Just who would need dog agility training? Aren’t dogs just naturally agile and fit and able to run and jump and chase balls and Frisbees and so on?
It’s partially true that dogs are naturally gifted athletes in their own right. They have very muscular bodies in proportion to their weight which makes them able to run fast, jump high, and do so many other spectacular stunts. However, dog agility training means more than just training a dog to run or jump; it involves teaching dogs how to do certain stunts or perform certain tasks on command of their owner, improving their time over an obstacle course, and teaching them how to perform some stunts in a particular way.
This type of dog agility training would typically apply to show dogs that need to run or jump or keep a certain pace according to the show’s requirements; they also need to keep in step with their owners, follow a certain obstacle course in a particular order, and so on. Just learning how to do these things is only half the experience; a dog needs to learn how to do these things in a particular way, at a particular speed, when given a particular signal, and so on.
As much as it is fun to watch those that have been through this type of dog agility training there are some cautions that owners should consider before simply signing up their dog for such a school. For one thing, most schools will only accept dogs that are 18 months or older, and for good reason. Dogs younger than this are still growing and trying to force them to learn different stunts can stunt their growth or damage them long-term. Also, it’s important to keep in mind some dog’s natural physical makeup.
Smaller dogs with shorter legs cannot always do so well in jumps while larger dogs may have a problem with tunnels and such. A good school that provides dog agility training will take these things in mind and adjust or alter their training according to the dog’s size and breed; an owner that is attempting to train a dog on his or her own needs to do the same.
It’s also easy for an owner to assume that dog agility training should include punishment for when a dog doesn’t perform as expected, but experts in the field know that it’s much more effective to reward a dog when it does well than it is to simply punish it when it doesn’t perform as expected. Treats, petting, play time, favorite toys, and things like these can all be used as rewards for a job well done. Dog agility training should be fun for the dog and the owner, not a chore or trauma for either.
And remember that not all pets respond the same to dog agility training; some breeds are just too skittish or hyper to jump and run on command, so don’t let your expectations get the best of you.