Dog Training > Dog Agility Training > Agility Dog Training Overview

Agility Dog Training Overview

Dog agility is a sport in which a handler guides a dog through a timed obstacle course. The object is to complete the course with the highest score (determined by accuracy) and the quickest time.

Dog agility requires extraordinary obedience training, not so much from the difficulty of the obstacles, but more so for the ability to execute the course in a very distracting environment. Agility dog training provides your dog with the necessary preparation for accurately negotiating an agility obstacle course while racing against the clock. Dog agility rules require that dogs run without a leash and without incentives like food or toys. Of course, treats and toys will be part of your initial agility dog training. But once the competition starts, only the handler's voice and body language are allowed to provide direction and motivation.

Dog agility is a comparatively new sport. Originally introduced in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s as an exhibition sport, dog agility spread quickly around the world. The typical agility course contains a set of standard obstacles arranged in a variable pattern in an area measuring approximately 100 by 100 feet. The obstacles are numbered to indicate their order of completion and are usually spaced about 10 to 20 feet apart. So if you want to train for more than one obstacle at a time, you'll need to find some space for your agility dog training.

The course changes for each competition, so the handler is allowed to walk through the course once before competing with his or her dog. Once competition begins, each handler-dog team gets one opportunity to complete the course. The dog proceed through the course from the starting line, directed by his handler. Since speed is as important as accuracy, competition usually takes place at a full run.

The obstacles to prepare for in agility dog training vary based on the organization that is sanctioning the competition. But they generally fall into four major types: jumps, tunnels, contact obstacles, and miscellaneous obstacles. Jumps include jumping over hurdles, panels, walls or bars. They can also include jumping through a suspended tire, over water or brush, or even over a wishing well.

Contact obstacles are really climbing obstacles, like the a-frame or teeter. They are known as contact obstacles because the dog must touch the yellow contact zones at each end of the obstacle. Tunnels come in two types: the pipe, a rigid tunnel that can be formed into a variety of shapes, and the chute, a collapsed tunnel with an entry point and twelve to fifteen feet of material.

Miscellaneous obstacles you'll need to prepare for in your agility dog training include the pause table, pause box and weave poles.  Weave poles are a series of upright poles. The dog must enter the obstacle with the first pole on his left and weave in and out of the poles until there are are no more. Weave poles will probably require the most time in your agility dog training. Pause tables and pause boxes provide a break in the action, a break that your dog may not be too excited about. For these obstacles, the dog is required to jump onto a table or land in a box and hold a down position for five seconds.

Agility dog training can be both challenging and rewarding, but above all the goal should be for you and your dog to have fun in the time you spend together.

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