agility training for dogs where to start
If you have an active and energetic dog and you are looking for an activity that allows him to exercise, Agility can be an excellent option: not only will you get your friend to exercise, but you will also have fun together and strengthen your bond.
Throughout this article we are going to talk at length about this dog sports discipline, so that in this way you have in your hands all the necessary information to decide if you want your dog and you to practice it.
What is Agility?
The Agility is a sport in which a dog must complete a circuit where you will find a number of obstacles that will have to overcome in a given time with the help of a human guide, which will indicate you what to do through verbal commands and gestures.
It is a team activity, which requires great complicity and synchronicity between the dog and its human, since the animal must be completely loose, and its guide is not allowed to touch him or the obstacles. Nor can incentives such as toys or treats be used: that is, the bond and trust between the two must be excellent, and the idea is that both of you have fun doing an activity together.
Generally, Agility circuits have between 14 and 20 different obstacles, among which we can find things such as tunnels, catwalks, jumping fences, seesaws, palisades, wheels or slalom, among others, and the dog must overcome them quickly and precise.
In principle, any dog can practice Agility, regardless of its breed and size, as long as there are no health problems that advise against it.
Of course, until the dog in question is 18 months old, it is recommended that he not do high-impact exercises, such as jumps or sharp turns, since until that age his musculoskeletal system is not fully developed. However, while that moment arrives we can practice other gentler exercises with it.
Anyone can get started in this fun sport with their dog, simply to enjoy doing an activity together and, who wants to go further and practice it more seriously, can even participate in competitions, if they wish.
Origins of Agility
The Agility was born at the end of the 70’s in England quite by chance. It was in 1977, when the organizers of the prestigious Crufts Dog Show commissioned one of its members, John Varley , to organize some type of activity that would serve as entertainment for the public during the break between obedience tests and races. group exhibitions.
Varley came up with an exhibition in which the dogs had to jump a series of obstacles, similar to what horses did in equestrian competitions.
“The Agility was born at the end of the 70’s in England, as an entertainment for the public attending the Crufts Dog Show during the break between different tests and exhibitions.”
As he was not a trainer, and had no idea how to teach dogs to do such a thing, he contacted Peter Meanwell , a canine trainer with many years of experience, and he was the one who devised the first Agility circuit in history, designing the obstacles in such a way that they were totally safe for the dogs, but allowed them to create an entertaining show, which debuted at the Crufts dog show in 1978.
The exhibition was so successful that many dog trainers began to practice this new activity, and in 1980, Agility was officially recognized as a dog sport by The Kennel Club , and its popularity soon spread around the world.
Without a doubt what makes Agility such a popular activity around the world is how much fun it is, both for us and for our dogs. However, this is not the only benefit that this canine sport can bring us. Let’s see some of them.
- Agility is a great way to get your dog to do physical exercise , helping him to improve his agility (obviously), and also to develop good reflexes and increase his flexibility.
- In addition to providing your dog with the opportunity to do physical exercise, Agility also stimulates the dog mentally , since, to complete a circuit, it will not only have to be guided by your instructions, but it must also have a certain capacity for analysis and decision to overcome the different obstacles.
“Agility is an activity that will provide your dog with the opportunity to exercise, in addition to mentally stimulating him, while improving communication, rapport and, ultimately, your bond.”
- Practicing Agility with your dog will teach you to use body language to communicate with him clearly and effectively , being more aware of the gestures and movements you make, so the communication and rapport between the two will improve considerably.
- Your dog will learn to be aware of you and to obey you while he is having fun : in fact, he will do so precisely because he will conclude that when you are together and he listens to you, funny things happen. Ultimately, your bond will become closer.
- Learning to perform different exercises will improve your dog’s self-esteem and self-confidence .
Can all dogs practice agility?
Before starting to practice Agility with your furry you should bear in mind that not all dogs are equally suitable for this type of activity. To begin with, there are certain breeds that, due to their physical characteristics, are not capable of carrying out overly demanding exercises.
This is the case of very large breed dogs, such as Mastiffs or Great Danes, which are normally very calm and not as energetic or agile as other smaller breeds.
You should also be very careful if your dog belongs to one of the brachycephalic breeds, such as the boxer or the bulldog, since, due to their physical characteristics, they tend to have respiratory problems, so they do not have much tolerance for physical exercise. especially if it’s hot.
“There are dogs that, due to their physical characteristics, their age or their state of health, are not the most suitable for practicing Agility. It is always advisable to do a veterinary check-up before starting your furry in this activity. “
Other breeds that can have problems with certain agility exercises, especially those that involve jumping, are those with very short legs and a very elongated torso, as is the case of the dachshund or the basset hound, since they can damage their back .
If your dog is getting older, or if he has a health problem, such as cardiovascular disease, or one of a joint type that can limit his movement, such as hip dysplasia or osteoarthritis, Agility is not the most suitable sport for him. In fact, it is always advisable to do a good veterinary check-up before starting to practice any sport with your dog .
If your dog is among any of the cases that I have cited in this section, but you would still like to be able to practice Agility with him, you can always create a circuit that adapts to his characteristics and particularities, avoiding the exercises with more impact, and opting by others that are less physically demanding, allowing your dog to go at his own pace, without forcing him and having fun together.
