Thursday March 12th, 2009
In competition, a handler directs her dog through a sequence of obstacles--such as tunnels, hoops, weave poles, and seesaws--without ever touching her dog or the equipment. Using only voice and hand signals, she directs her dog through the course as quickly as possible with as few mistakes (or "faults") as possible. Competitions are held for dogs (and handlers) of all levels, ages, and sizes.
Is it right for my dog?
Bolstered confidence is another major plus. As your dog masters particular jumps and moves, and her focusing ability and athletic skills are honed, a more self-assured and nimble animal emerges. (You'll notice her confidence permeating other areas of her life as well.)
And perhaps the biggest reward? Agility training is just plain fun.
Where to begin
Your dog's mental health should be considered as well; while agility training usually builds confidence, you want to make sure a shy or nervous dog is up to the task of performing.
You can find agility classes of all levels in cities across the country, as well as private trainers who will work one-on-one with your dog. Search for a class that uses positive reinforcement to train and looks out for the safety of the dogs.
Usually a pup must be at least a year old to participate in classes or competition, but requirements vary. It's important to remember that your puppy's bones and joints are still forming and growing--sometimes up to 18 months of age--and high-impact sports during this period can cause problems down the road.
Bottom line: Though it may not be right for every dog, agility training offers a plethora of benefits, including mental and physical stimulation, opportunities for intense bonding, and increased confidence and drive. No matter how you score, agility is usually a win-win.
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