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Dog agility: Everything you need to know

Australian Shepherd doing agility advice

Dog agility is the perfect way to keep your dog physically fit

© Shutterstock

Dog agility is a sport where human and canine work hand-in paw to climb obstacles, fetch balls, and show off their impressive obedience skills. Competitions take place all over the world, attracting huge crowds of dog lovers.

By Ashley Murphy

It's also a great way to make sure your dog gets enough physical and mental stimulation, as well as a really enjoyable bonding experience between pet and owner. So here's everything you need to know about dog agility training!

What is some advice on dog agility training? 

When it comes to agility training, not all pooches are created equal! Some breeds are not built for these kinds of exercises. They may be too heavy or they may not have the right type of attitude. For example, dogs like French bulldogs, and Pugs were not designed for the twists and turns of a dog agility course. However, some pooches do defy the mould. Back in 2016, a French Bulldog took 2nd place at the paws agility club competition in Jersey.

If you're looking for a natural agility dog, stick to traditional working breeds like the Australian Shepherd, the Jack Russel, and the king of agility dog trials - the Border Collie!

What is the best way to train a dog for agility? 

One of the best ways to get started is through a local agility club. You can learn the basics, and you and your dog will also make lots of like-minded friends! It's also a great way to introduce your pooch to agility training in a safe environment supervised by dog training experts! Visit Agility.net for more info on clubs in your area!

How to train my dog to do agility and basic tricks? 

Once you've picked up the fundamentals, you can start with a few extra training session at home or in the garden. Keep the sessions short and fun. Around 10 minutes at a time is more than enough. If your dog wants to continue, then keep going, but always end your session if the pooch appears to lose interest!

You can set-up obstacles in the house or garden. Use two stacks of books and a broom to create hurdles, then entice the dog to leap over with a tasty treat. Just remember to start small and work your way up as the dog grows in confidence.

You can also use hula hoops for jumping practice and cones to master the toughest part of dog agility - the weave. This is when dogs weave in and out of a set of obstacles like a downhill slalom skier!

And always be working on the basics obedience commands, including sit, stay, and come here. Obedience is a big part of any agility competition, and contestants will often lose points if their furry partners get over excited on the big day!

Do you want to teach your dog to sit?

Where is a good place to get dog agility equipment? 

If you decide to get serious about dog agility training, you'll need some proper agility equipment. You should also familiarise yourself with the rule and regulations of dog agility competitions. These vary depending on what organisation runs the event, so do plenty of research beforehand. When looking for equipment, stick to reputable, big-name providers like Doggy Jumps or Adam's Agility. All their products have been tested to make sure they're 100% safe for your dog.

At what age can I start agility or flyball with my dog? 

Your dog needs to be at least 18 months old before they can enter any agility competitions, but you can start agility or flyball training around 10 or 11 months. Resist the temptation to start them off any younger. Although they might seem keen enough, younger pups need time to develop both physically and mentally.

What is Crufts? 

Crufts is the greatest dog show in the world and a mecca for dog agility trainers. The annual even its hosted by the UK kennel club and includes best in show competition, flyball, and agility trials. It attracts crowds of over 100,000 who come to watch the best agility dogs showing off their tricks and skills! So start training your pooch today, and maybe they could steal the show at next years Crufts!

Some owners take agility competitions very seriously, but it's important to remember that agility training should always be fun! Like children, dogs learn best when they're happy and enjoying themselves. So always make it fun and let your dog work at a pace that suits them. And don't forget the doggy treats! They're every trainer's secret weapon!