Dogs need to be exercised physically and mentally. How this is best done depends on the breed and character of the dog. While some dogs like to run long and persistently, others prefer to play with balls or frisbees. Some are excellent swimmers and others have nothing to do with sports. Ideally, you should test a few possibilities with a young dog and let the animal decide in which way it likes to be kept busy.
Sportsman with brains – agility training for dogs
Dog sports clubs are springing up like mushrooms in many places. Owners and mistresses enjoy the sporting activity with their four-legged friends. Among the numerous sports for dogs, goal-oriented agility training for dogs enjoys a good reputation. It promotes the physical fitness of the beloved four-legged friend. Agility training also contributes to the mental development of the dog. With the right training program, every four-legged friend becomes a little sportsman with brains.
Agility training – that is behind it
The dog sport agility requires a solid fitness and brains in the dog. It is about dexterity and agility, but also about speed and coordination skills. Within a certain time window, the dog must independently overcome a course according to previously defined rules. The four-legged friend must follow the commands of the owner. For competitions there are special leadership techniques in agility training.
A course is completed perfectly when the dog has overcome hurdles, tunnels and walls as quickly and flawlessly as possible. Challenging courses also include suspension bridges, hoops and steep walls.
The history of agility
Agility means agility and, like so many sports, it comes from England. The story began in 1977, when the Briton Peter Meanwell developed a jumping competition for dogs. He was inspired by the equestrian sport. The course consisted of jumps with poles, hoops, a climbing wall, a footbridge and a slalom. A turning pole and a window jump completed the course. Two clubs practiced for a year and presented the new sport the following year.
The enthusiasm of the public meant that agility quickly became a new type of competition, which also took USA by storm during the 1980s. In 1992 the first European Championship was held in France, and since 1996 World Championships have been held. Today there are special tournaments reserved only for FCI purebred dogs. For mixed breeds there are other international competitions.
Requirements for the dogs
The special training program is perfect for city dogs that do not get enough exercise in everyday life.
Exercise is important for city dogs. Goal-oriented agility training is also a good way for dogs from the countryside to exercise. Any dog that is at least four months old is suitable for training. From this age, the bones and joints are strengthened. If the sports program is started too early, there is a risk of inoperable damage to the bone structure.
Joint disease precludes the dog from participating in agility training. A health check by a licensed medical practitioner at the Federal Association of Practicing Veterinarians provides information on whether the four-legged friend is fit for training.
The rules at tournaments
The dog completes the specified course without a leash. The animal is guided exclusively by body language and auditory signals. The dog must therefore have a good basic obedience. If agility is only practiced for fun, there are of course no rules. If one takes part in competitions, then fixed rules are to be kept. For example, the obstacles in the course are numbered and must be completed exactly in this order. The order is different for each test.
If an obstacle is skipped or approached incorrectly, the rider is disqualified. As in equestrian sport, there is also a refusal if the dog stops in front of the obstacle or runs to the side. A time is given for completing the course. In a tournament, the animal with the fewest faults wins. If two dogs are equal, the time decides.
Advantages of agility training
Agility training is ideal for the dog’s fitness and health. The owner also benefits from the physical activity. Dogs benefit from the promotion of mental development and the optimization of coordination skills. Training also brings them into contact with other members of their species, which in turn strengthens social behavior.
The advantages of agility training outweigh the disadvantages and have contributed to the fact that this dog sport is gaining popularity worldwide. In the meantime, even world championships are held.
In order to complete the course correctly, a lot of skill is required from the dog, but also from its human. Man and dog must be a well-rehearsed team and work together perfectly. Exactly that makes the attraction of this kind of sport. Dog and human watch each other very closely during the whole time and react immediately to every hint. This significantly enhances the relationship between the two.
Disadvantages of the sport program
Agility training is not only challenging for the dog. Regular training also makes demands on the owner. A lot of time has to be invested for the training. Exercise equipment is also necessary for optimal training. Either this is purchased for a lot of money or provided by the dog school (read also From when with the puppy in the dog school?). In this case, a paid membership with the school is required.
