I have just finished teaching the foundation agility class (8 weeks) for Dog Agility Wellington Group (DAWG) for this term. So I thought I would comment on canine sports.
Most dogs love it. They love it because it gives them a way to burn energy and its fun for their owners as well. Let’s be honest, many people don’t actually like walking their dog. They want a dog for companionship but don’t always want to walk him in the rain, even when he desperately needs the exercise!
Agility is also fun for the dog because they have to think about what they are doing! Dogs don’t have to think on a walk, but in agility they actually have to put their mind to use, this burns even more energy than just physical exercise alone and it stimulates their minds making them a dog who thinks, not just reacts.
Agility is also promotes the human-canine bond, they learn to watch you for cues, and trust what you tell them, the connection between an agility handler and their dog is truly an amazing thing.
If you have been thinking about starting agility there are some things you will need to think about first.
1. Is your dog suited to agility? If your dog is very young (under a year), elderly, has arthritis, or hip dysplasia, agility is probably not such a good idea, maybe look into Rally-Obedience!
2. Do you already have some voice control of your dog? Although a beginners class is 99% on lead, the next levels up require a lot more off lead work, it is good for your dog to already have a basic ability to follow voice control, so you don’t end up tugging them around by the collar, which is really no fun for anyone.
3. Is your dog highly reactive? If your dog barks and lunges at other dogs, you should address this issue before bringing them to any group class. It is not a good idea to put a dog in a situation that is well beyond their capability, you will only stress your dog out and cause yourself frustration. Seek a private behavior consultant first.
Many of those who start agility, start for the fun, and stay because of the competition. Agility is a lot of fun for both dog and handler, and there are plenty of competitions run by local clubs to join and test yourself on. And don’t be worried if your dog doesn’t do really well at first, agility is so different from what most dogs do that it takes some time to show them all the rules and help them understand what’s going on. Feel free to practice at your own pace and not get too caught up in the competition side of things, sure its exciting to win, but what’s really important is that you and your dog are having fun!