If you feel that the word ‘agile’ doesn’t apply to yourself or your dog, fear not, agility is genuinely for everyone. At Crufts you’ll see competitors at the top of their game, but at local classes and competitions you’ll find that all ages, sizes and shapes of humans and most breeds and crossbreeds between 18 months and 10 years do it and love it.
Agility is bonding for dogs and owners and improves the behaviour and confidence of dogs because they are stimulated mentally and physically
— Alison Priestley
A New Challenge
..is good for the soul even though it’s daunting. Every time I summon the enthusiasm to try something new, I feel overwhelmed by the strangeness of it all. But the fear of the new is soon replaced by the excitement of learning something different, and with agility it’s you and your dog who will learn together.
Alison, Ruff and Tumble’s owner, has just started agility classes again with Lulu and is full of enthusiasm about it. ‘Agility is bonding for dogs and owners and improves the behaviour and confidence of dogs because they are stimulated mentally and physically. Lulu loves the challenge and cannot contain her excitement when she sees jumps and tunnels!’
If you are interested in agility but don’t know where to start, our simple steps to getting started may open a whole new world of fun!
1. Don’t rush it and start at the beginning
Find a beginner’s class and ask to watch a session before committing – try Agility Net to find a class near you, and read The Kennel Club’s useful info to learn a bit more about agility as a whole. Look at the numbers and breeds in a class. 8-10 is ideal, and breeds of a similar size may be less daunting.
2. Check what you need for your first session
Your trainer should tell you, but if you’re not sure, arrive with a lead, collar+/harness, poop bags, treats and water. Dress in loose clothing, trainers or comfy flat shoes and several layers on top.
3. Don’t be put off by the competitions
There are over 300 licensed competitions a year, but many people don’t compete at all. There are lots of people who jog every day and yet never do a marathon for example. Every club will be different – so if you want agility for recreation, choose a club that is not focussed on competitions only. Agility is without doubt a sport, but like all sports can be enjoyed at different levels.
4. For the competitive, competitions are fun
Agility competition courses include different obstacles: jumps, tunnels, weave poles and obstacles that the dog scrambles over. During the event you can’t touch the dog or the obstacles. The goal is to complete the course without faults and as fast as possible. Those who compete successfully say that the buzz from being able to communicate so seamlessly with your dog as it reads your body language, is well worth all the practice!
5. Be realistic
If your dog is very disobedient or does not enjoy the company of other dogs, then some basic training may be preferable first. The basic building blocks of agility are ‘sit’, ‘down’ and ‘come’, so if these are a struggle at the best of times, then master these first.
If it helps, feel free to read some dog training tips & tricks!