Agility most of you have seen on the Television. This is where dogs run through tunnels and go over jumps and weave in and around poles.
What can you expect to see?
Jumps, hurdles, long jumps, weaving poles and a three metre 'A' frame. No agility course would be complete without the tyre hoop, the famous tunnel and see saw. The equipment has been imported from the UK and is made to the highest safety standard and to Kennel Club Specification.
Can any dog do this?
Yes and all breeds and sizes provided the dog does not have a physical disability, such as hip dysplasia, and is not overweight. It is not fair to jump a fat dog. If you have any doubt about the fitness of your dog then seek advice from your vet.
Is there an age limit for the dog or owner?
Children are most welcome to bring their pets. There is no age limit for dogs and pups are encouraged for the tunnel work, see-saw and dog walk plank. Of course heelwork, sit, down stays, send-away is part of the lessons as is walking the dog off leash on the left or right.
Equipment for Dog and Handler
The most important thing is good footwear, shoes that you can run in and have a good grip. (Not like Ivy's shprawnzy shoes) Also wear clothes you can run in comfortably. For the dog although an ordinary check collar or half check are both good for heelwork practice, these are not suitable for agility. The correct collar is a leather or webbed buckle collar. Leads should be fairly long and made of leather, nylon or rope, not of chain, which can get caught up in the jumps.
What can we expect in the first lesson?
The first contact obstacle will be the Scale or 'A' Frame and is best for the beginner dog, although many handlers will not believe this when they see that the height is 2 metres. The width is wide and is a lot more formidable looking than a dog walk plank, which is also excellent for training the beginner dog. Many low jumps and of course the tunnel which all dogs love so much, that the problem can be keeping them out of the tunnel when they should be doing another obstacle. Young dogs take to the tunnel in minutes.
This is needed to get from one obstacle to another and as the young dogs progress we start to teach different commands to turn the dog to the left and right. A very important exercise for any dog is the 'down' and the wait. In agility training the recall follows from the wait and later on we teach the recall over obstacles. Another important exercise is the 'send away' to send the dog ahead of the handler. An easy way to teach the dog the send away is to hold your dog and get someone to put his food on one side of the room, then send the dog to his food from increasing distances away. Also practice send - aways to tidbits and toys, having a great game afterwards. It is also an idea when a pup or young dog is doing instant down, to sometimes finish the send-away by downing the dog. Always remembering to give lots of praise.
You and your dog can have fun with agility if it is timed correctly and provided you and your dog are ready to progress. In my opinion it is important to remember that a dog that is happy and enjoying himself, is much more likely to try hard to please his owner, than one who is afraid he is going to get told off for making a mistake.
Commitment, Firmness, but kindness.
Agility is Fun
by David the Dogman
David is a Canine Behaviourist who works and lives in Marbella, Spain. Tel/Fax (00345) 2883388. His web site is located at: www.thedogman.net. David has his own radio and TV shows, and writes for many newspapers and magazines. David has been working with dogs for many years and started his career in Israel, working on the Border Police. He has been involved in all forms of training, including air sea rescue, air scent work, and has trained dogs for finding drugs. David has devoted the past 10 years to studying behaviour and the very passive approach. He does not use choke chains, check chains, or any form of aggression.