Greytdogs Agility Training Facility
© 1994-2010 Donna D'Amico & Greytdogs Agility
Agility is open to all dogs, of any size or description, which are physically and temperamentally suited to the sport. Let's start with temperament.
Assuming someone has a dog they feel is temperamentally suited to the sport, I would next suggest that they have their pet examined by their veterinarian to ensure that it is physically capable of participating. Such an exam might include ex-rays of elbows and hips, checking of growth plates and determination of proper weight.
Size in itself may be a consideration. Participation in agility may be challenging for some of the giant breeds, for some of the very small breeds and for some of the long-backed breeds because of the size and shape of the agility equipment. This does not mean that those breeds cannot participate in agility, but that each individual needs to be carefully evaluated before a decision is made.
The first step would be to find an agility club and or competent instructor in your area. I would suggest that anyone interested in the sport speak with his or her veterinarian or obedience instructor for a recommendation. Another avenue would be to search the Internet for information on a club or school. The web site at http://www.cleanrun.com/agilityinfo/clubs/ allows one to search by state, services and/or affiliations.
In order to participate in the sport of agility one's dog must be under control. It is a big plus if the dog is able to walk close to the handler with a loose leash. Dogs should not lunge at either dogs or people and should submit to being gently handled by the instructors. Because dogs that do agility do so off lead, dogs that do not respond to basic obedience commands such as "come", "stay", "sit" and "down" when they are off lead are at a distinct disadvantage. If someone decides that they want to become involved in agility they should be sure their dog knows all the basic obedience commands and responds well off lead as well as on lead.
Choosing the right agility instructor or class is terribly important. I would encourage potential students to ask questions and to watch an instructor teach a class before enrolling their dog.
I personally prefer positive reinforcement when training a dog in agility. I want my dog to LOVE what it is doing and I find that I get that attitude most often when the dog enjoys the training sessions, its mistakes are ignored and it gets rewards (food and/or toys) for what it does correctly. Although working a dog on leash over an agility obstacle may be appropriate, I would never force an animal over an obstacle of which it is obviously frightened. I prefer training methods that develop the dog's self-confidence over the long term until it becomes able to comply on its own. I prefer to work dogs on a quick release flat collar and I do not recommend choke, pinch or electronic collars when training agility.
Agility is a terrific sport. Agility training reinforces a strong bond between handler and dog. It stimulates the dog mentally and helps build their body by turning them into athletes. It increases self-confidence in the shy or insecure dog and burns off excess energy in the energetic one. And it's fun!
I would encourage everyone who thinks they might enjoy this sport to get involved. One does not have to compete to have fun in agility. Just working with and training the dog soon becomes a reward in itself. And the big smile on the dog's face when it completes a course, makes it all worth while.
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