Agility For Pet Dogs

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This page is for people who have pet dogs that might enjoy agility but don't want to compete.  Sometimes people get the impression that agility is only for people who are dedicated to training and competing and travelling miles every weekend to shows.  This simply isn't true.  You can enjoy a bit of agility fun with your dog whatever it's age or breed, providing the dog is fit and enjoys the activity.   


Hazel learns to jump

Hazel was an obedience dog but she enjoyed a bit of jumping in the garden.  She was quite fit but we didn't ask her to do too much.   The jump poles were just broom handles balanced on flower pots or anything else that we could find in the garden.



Soon Hazel loved jumping a low pole

Once she'd learned what we wanted her to do she even developed a bit of style. We also made her a very mini A Frame and a flexible tunnel.

I taught Hazel to jump by stepping over a low pole and encouraging her to come with me.  Lots of titbits were involved and it didn't take her long to get the idea.  The main thing with pet dogs is to keep everything simple and safe and not to ask them to jump too high.  Agility dogs are very fit and supple and they do a lot of training to get to that stage.  When they first start, the larger dogs probably won't do more than 35cm jumps.  The poles are easily displaced and there aren't too many turns.  It takes time to build up the stamina and fitness to do a full agility course.


A pipe tunnel was no problem for Hazel

We also had a bit of fun at a "Dogalong" held at Pencarrow House.  This is a lovely stately home near Wadebridge in Cornwall where the owners are very dog orientated, but they do let humans in as well.  Hazel did well with her first introduction to a pipe tunnel on a cross country course. 



Tilly enjoyed herself and trotted happily through the tunnel as well.  Both dogs were quite elderly at 12years and 11 years, but they were fit enough to go round the whole course.  We lifted them over any jumps that were too high.  In Tilly's case this was every jump.

    Tilly trotted through the tunnel first time

Pets dogs do like to have a bit of fun and games in addition to their normal routine and it will benefit them enormously to include some simple agility.  Some equipment I wouldn't use for a dog is a solid tyre.   It can be dangerous for a dog to jump through something as unforgiving as this. These days we use soft materials only for the tyre.  If you include this in your activity make sure your dog has a straight approach and that they can't race up to it at any speed.  In competition the judge never puts a tyre at the end of a line of jumps or where the dog would take it at an angle.  For the garden, a few jumps and tunnel are ideal as long as the jumps low and you don't go flat out if your dog isn't fit.

If you want to play the plank game put a plank down in the garden and teach your dog to walk along it.  They must touch the plank at either end!  It's a great game and dogs love it.  The plank needs to be 12" to 14" wide. You can also rest the plank on a little log to make a "see-saw."  Don't make it too high or you'll scare the dog and this is no good if you get bitten by the agility bug and you want to go on to do some competitive training.  Do have fun in your garden from time to time.  Dogs love it and it gives them something interesting to do.

More fun training
Agility is becoming much more popular both for pet dogs and competition dogs.  Some local councils have even started putting dog agility equipment in their local parks and recreation grounds.  Also there are some dog training clubs that teach agility just for fun.  They don't do it on a competitive basis at all and so there's no pressure to enter shows or climb up the grades.

If you want to join others and enjoy some training it's worth finding out if there's a club in your area that does fun agility.  

A couple of interesting links
East Hertfordshire District Council was the first to set up an agility course in their local park.  Have a look at this news link that shows people having fun and enjoying the course.

Paddington has so far provided two tunnels for dogs.  (Oh come on Paddington.  You can manage a bit more!)

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