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Agility training is all about having fun

Dogs love to play but often the way they play is not the same way humans think dogs should play treating them almost as if they were children. Watch two or three dogs playing together in a rough and tumble wrestling match and it does look as if they are mock fighting and in a way, it is and a way to achieve their type of fun.

If you allow your dogs to practice this kind of play, they can learn to move at amazing speeds without harming each other. If it were possible to interpret what they are saying it could be “Look I could have bitten your leg or the other leg or I could bite your neck or even push you down and hold you down” The other may well be saying “No you cant watch this then”. It is all just the dog version of the non-contact tag game but they do not aim to hurt one another.

If I were promoting Agility Training and Competitions, you well may think I should tell you all the advantages before moving onto some of the problems. The problem with this is many people only read about the fun bits first and rush out without reading the rest. It is for this reason I must do this in reverse order because it can be detrimental to the dog and spoil your chance at fun.

Agility training is one of the best ways of letting them play at what they can do best. I only have one word of caution. If you would like your dogs join in this sort of fun activity you must consider if you are prepared to continue with this and it will continue to interest you in the future.

I have seen owners take up fun activities only later become disenchanted, or bored so stopping without considering the effect on their dog. Such abandonment of such an activity will leave the dog ready for lots of fun only to come to an abrupt stop. Because now the dog cannot find a way to release its pent up energy, it will often find some destructive activity in order to compensate for the loss.

I said last week humans are the main problem for a dog/handler team and we must accept this. We are simply leaders and we do not actually take part. We are utilising the dog’s skills and we simply direct it to do what we want it to do.

It is also important to understand why a dog will work for us and what can happen in our training that will considerably reduce their interest. Seeing dogs that are quite capable of succeeding in all the jumps then in competition refuse an obstacle has more to do with the handler’s tension than its lack of ability

I must say that if you do become interested in such an activity, your dog can become very enthusiastic and you will have the reward of watching your dog enjoy itself. Agility really is a lot of fun for you both if you know what you have to do and how to achieve it. Training with the wrong methods is one of the most annoying aspects. We need to know which method works and why at the outset.

How many times have we started in an activity only to find later on someone come along who could have showed us some short cuts saving us the time of having to reinvent the wheel. Talking and learning from people who have already attained the top accolades does make it easier for those just starting to succeed more quickly and not make the same mistakes others have made.

When I first started working with dogs, it was a gradual progression. First, I trained my dog at the Road Safety Training School teaching basic obedience. I then progressed to an obedience Club for the German Shepherd dogs. From this, I then started training and competing in the first stage of Working Trial being the Companion Dog Stake. It was here I had my first opportunity to watch the higher Championship classes of Tracking Dog and Patrol Dog. It was seeing what the teams had to do that I realised just how much I had yet to teach my dog if I ever wished to compete at such a level. My dog was now four years old and yet dogs half his age were becoming Working Trial Champions.

If you can look at the level of the Championship standard before you start you then can see what you have to achieve to be able to do the same. I wished I had known this and I too could have been teaching my puppy the correct training in order to have any chance of winning instead of being an also ran. This meant for me I stood little chance with my first dog but with each successive dog, it became easier, and my dog’s standard improved as I my knowledge of training methods improved.

It is for this reason that if you are interested in competing you should try to go along to watch a top competition just to see what you would have to do. Once you know this and you are interested then try to find a local dog school that teaches dogs Agility or Fly Ball. It is also a good idea to go along to see their facilities and then consider if you have the time to train regularly.

Some schools or clubs can cost very little because everyone becomes a member. Each pays a weekly charge for tea and biscuits etc but there are others where the instructor is a professional. Here they may charge much more because they also have all the competition and training equipment.

I must mention that the cost can be a deciding factor if you are to take up the Sport. If you are paying for training and then you add to this the cost of entry fees as well as travelling then this may make you feel that such fun is too costly. Working Trials must have cost me a small fortune but my view allowing dogs to have fun, it is best not to consider cost at all. Your reward is one very happy dog and having the pleasure of being part of that fun. Who can put a price on fun?


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