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Dog Agility Training – Tips

Dog Agility Training – Tips

– Safety. Even if your dog’s been cleared by your vet, you will still need to make his safety a top priority. Evaluate each obstacle and each activity in light of his capability and readiness. Don’t push him too far or too fast, and if your dog is young, be especially careful with any jumps, as the concussion from landing too hard can damage soft joints that are still growing.

– Leash. Many “purists” will tell you never to use a leash, but in reality it can be a valuable training aid, especially in the beginning, and especially if you are working alone without a helper. It can aid you in showing your dog what you want him to do, and helping you maintain control before your dog has learned his lessons. Don’t be afraid to use a leash.

– When you introduce your dog for the very first time to an obstacle, it is not necessary, or recommended to call it anything. If your dog is shy of going in the tunnel, for example, you don’t want him to associate the word “tunnel” with something he is afraid of. But as soon as your dog successfully goes through the tunnel, you can greet him on the other end with treats and ecstatic praise “good tunnel!”. From then on, it is important to use consistent words for each obstacle. You can call them anything, as long as you are consistent and each one sounds different to the dog.

– Classes are a good idea both early and later on in your training. By exposing your dog to a more realistic training scenario involving an actual agility course, and the presence of other people and dogs, you’re giving both of you an advantage in learning the skills. Find classes by asking around, checking the yellow pages, or looking on the internet.

– Competitions can be great learning tools, even if you and your dog are doing agility mainly for fun and exercise. Consider entering a few competitions in the beginner or novice class just to gain experience. You may find you enjoy it enough to want to work on progressing to more advanced levels.

– Be patient. This is going to take awhile. It’s fairly common for people to take a few classes and think they and their dog are ready for competition. You might even enter and make it through one or two, surprised that your dog does better than you expected. But in reality, it’s going to take a couple of years for both of you to become comfortable with the sport and its nuances. Don’t rush it – the training itself will nurture the bond between you and your dog, and you’ll make lots of friends and have a good time along the way.

– 15 minute practice sessions are plenty long enough. You might try several sessions a day, but keep the sessions short, or your dog will lose focus, lose interest, and not learn. If you’re signing up for classes that last an hour, be sure to ask if there are regular breaks.

– Warm up before beginning a practice session to help your dog be physically and mentally prepared to work.

– Be sure to separate obedience exercises from agility work. They’re both necessary, but shouldn’t be mixed in the same session. Once your dog is running the courses you’ll see how they work together, but wait until then.

– Fun! Always, always keep your agility work lighthearted and fun. Not only will you enjoy it more, your dog will respond far more and progress far faster than if you allow any of your sessions to take on a negative tone. Remember, it’s not your dog’s fault if he doesn’t understand something. It’s only an opportunity to try again.

Learning the sport of agility can and should be a fun and exciting adventure for both you and your dog. No other sport requires such teamwork between dog and handler, and you will marvel at the bond of trust you’ll find developing between the two of you as you work and progress together. Although it requires dedication, study, and a whole lot of hard work, you will be repaid many times over in fun and satisfaction as you participate and progress in dogdom’s newest sport.

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