Dog agility: you’ve seen it, right? Maybe you’ve caught the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge when it’s shown on TV. Watching the dogs fly through the weave poles with ease, or seeing a tiny little Yorkie running all the way to the end of the seesaw (called a “teeter” in agility) and ride it to the ground. It’s canine agility. And if you’re watching and thinking it’s a fit for you and your dog, then read on.
First, let me set your mind at ease. You don’t have to be a star athlete to enjoy playing agility with your dog. Second, your dog doesn’t have to be a Border Collie to enjoy agility with you. While I won’t say that all dogs will enjoy agility, it’s more related to the personality and drive of the dog than it is the breed. Yes, some breeds are inherently more agile than others but it’s more about having fun with your dog.
With all of the “disclaimers” out of the way, let’s talk about agility and what you can do if you’re interested in learning more about this sport.
Check out a local trial for yourself.
There are agility trials “somewhere close by” almost every weekend especially when Fall arrives. Trials are held both indoors and outdoors so it’s generally easy to find one. Event calendars are posted online for all of the national agility organizations. Links are provided below.
When you get there, sit in the stands and watch. You’ll see dogs of every kind and size running with their human partners. The fast dogs are fun to watch but pay attention to the slow and steady ones too! What you’ll notice in most cases are the smiles on the faces of the dogs.
Plus, you can usually strike up a conversation with anyone close by. They are usually more than happy to explain the rules of the particular course that the dogs are running.
Visit a class.
Classes for training your dog (and you) how to play agility are the best way to get started. But before you enroll in one, see if you can visit first or at least meet with the trainer. The right instructor also knows how to help you make it an enjoyable experience for both of you.
Even though you’re anxious to get out and try to run a course with your dog, it’s important to learn the fundamentals first. Learning the basics will help prevent injury as well as making it more fun for the two of you in the long run.
Just do it.
Once you decide to take the plunge and take a class, please (PLEASE) remember these words: Everyone has to start somewhere. All of the people who you have seen running in the Masters or Excellent level classes have been exactly where you are. The point is to make it fun for your dog.
Spending time playing agility with your dog, whether you compete in a trial or not, is one of the best ways to bond with your dog. Plus you get to meet a lot of great people with similar interest.
One final word of warning.
Dog agility has been known to have addictive qualities so when you find yourself out buying more toys, treats and agility shoes to help you run better, you’ll know you’re hooked! (And, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)