excel at the sport, not just these breeds.
Agility For Dogs
Dog agility is a wonderful sport for canines and their handlers.
It is a great way for both of you to keep fit, meet new people and, above all, have fun!
Does your dog love agility? Do you have any tips? Share your agility stories with other readers.