What is Dog Agility?
Dog agility is a dog sport where a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off-leash with no food or toys to lure them down the course, and the handler can't touch neither dog nor obstacles. Courses are complicated enough that a dog could not complete them correctly without human direction. The handler must assess the course, decide on handling strategies, and direct the dog through the course. This sport combines physical and mental stimulation while strengthening the bond between the dog and the handler.
How to get Started
Dog agility is fun for all ages and it’s easy to get started! There are many different levels so that anyone can participate. You can just have fun learning the different obstacles and build courses of your own or you can compete go all the way to a world agility title.
Dogs typically need to be at least 15 or 18 months old before they are able to compete. You should start training before this. As a precaution you should have your dog checked by your vet to make sure it's safe for your dog to perform agility.
When you watch agility on television or internet, the dogs are highly trained and can complete complex courses on command. But all you really need is for your dog to be able to obey basic commands such as sit, stay, lie down or down. It's important for your dog to focus on you and not be easily distracted by other people or other dogs.
As you begin with the basics you will need to teach your dog the different directions, left and right, and to go out and go around. You should also work on drive, you want your dog to really want to finish the course and not quit half way. Don’t forget to praise your dog, after all you should be doing this for fun. Praise will encourage your dog and give lots of confidence, tightening your bond.
Fairness During Competition
All types of dogs can perform agility, however just like any other sport, some breeds are more suited to competitive agility. The best known dogs for agility are the herding breeds and terriers. But judges make sure there is fairness in the competition. The dogs are measured in height and are divided into height groups. Dogs are further divided into their experience levels. So, for example, there may be competitions for 12 inches Novice dogs, 12 inches Intermediate dogs, and 12 inches Masters dogs. Some organizations even divide handlers into additional optional categories, such as junior handlers (usually under 18), handicapped handlers, or senior handlers. This ensures that dogs keep their advantages to a minimum.