Agility is primarily a skill sport in which the dog has to overcome a number of different obstacles on a course. Agility is a controlled game in which the dog happily walks over and through the various obstacles with ease. Humans only show them the way with words and body language. Agility is pure fun when what you have learned is implemented on the course and man and dog merge into a team.
Agility is movement and body control for two and four-legged friends alike. But agility is also mental fitness. The dog handler not only has to remember the correct order of the obstacles in the course, which is always different with up to 20 obstacles, but also has to react quickly if the dog targets the wrong device. And of course agility also requires a high level of concentration from the dog.
In order to tackle the obstacles correctly, he must swiftly obey the signs of his human. All of this makes agility sport so versatile and attractive, it is always a new challenge for humans and dogs. Agility people – regardless of age – should always be in a good mood and relaxed before training with their dog. He has to understand his four-legged friend, guide him sensitively in order to find the optimal path on the course, instead of the fastest and most comfortable one.
It is the duty of a person towards his sports comrade to always be patient and to look for mistakes in himself first and foremost. It is very important that the dog handler learns to play with his dog and also to praise him profusely, even if only with words. Of course, a treat and / or a toy are also good motivational tools and make it easier for the handler to demand certain behavior patterns from the dog. It is very important never to overwhelm the dog with an exercise. The training always ends with a sense of achievement for the dog and therefore also for humans.
Let’s start with the four-legged friend. A flat collar and a leash without eyelets and loops of approx. 2 m are indispensable for a beginner dog in agility training. The right clothing for the dog handler is also important. In any case, it should be weatherproof. It should be comfortable and as close to the body as possible, but without constricting.
Training is not carried out with an open jacket or vest so that the dog can recognize our body language, which plays an important role in agility. It is also important to use the right footwear. Shoes with smooth soles or heels should be avoided to avoid slipping or twisting. Non-slip sneakers with lots of knobs or soccer shoes are best suited. Normal running trainers are suitable for carpeting.
And now to the four-legged friend Agility is basically suitable for all dogs. No matter whether pedigree or mixed breed, male or female. Agility is certainly not the right dog sport for large and heavy dogs, such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, St. Bernard dogs, or smaller dogs with a very long back, such as the basset.
If you look at the participating dogs at the tournaments, it becomes clear that breeds such as the Belgian Shepherd Dog and the Border Collie or, in the case of the small dogs, the Sheltie and many terriers, dominate the tournament. Regardless of which four-legged friend you play this sport with, all agility dogs are first and foremost family dogs, with whom we spend most of the time at home and not on the course. And that’s why everyone has to agree exactly what the home environment is like and which dog suits you. In any case, the prerequisite for an agility dog is that it is healthy. For a responsible dog lover, an annual health check at the vet and the rabies vaccination are a matter of course. This includes testing for joint conditions such as hip dysplasia (HD) and elbow dysplasia (ED) before starting any jump training.
According to the agility regulations, dogs aged 15 months and over can gain their first tournament experience in the beginner class. The test runs are then only allowed at the age of 18 months. Since training is usually started at a young age, the dog’s bone development must be taken into account. Here too, less is often more!
The agility dog should be well socialized and behave friendly and inconspicuous towards two- and four-legged friends. The dog learns good social behavior already in puppyhood. This is why it is so important to take him to a puppy imprinting lesson in a dog club or a good dog school. The agility dog must have good basic obedience and should blindly trust its handler.
Insecure dogs gain self-confidence through targeted training; stormy animals learn to keep their temperament under control. Even during training, the dog has to learn the multitude of prompts and gestures and implement them in a flash. Safety and speed are learned and consolidated by playing with the dog. The following applies here: work on yourself and play with your dog! It is praised sincerely and never with a badly meant patting. “Agility is fun” – this motto and this sporting spirit will hopefully last for a long time. Our four-legged partners will thank us.
Tournament dogs are kept at a high level of performance all year round. That requires regular fitness training. Anyone who has ever experienced this team spirit, with what enthusiasm the dog is led across the course, reacts to minimal body language, behind the goal excitedly and highly satisfied for the praise of the human partner, how both are happy about the performance, can easily become infected and is sure to become a fan of this future-oriented division of dog sports, which is becoming more and more popular. (text: Claudia Elsner / Marzena Fiok)
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