If you notice that your dog is not comfortable doing the exercises, and is not having a good time, do not force him: after all, there are many other activities that you can do together.
Dog breeds best suited to practice Agility
Although, in principle, almost any dog could practice Agility within its capabilities, it is true that there are breeds that are usually more suitable for this canine sport, either because of their physical constitution or because of their character. However, it is also true that many breedless dogs are excellent at agility.
There are certain characteristics that make a dog excellent in agility: that it is intelligent and learns with ease; that he has a lively temperament and a balanced and docile character thanks to which he is willing to follow the instructions of his guide; and, of course, be agile, active and fast.
With all this in mind, it must be recognized that there are certain breeds that start with an advantage, since they possess many (if not all) of these characteristics, which makes them stand out in the Agility championships. Let’s see some of them.
They stand out for their great intelligence and ease of learning. They are very dynamic, agile and active dogs, with large doses of energy. All these characteristics make Border Collies ideal for practicing Agility and that, in fact, they are the first breed that comes to mind when thinking about this canine sport, since they are usually the big stars of the show.
They are quite similar to Border Collies, although they are somewhat larger. These are dogs that enjoy exercise and work, and are very intelligent and quick to learn, which makes them excellent at Agility.
Jack russell terrier
It is a small breed, but endowed with a compact and muscular body and great energy, which requires a good dose of exercise. They are very agile dogs and, although they can be quite stubborn, they are very intelligent, so, with good motivation, they learn easily.
Whatever their size, Poodles are athletic, agile and playful dogs, with great intelligence and ease of learning, which is why they tend to be very agile.
It may not seem like it at first, but these sweet looking dogs with elegant and stately bearing are excellent at agility, due to their playful and active nature, their compact and athletic body and their intelligence, which makes it easy to train them.
Spanish water dog
It is a medium-sized dog with an athletic and muscular complexion, and it is also very intelligent and has an obedient character so it learns quickly, therefore, it is ideal for Agility, whose practice can be great, since it is a dog you need physical activity and mental stimulation.
Despite its small size and cuddly appearance, the Papillon is a surprisingly fast and athletic dog, which, together with its intelligence and ease of learning, make it ideal for agility.
This herding breed is similar to the Collie, although smaller in size, and is great at Agility, since they are fast and active dogs, as well as being very intelligent and learning with great ease.
This popular breed was originally bred for herding, but, due to their great versatility and intelligence and how quickly they learn, today we can see them exercising the most diverse tasks: from rescue dogs, to guide dogs, guard dogs, police dogs, etc. Due to these characteristics, and its strength and athletic abilities, it is a breed that Agility is very good at.
Like the German Shepherd, Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent and versatile, and they also have a stable and docile character, all of which make it very easy to teach them things. In addition to all this, it is a very active and playful dog, which requires a good dose of daily exercise. For all these reasons, Agility is an ideal activity for them.
Belgian shepherd malinois
This breed is exceptionally intelligent and learns very quickly, in addition to having an athletic, light and slim body, but very strong. It is a very active and practically tireless dog that requires physical activity and mental stimulation. All these qualities undoubtedly make them stand out in Agility.
How to start your dog in Agility
If you want to start practicing Agility with your dog, you have two options: join an Agility club , where you will find professional guidance; Or do it on your own, creating your own Agility circuit at home , if you have a garden that is the right size for it. Let’s look at these two options in more detail.
Undoubtedly joining an Agility club is the best option if you want to start in this sport with your dog, since they have the appropriate facilities, with all types of obstacles, and also have professionals who will guide you, and several groups of Agility of different levels, so that you and your dog can learn at your own pace.
Clubs also have the advantage that you will meet other people and dogs, which will be great for socializing, both for you and your furry.
Once you have started in Agility, and check if your dog is good at it and, above all, if he enjoys it, you will be the one who decides if you want to go further and want to train more seriously, to start participating in competitions.
“Enrolling in an Agility club is the best way to get started in this sport with your dog, since you will have the appropriate facilities and obstacles at your disposal, as well as professionals who will guide you.”
In order to participate in an Agility championship, in addition to being a member of a club, your dog must be at least 18 months old and be identified by microchip, among other requirements. To know all the regulations that govern Agility competitions in Spain, it is recommended that you read the Regulations of the Royal Canine Society of Spain .
In Spain we can already find many Agility clubs throughout our geography. Here are some of the best.
Agility Lealcan Club (Madrid)
Lealcan is a company that is dedicated to positive dog training and that has one of the oldest Agility clubs in the Community of Madrid. They have extensive facilities with all kinds of obstacles, and offer classes and groups for all levels, in addition to organizing exhibitions and agility competitions. All Lealcan monitors are professional canine educators.
Club D’Agility Ciutat Comtal (Barcelona )
Located on the Montjuic mountain, in Barcelona, the Agility Ciutat Comtal club offers several courses: on the one hand, we find the Puppy School, aimed at puppies between 3 and 6 months old, which will lay the foundations for learning; And, in addition, there are also courses to start in Agility or to increase the level, and every year a championship is organized.
