Ace is the first dog I have trained to do agility. He is still learning, but he and I enjoy practicing every week. I recommend you sign your dog up for an agility class. Even if you have no intention of competing, it is still a lot of fun. In dog agility, the dogs run through an obstacle course as fast as they can without missing any of the contact points. (Photo by Dave James, www.bbc.co.uk)
It is worth a try, here’s why:
1. All breeds can compete in dog agility.
The AKC allows all breeds to compete in its agility trials. Other groups such as NADAC allow mixed-breed dogs to compete as well. No matter how large or small a dog is, it can compete in agility. The obstacles are adjusted according to the height of the dog, and dogs compete against others close to their size.
2. No experience is needed for dog agility.
I had no experience with agility last fall when Ace and I signed up for our first class. But we were welcomed to the club by the more experienced teams. There are people in our class who have been doing dog agility for years and others like me who just started. Don’t be afraid to give it a try. I started by watching a class, and I brought Ace the following week. He loves climbing on playground equipment, so I knew he would enjoy agility.
3. Dogs love agility!
My mutt is not the most graceful. He knocks over the jumps, misses weave poles and is hesitant on the teeter. But he has a smile while doing it! He is one of the fastest dogs in our class and loves to race through a course at top speed. All the other dogs are just as happy to be there.
4. You can be as competitive as you want in dog agility.
Ace and I have never competed in a formal agility competition. But when we are ready, there are competitions within driving distance at least once a month. Even though we haven’t competed in front of a judge, I am always competing against the others in my class. I’m sure others do the same, secretly trying to have the quickest and most accurate dog.
5. Dog agility is great exercise.
Ace is always huffing and puffing after he finishes a course. When we get home, he goes to sleep because he is mentally and physically tired.
6. Dog agility will challenge you and your dog.
Agility requires me to think about the best way to maneuver through the course with my dog. Ace also has to focus as I call out obstacles for him. Agility helps me train Ace in general because it requires me to get creative at times. For example, I sometimes use a tennis ball to encourage him to walk across the teeter.
7. Dog agility is another way to bond with your dog.
Whenever I work with Ace or spend time with him, my appreciation for dogs grows. It is rewarding to have Ace follow my (attempted) leadership through an obstacle course. Plus, he gets to spend a whole hour with me. What could be better than that?
8. Most areas offer dog agility classes.
Hopefully you can find an agility club or class near you. Many agility classes are taught where obedience is also taught. If you can’t find a club or class near you, you could even start practicing with your own equipment in your backyard. The jumps are easy to build on your own. My boyfriend even got creative and built Ace his own weave poles.
9. Dog agility is entertaining.
I love watching other people’s dogs run the course, especially the little dogs. It’s also funny when a person screws up and doesn’t direct her dog correctly, or when a dog decides to choose his own way through the course. It’s only funny because I know my own dog does the same thing.
10. You can learn about other breeds and hang out with other dog nuts during agility.
Everybody else in the class will be just as obsessed with their dog as you are with yours, or worse. It’s a great time to just talk about dogs or learn about other breeds you are interested in.