It has been claimed that dog agility is the fastest growing dog sport these days. I believe it! What a terrific way to have fun with the family dog! Dog agility is a set of obstacles that the dog must negotiate under the direction of the handler. There are jumps to go over, tunnels to run through, ramps to climb, poles to weave through and even a seesaw board to tip! Small dogs, big dogs, pedigreed dogs, mixed breed dogs - everyone gets to play! And the true thrill of the sport is learning to work together to solve the problem presented by the arrangement of the obstacles.
The foundation of dog agility is your relationship with your dog - playing together, working together, running together, and having fun together. When people ask me how to start a puppy in dog agility, its easy - relationship, relationship, relationship! Play tug games with your puppy, play chase games with him (he chases you, not the other way), play fetch. It's easy with our Havs. They are so tuned to us and so attentive to us. We get a head-start on owner-focus.
Jumping and weaving are advanced skills that are best taught once your puppy's bones have finished growing. Check with your vet as to whether or not the growth plates have closed before doing any jump training. In the meantime, you can teach your puppy to run through cardboard boxes to simulate the agility tunnels. You can teach him to walk through a ladder laid flat on the ground to learn to walk in a narrow space. You can then teach him to walk on a board flat on the ground. In fact, you can teach him to walk over all kinds of challenging surfaces as a way to broaden his confidence for any novel situation.
There are many agility organizations to choose from, each with slightly different rules and slightly different style:
TDAA is a new organization specifically for small dogs. The equipment is proportioned for small dogs and the course layouts are proportioned for small dog running ability. There are an ever-growing number of agility trainers and clubs. Clean Run Magazine keeps a database of clubs on its website. Simple equipment can be home-made.
Dog agility is just plain fun! Most dogs really, really love to run around and "do stuff". You don't have to have aspirations to be on the U.S. World Team to enjoy dog agility. With a good trainer, you can learn to teach your dog in a fun, happy, positive way. It's a good idea to have some basics in place before attending a busy, noisy, high energy agility class. Many trainers are now offering pre-agility or obedience for agility classes. You'll need to have your dog be able to sit, stay, come when called, give you his attention in distracting circumstances in order to have a safe and fun experience in an agility class.