Agility Valencia School
Located just five minutes from Valencia, this Agility club and school has three indoor courts and one outdoor court. After taking a course in obedience and basic canine education, you can join the club with your dog to start learning all the secrets of Agility with him.
This Agility club is located in Gijón, and has facilities of about 10,000 square meters, with two regulation courts for competition, plus an initiation area. There are three groups of Agility, with a monitor: preagility, beginner level and intermediate / advanced level, so that you can learn at your own pace.
The Agility Mascoguau club is located in Ames, A Coruña, and has a closed track of 1,200 square meters. It offers classes for puppies and obedience classes, as well as Agility courses, adapted to the physical conditions of the dog and its handler.
Located in the Cantabrian town of Elechas, the Agility Cantabria club has three competition tracks and a large space to play with the dogs so that they can run safely.
They offer pre-agility courses, which will allow you to get started with your dog, learning the basics of this sport progressively, and advanced agility, for those who wish to perfect their knowledge, and even compete. In addition, each year they organize the Sextuple, with six days of competitions in which competitors from all over Spain and even from other countries participate.
You can see all the Agility clubs in Spain on the website of the Royal Canine Society of Spain .
How to do an Agility circuit at home
If you are lucky enough to live in a house that has a large garden, you can set up your dog his own Agility circuit and start training him on his own. It is an option that will allow you to have fun with your dog, and learn to practice this sport at your own pace and without pressure.
We are going to see some examples of products that will allow you to have an entire Agility track in your home.
Agility Training Set | PawHut
The PawHut Agility Training Set comes with the necessary elements for its assembly and that the different accessories are well fixed to the ground, and includes several bags to store everything. You can see it in more detail, and buy it, if you wish, through the following link.
Categories and types of obstacles in Agility
In Agility competitions and tests there are three categories and up to five jump heights . Each dog will enter one of them depending on its size, since, after all, a small Papillon is not the same as a Border Collie or a German Shepherd, and therefore they cannot compete with each other. Let’s see them.
- Small category (small) : is for dogs that are below 35 cm in height at the withers, and is subdivided into two categories, each of them with a jumping height ( XS for dogs below 28 cm in height). height at the withers, with a jump height of 15 to 20 cm; and S for dogs between 28 and 35 cm high at the withers, with a jump height of 25 to 30 cm).
- Medium category (medium) : it is for dogs between 35 and 43 cm high at the withers, with a jump height of between 35 and 40 cm.
- Standard category (large) : it is for dogs from 43 cm high at the withers and, like the small category, it is divided into two subcategories, each of which has its jump height ( L , for dogs of between 43 and 50 cm high at the withers, with a jump height between 45 and 50 cm; and XL , for dogs 50 cm or more in height at the withers, with a jump height between 55 and 60 cm ).
“Agility competitions and tests have three categories and up to five jump heights, and each dog will enter one of them depending on its size.”
The course of a competition Agility track must be made up of the greatest possible variety of obstacles, and have a length of between 100 and 220 meters. Dogs must overcome between 15 and 22 obstacles, showing a good balance between dexterity and speed.
The obstacles that are approved by the International Cynological Federation are the following:
- Jumping fences, which can be simple or grouped.
- Wall or viaduct
- Wheel, which can be removable or solid.
- Long jump, which will consist of between 2 and 4 elements.
- Canvas tunnel
- Rigid tunnel
- Slalom (with 12 posts)
FAQ: frequently asked questions about Agility
What is Agility?
Agility is a sports discipline in which a dog must travel a circuit where there are a series of obstacles that must be overcome cleanly, in the shortest possible time, while his human companion guides him using exclusively verbal commands and gestures.
Is Agility Good For Dogs?
As long as the dog does not have any health problem that prevents him from practicing it, Agility has many benefits for dogs, since it is a fun way to exercise and mentally stimulates them, improving their confidence and self-esteem. Another advantage of this canine sport is that it considerably improves the bond between the dog and its human companion.
At what age can a dog start practicing agility?
To be able to participate in Agility championships, a dog must be at least 18 months old, since until that age its musculoskeletal system is not fully developed, so it is not recommended that it do high-impact exercises. However, while the dog reaches that age, we could introduce him to the practice of Agility, teaching him softer exercises that are suitable for him.
What breeds are the best to practice Agility?
In principle, almost any dog could practice Agility, always, of course, within its capabilities. However, there are races that due to their physical characteristics and their character and intelligence are more gifted for this sport. This is the case of the Border Collie, the Australian Shepherd, the Spanish Water Dog, the Poodle, the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois, the Golden Retriever or the Shetland, among others.
How can I start my dog in Agility?
To start your dog in this canine sports discipline, the best option is for you to register together in an Agility Club in your Autonomous Community, since in this way you will have at your disposal adequate facilities, which will have approved obstacles, and professional monitors They will be able to advise you and give you the necessary classes to start practicing Agility with your furry. In this post we talk about some of the best clubs.
And so far our review of everything related to this dynamic dog sport that is Agility . I hope I have helped you resolve any questions you may have on the subject.
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