Once you’re assured your dog is both physically and mentally capable
of doing agility, the next thing to do is implement some type of
conditioning exercise to help him get in shape. Agility is fun,
but it’s also strenuous, and your dog will need to be in good physical
condition if he is to compete successfully. Begin with regular walks,
working up to a distance of several miles at least three or four
times a week. If your dog is a puppy, or sedentary older dog, take
it easy in the beginning and work up gradually, but do make it a
regular part of your routine. Bear in mind that it is recommended
a dog be at least eight months old before beginning to compete in
agility, and many competitions require dogs to be one year or older.
Also attend to your dog’s diet, being sure to feed
him any extra calories he might need to adequately compensate for
the increase in physical exertion.
addition to physical conditioning, give some thought to mentally
conditioning your dog for the training ahead. This can be as simple
as furnishing your dog’s play area with toy facsimiles of some of
the obstacles he will be encountering. For example, get a three
foot square board and put a tennis ball underneath it to get him
used to jumping on moving objects, add a cardboard box or two with
the ends cut out. Scatter a few pipes and planks about, and prop
a board up on some blocks, with a few little steps going up to it.
Don’t try to do any actual training at this point, but do make it
a point to play with your dog using these props so he gets the idea
they are fun items.
games you might play with him include:
– Find the Tunnel: put your dog at one end of the tunnel and a treat
at the other. Encourage him to get the treat. Keep moving the tunnel
further away, eventually into another room, so your dog learns it’s
fun to find it and run through it.
– Around the Wall: find a place in your house where your dog can
run around in a circle through doorways, a hallway for example with
a door at each end, or a similar arrangement. Teach him to run in
a circle around the wall, enticing him with a toy or treat, and
rewarding him when he does it.
– See Saw Board: set a fairly wide board on a small fulcrum point.
A pencil or other small diameter object will do fine at first. Then
use a treat to entice him to run across the board, rewarding him
when he does.