How Dog Agility Can Help You with Dog Obedience
I just got back from the AKC National Agility Championships in Virginia! Wow, what a fun experience it was to watch canine and human work together to achieve such fun goals! I must admit it gave me a little bit of “agility competition fever” or at the very least “agility fever”!
I took my first agility class almost 10 years ago when I lived in Colorado. I was training Service Dogs and raising a young Malinois puppy and he needed a little help with socialization and something to entertain his mind. Now, at over 11 years old he still gets excited to see the equipment come out!
Dog agility is a sport in which the handler directs a dog through an obstacle course, in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off leash with no food, or toys and the handler is not allowed to touch either the obstacle or the dog at any point. The course changes with each competition and each judge so there is no set course to study; the dog must be controlled by the handler’s voice and body language in order to successfully complete the course in the allotted time.
The courses are complicated enough that the dog cannot complete it without the guidance of his handler, and care must be taken on the handler’s part to guide the dog correctly. Many strategies and training programs exist to compensate for strengths and weaknesses in both human and dog teams.
In order to make sure competition is fair (Mastiffs are not competing against Border Collies) the classes are divided by jump heights, meaning same sized dogs compete against same sized dogs. Dogs are measured at their shoulder height. A dog may jump a class higher than his shoulder measurement, but never lower.
There are many classes or types of agility and there are several levels of competition; Novice is for dogs just starting in agility and there are 13-15 obstacles, Open is for dogs that have earned the Novice title and there are 16-18 obstacles, and Excellent is for dogs that have completed the Open level and there are 18-20 obstacles and that is just a start!
There are also many organizations (not just AKC) that put on trials and all have different rules and regulations, and many accept the entry of mutts! USDAA and NADAC are very common but always take care to study new rules and regulations prior to trial!
How Can Agility Help Your Dog Training Program?
As stated earlier, agility is an off leash dog training sport and therefore takes a lot of training and work! Good obedience is a must with agility, but what makes it different is agility is FUN!!
When I taught doggy obedience classes, agility was my most popular class simply because it was FUN; fun for the dog owner and fun for the dogs! Everybody won, including me, because everyone was having such a fun time together.
Even dog owners that were struggling with their dog’s obedience at home often excelled in my agility classes because they were both enjoying the time they spent together! Instead of focusing on what the dog wasn’t doing or how frustrated they were with their dog, they were relishing the fact that their dog was so fast or so willing to excel at difficult things like tipping the teeter totter. They were able to see their dog in a new and exciting light; AND their dog was learning that mom or dad could be super fun and it gave him more of a reason to listen to commands and the guidance given.
No one like monotony! Monotony is boring whether at work or in your personal life and let me be the first to tell you…your dog often finds obedience boring and monotonous! Most of us don’t stop to realize how boring we must be for our dogs!
I liken this theory to having an accelerated and extremely intelligent child who is simply bored in a regular school room. Sometimes these children are accused of having ADHD and not paying attention at all because they aren’t challenged. I think our dogs are the same way!!! I think our dogs ignore us because we aren’t exciting and they fall into a habit of not listening.
Something as simple as taking an agility class or adding some agility equipment to your training program can be crucial to how well your dog listens to you. As you become more exciting…you become more important to your dog. I know that sounds sad, but the fact is it; is true!
If your dog thinks that coming to you when called might end up in the ability to play his favorite game; I guarantee he will have improved listening skills! The more exciting and more fun you are, the more apt he is to be obedient!
With all types of training comes obedience; that is the great part…its like you are having too much fun to realize you are both actually WORKING together towards a goal and you are both LISTENING to each other! This working and listening becomes habit and you will soon see the benefits around the house and in other areas of your life together!
The goal is to have fun together working on obedience as a game and enjoying each other’s company. The more time you spend together, the more training you accomplish, the better behaved your dog will be and the happier you will be! So get started! Find an agility club or class and start bonding, even if you never compete you will relish the time you spend together!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.