Most people are familiar with Crufts, the world-famous dog show that takes place each year. Crufts has a variety of different prizes up for grabs in competitions testing participants’ obedience, breeding and agility – without forgetting the coveted Best in Show title. Without doubt, one of the most fun categories to watch is the agility class, with canine competitors demonstrating their speed, dexterity and accuracy across a course compiled of a series of obstacles and jumps. If you dream of your dog winning at Crufts, there are several ways to train them to be an agility superstar! James Wellbeloved offers some top tips for dog agility training…
Dog agility is essentially an obstacle course involving a range of different obstacles such as jumps and tunnels. More advanced obstacles include weave poles, tyres and see-saws. These courses are designed to test a dog’s obedience, balance, speed and of course, agility as they navigate the different obstacles. At Crufts, dogs are marked on their speed and how accurately they complete each obstacle, with faults for mistakes. Dog agility is a fun method of dog training that can be extremely rewarding for both pet and owner.
The benefits of agility training are numerous! Firstly, agility training improves obedience, a pro for all dog owners. All dogs, particularly collies, spaniels and very active breeds, need a significant amount of mental stimulation in order to stay happy and healthy, alongside regular exercise. In this way, dog agility training is similar to brain training as it encourages your dog to focus and problem-solve. If you are successful, this obedience should eventually become habit. Dog agility training is also a great way for your dog to keep fit. If you don’t have easy access to a garden or park, or you have a particularly energetic dog, dog agility training provides a different way for your dog to get exercise. For dogs with excess energy to burn, an agility training session works both their brain and their body, which gives them a great workout, so they will be calmer and more relaxed afterwards. Finally, dog agility training is fun! It strengthens the bond between you and your pet as you work as a team and is an enjoyable activity you can do together, or even with children. Why not search for a dog agility class near you and give it a go?
If you want to try practicing agility training with your dog, here are some top tips to consider… Active breeds such as collies are often the first type of dog that comes to mind when you think about dog agility, but in reality all sorts of dogs can do it, big or small. After you attend an agility class, you can even practice the obedience side with your dog at home. For example, you could try practicing left and right turns, or asking your dog to wait and focus on you. All you need is patience! Dogs should start training once they are fully grown, as puppies have softer bones and may risk damaging their joints. If you are unsure whether your dog is ready, check with a vet first. However, young puppies can be introduced to the concept of agility to prepare them, such as flat obstacles like planks. It’s also important to ensure that your dog can follow basic commands, such as sit and stay. When agility training, make sure that the obstacles are stable and can’t be knocked or pulled down, and leave enough space in between each obstacle. You should also make sure that obstacles are the right size for your dog. When you start training, take things slowly. Let your dog explore the course by themselves first, before you start to train. When your dog begins to navigate the obstacles, offer verbal encouragement and treats when they do something right. Do your best not to get frustrated – shouting at them will only put them off. Let your dog have regular breaks and keep a bowl of fresh water nearby, especially if it is hot and sunny outside. Above all, dog agility training is a great way to bond with your pet and improve their obedience, either just for fun, or as a stepping stone to their future career as a Crufts champion!