For some dogs, training also means physical and emotional stress. In any case, it must be weighed individually whether agility training is suitable for your own four-legged friend.
Certain dog breeds are not suitable for goal-oriented agility training due to their size. Dog breeds that are too large, such as Newfoundlands or St. Bernards, should not complete the training program. Breeds that are too small, such as Dachshunds or Bassets, are also not suitable due to their physique.
What is Agility?
The principle of agility is to complete a course consisting of several obstacles in a certain order and in a given time. The handler’s task is to describe the course with the help of body language and auditory signals. Neither the dog nor the obstacles may be touched. Agility is so popular with both dogs and humans because it encourages them to work together.
In addition, it is a lot of fun and the dog is challenged both physically and mentally. The dog owner also has to do a lot of exercise in the process. This is fun for both dog and owner. Before choosing agility, it must be ensured that the dog is healthy and can withstand such a load. Above all, it is important that there is no damage to the musculoskeletal system.
For which dogs is the sport suitable?
In principle, agility is suitable for most dogs. The more agile the dog is, the more likely it will be able to master the course. This is especially true for the classic herding dogs. The Border Collie is one of the dogs most often presented in the agility circus. He was bred to herd sheep and definitely needs a challenge when he lives as a partner to humans.
The Sheltie, which herds ponies and sheep in the Shetland Islands, is a very nimble, agile and small dog. He is ideally suited for this type of sport and is also often seen at competitions.
Some types of terriers such as the Jack Russell, the Irish and the Fox Terrier are also sporty dogs that certainly enjoy agility. Large heavy dogs will find it very difficult to complete the course. In addition, it is not necessarily the optimal sport for their musculoskeletal system.
Small dogs should not be underestimated. For example, the Welsh Corgie is an excellent agility dog. Of course, fun should always come first and so nothing stands in the way of a Chihuahua on the course. These are also not disadvantaged compared to larger animals. There are three classes in which can be started.
What must a dog be able to do for agility?
It all depends on the amount of training. If the dog must learn fundamentally everything, then a beginner’s course is recommended. This is because the animal can quickly learn how to follow the commands. But also fun and trust should be there. Real prerequisites are not to be considered with a beginner course. This means that the dog can quickly and easily learn the most important commands in this course.
If you want to do an advanced course, then of course you can participate in this case only with prerequisites. For this purpose, however, one should always deal with the leader of the training session. However, the normal commands should be present and of course followed. However, the age is important, this must be at least 12 months, because otherwise the animals are simply too young. There is no upper limit for the age. However, the dog must be agile, agile and above all healthy.
Which dogs are suitable for agility?
Basically, any dog can be suitable for this sporting activity. However, it seems that some breeds of dogs are essentially made for it. The Border Collie, the Golden Retriever and also the Labrador are to be mentioned. But also breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier can take part in agility and spend their time there. Apart from the normal commands that every dog should know, the animals naturally learn one or two tricks. So it can’t hurt to enroll the animals in general to a training of this kind in a dog school. A regulation which animal may not participate does not exist.
Of course the quadruped should be healthy and lively and above all no injuries in the area of the bone structure or the bone structure show. A conversation with the veterinarian can give a lot of clarification about this. Of course, every dog learns in a different way, which is why different breeds can have different learning behaviors.
When can I start with agility?
You can start training quite quickly, because most associations or even clubs accept dogs from the age of 12 months. However, one must remember that in this case it is the statement of the trainers. That is why it makes sense to inform yourself beforehand. Who wants to begin already early with it, which is quite recommendable, should be advised in a club association or also enterprise. Afterwards one can also simply take the experiences of the other dog owners as focus.
However, an age limit can only be found for young dogs. Because the courses are also still at an advanced age quite quickly implemented. So just the right thing, if you look at the many dogs and their masters. Both can profit from a quick start even at a young age. Because the cohesion between master and dog will grow enormously. So exactly the right thing to bring fun into the animal relationship.