Dog agility is a sport in which a dog moves through an obstacle course with the guidance of his or her handler. Dogs run off lead, so the handler’s only controls are voice and body language, requiring exceptional high standards of obedience.
In competition agility, both accuracy and speed are important. Dog agility is a fairly new sport, created as merely a demonstration in the 1978 Crufts Dog Show in the United Kindom . It has since spread rapidly around the world, with major competitions held worldwide.
What is an Agility Course?
In its simplest form, an agility course consists of a set of standard obstacles, laid out by an agility judge in a design of his own choosing, with numbers indicating the order in which the dog must complete the obstacles. Although different organisations specify somewhat different rules for the construction of obstacles, the basic form of the obstacles is the same wherever they are used. Obstacles include the following:
Teaching Dog Agility
Teaching a dog the basic execution of most obstacles takes only a small amount of time and simple training techniques; most dogs can be readily convinced to run through a short, straight tunnel to chase a toy or to go to their owner, for example. However, to compete in agility trials and to develop speed and accuracy, both dog and handler must learn a wide range of techniques for doing the equipment, performing sequences of obstacles, and communicating on course while running full out.
The teeter-totter and the weave poles are probably the most challenging obstacles to teach, the first because many dogs are wary of the board’s movement, and the second because it is not a behaviour that they would do naturally over a series of 12 poles. However, it can also be challenging to train the dog to perform its contact obstacles in a manner that ensures that they get paws into the contact zone without sacrificing speed.
Training techniques vary greatly. For example, techniques for training the weave poles include using offset poles that gradually move more in line with each other; using poles that tilt outward from the base and gradually become upright; using wires or gates around the poles forcing the dog into the desired path; putting a hand in the dog’s collar and guiding the dog through while leading with a toy or treat; teaching the dog to run full speed between 2 poles and gradually increasing the angle of approach and number of poles; and many other techniques.
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