The benefits of dog agility training: Here’s what to know
In addition to providing the mental and physical stimulation your dog needs, practicing agility is a great way to bond with your pup. But where to begin?
In the sport of canine agility, handlers direct dogs around an obstacle course that includes weave poles, jumps, tunnels, see-saws and A-frames. Competitions exist for the more advanced dog athletes, but many people practice agility with their dogs just for fun.
If you want to start agility training, first consider if it is suitable for your dog, and if your dog would enjoy it.
The sport’s high-impact running and jumping aren’t suitable for young dogs; it can give them joint and hip trouble later in life. It’s best to wait until your dog is at least a year old — 18 to 24 months, even, for large breeds that take longer to physically mature.
On the other end of the spectrum, hardcore agility training might be a bit much for senior dogs. Keep the workouts light if they’re healthy for their age.
Personality is also a factor. Active dogs who like to “work” and are eager to please generally thrive at agility, especially if they’re treat-motivated.
Here are four tips to get you started on agility training for your dog.
Start with obedience and flatwork
Strong recall and following directions is essential in agility drills. Start training your dog with basic commands, such as come, down, sit and stay.
Get up to speed on “flatwork,” or the parts of agility done on flat ground, such as walking (or running) to heel, directing your dog left or right and sending them out away from you.
If your dog hasn’t reached physical maturity and isn’t ready for high-impact agility training, flatwork is the perfect place to start.
Beth and the Dogs on YouTube has an introductory video to agility flatwork, featuring 10 exercises you can work on before pursuing agility training.
Learn dog agility basics
Decide which obstacles you want to train your dog on first.
Jumps are the easiest place to start with most dogs, beginning with open hurdles. Tunnels are trickier for large dogs who may need to crawl through. A-frames are easy for most dogs to master, but not the most practical at-home equipment for beginners.
These online resources can help you train your dog on specific agility maneuvers:
- The Online Dog Coach, for tunnel training.
- McCann Dog Training shows you how to teach dogs to jump hurdles.
- Jessica Ajoux’s Introduction to Dog Agility covers training over multiple videos.
Get some basic dog agility equipment
If you want to train your dog at home, you’ll need some basic agility equipment to start.
Begin with just one or two items and expand your collection down the line if your dog enjoys it. Some dog owners find whistles and clickers useful when agility training, and a full, easy-access treat pouch is handy as well.
Here are three agility products we recommend:
Find a local dog agility group
You might want to start training with a group before you buy agility equipment yourself.
The majority of agility groups and clubs offer beginner classes, so this is an excellent place to start for many people, especially those with little dog training experience.
Consult the American Kennel Club, United States Dog Agility Association or another organization to find groups in your area.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
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