If you’re an owner looking for an outlet to direct your dog’s energies, Dog Agility is one of the more popular sports in the world of canine athletics. It’s also one of the signature events at the Purina® Pro Plan® Incredible Dog Challenge®. Many owners are drawn to Dog Agility because it demands physical fitness, mental focus and teamwork from dog and owner alike.
- Agility is a race against the clock through an obstacle course.
- A competition agility course contains a series of obstacles, including weave poles, hoops, tunnels, jumps , an A-frame, an elevated dog walk and a teeter-totter.
- The handler guides their dog through the course using hand and voice commands
- Time-based penalties are given for not executing properly, such as skipping weave poles or leaving an obstacle too early
- The fastest time through the course wins
On the agility course, you typically see lots of herding breeds like Australian Shepherds and Border Collies, as well as sporting breeds with slighter builds like Flat Coated Retrievers and Vizsla. But there are no hard and fast rules – even a French Bulldog can win over the crowd.
Just know there’s innate athletic ability inside every dog. And if your relationship is strong, there’s also a desire to please. Both are important ingredients to this sport.
TIPS FROM COMPETITION VETERANS
After seeing a broadcast of dog agility on TV in 2000, Jo Ann Eichorn caught the bug. She recognized the sport’s potential for keeping both dog and owner fit. She’s competed exclusively with Shetland Sheep Dogs.
When she got started, she made her own rudimentary obstacles. She encourages people new to the sport to work initially with an experienced trainer or agility club or organization to avoid potential setbacks early in the learning process. But most importantly, enjoy yourselves.
“Likewise, be it a cliché by now or not, never ever forget only the human spells ‘fun’ the same as ‘win.’ Dogs don't spell, so ‘fun’ is always just ‘fun.’ So just be a dog every chance you get.”
Kim Terrill’s got into the sport with her Border Collie, Force, because “he needed an activity to keep him busy and keeps both of us in condition. I love the bond it builds between me and my dog. He gets so excited knowing he is going out to the field.”
The pair now competes at the highest level in both Large Dog Agility and 30 Weave Up & Back (see below). She echoes Eichorn in the importance of tapping the knowledge of more experienced competitors to make sure your dog is taught how to use the equipment correctly and how to be safe with it.
“You want to build the dogs confidence and never force your dog on a piece of equipment. Bring lots of praise, treats and toys with you.”
While sharing some common elements with Agility, 30 Weave Up & Back focuses on the weave poles as the primary obstacle. Dogs compete head-to-head, winding their way through 30 weave poles, navigating through a curved tunnel, then working their way back through the weave poles to the Finish Line.
There are a number of ways to get started in Dog Agility.
- There are clubs and dog gyms all over the country with facilities and knowledgeable staff. Just do a quick search online to locate one nearest you.
- Another great place to begin is by networking through your local breed-affiliated club.
- If you prefer to try a few things on your own, many well-appointed dog parks feature agility-type structures and obstacles, or you can make your own for the back yard.
Now matter which direction you choose to begin, the Free Purina® Pro Plan® P5 Dog Training app is loaded with helpful video tutorials from expert Purina® trainers to help get you on the right path. Download it now for your iOS or Android device.