For more than 100 years, the protection dog sport with track work, obedience, and protection service dominated the scene. More and more sports are now emerging that balance fun and practicality, such as agility.
What exactly is agility?
Agility is primarily a skill sport in which the dog must overcome a series of different obstacles in an obstacle course. Agility is a controlled game in which the dog joyfully goes over and through the various obstacles with ease. Man shows him the way only with words and with his body language. Agility is pure fun when what has been learned is put into practice on the course and man and dog merge into one team.
Man must motivate and guide the dog
Agility is movement and body control for two- and four-legged friends alike. But agility is also mental fitness. The dog handler not only has to remember the correct order of the obstacles in the course, which is always different with up to 20 obstacles, but also react quickly if the dog is aiming at the wrong device. And of course, agility also requires a high level of concentration from the dog.
Agility is also about speed
In order to face the obstacles correctly, he must obey his human signs swiftly. All this makes agility sport so varied and attractive, it is always a new challenge for humans and dogs. The agility person – regardless of age – should always be in a good mood and relaxed before training with his dog. He has to understand his four-legged friend and guide him sensitively in order to find the optimal path on the course instead of the fastest and most comfortable one for himself.
Man must motivate and guide the dog
It is man’s duty towards his sports comrades to always be patient and to look for errors in himself first and foremost. It is very important that the handler learns to play with his dog and to praise him enthusiastically, if only with words. Of course, a treat and/or a toy are also good motivational tools and make it easier for the handler to demand certain behavioral patterns from the dog. It is very important never to overwhelm the dog with an exercise. The training always ends with a sense of achievement for the dog and thus also for the human being.
The proper outfit is important
Let’s start with the four-legged friend. A flat collar and a leash without eyelets and loops of approx. 2 m are indispensable for a beginner dog in agility training. Proper clothing for the handler is also important. It should definitely be weatherproof. It should fit comfortably and as closely as possible to the body, but without constricting.
Dogs must be able to recognize human body language
It is not trained with an open jacket or vest so that the dog can easily recognize our body language, which plays a major role in agility. It is also important to ensure that you have the right footwear. Shoes with smooth soles or heels should be avoided so that you don’t slip or twist your ankle. The most suitable are non-slip sneakers with lots of knobs or soccer shoes. Normal running sneakers are suitable for carpeted floors.
Agility is suitable for all dogs
And now to the four-legged friend Agility is basically suitable for all dogs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pedigree dog or a mixed breed, male or female. However, agility is certainly not the right dog sport for large and heavy dogs, such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, or smaller ones with a very long back, such as the Basset Hound.
The animal should be healthy
If you take a look at the dogs that take part in the tournaments, then it becomes clear that breeds such as the Belgian Shepherd Dog and the Border Collie or, in the case of the small dogs, the Sheltie and many Terriers, dominate the tournament events. Regardless of which four-legged friend you practice this sport with, all agility dogs are first and foremost family dogs with whom we spend most of the time at home and not on the course. And that’s why everyone has to decide for themselves exactly what the home environment is like and which dog suits them. In any case, the prerequisite for an agility dog is that it is healthy. For a responsible dog lover, an annual health check at the vet and the rabies vaccination is a matter of course. This includes screening for joint disorders such as hip dysplasia (HD) and elbow dysplasia (ED) before beginning jump training.
Young dogs must not train too many jumps
According to the agility regulations, a dog from the age of 15 months can gain its first tournament experience in the beginner class. The test runs are then only allowed at the age of 18 months. Since training usually begins when the dog is young, particular attention must be paid to the bone development of a dog. Less is often more here too!
Companionship with other dogs is also required
The agility dog should be well socialized and behave in a friendly and unobtrusive manner towards two and four-legged friends. The dog already learns good social behavior during puppyhood. That’s why it’s so important to take him to a puppy training class in a dog club or a good dog school. The agility dog must have good basic obedience and should trust its handler blindly.
The training builds self-confidence
Insecure dogs gain self-confidence through targeted training, boisterous animals learn to keep their temperament under control. During training, the dog has to learn the multitude of requests and gestures and implement them at lightning speed. Safety and speed are learned and consolidated by playing with the dog. The rule here is: work on yourself and play with your dog! Praise is sincere and never with an insincere patting. “Agility is fun” – hopefully, this motto and this sporting spirit will last for a long time to come. Our four-legged partners will thank us.
Fitness is the be-all and end-all
Competition dogs are kept at a high level of performance all year round. This requires regular fitness training. Anyone who experiences this team spirit, the enthusiasm with which the dog lets itself be led over the course, reacts to minimal body language, waits excitedly and happily behind the target for the praise of the human partner, how happy both are about the achievement, can easily become infected and will surely become a fan of this forward-looking branch of dog sport, which is finding more and more followers.