Top Five Reasons You Should Do Agility with Your Dog
Let me just start this blog by saying, agility is my passion. Out of all the training I do with dogs, agility is my favorite. It isn’t my favorite because you can compete and win fancy ribbons. It is my favorite because the dogs love it and you build an amazing bond with your dog throughout the process. I didn’t think dog owners in Mississippi had an interest in dog agility when I first started training, so I put my passion on the back burner to focus on the needs of my clients.
For any beginners out there, agility is a sport you can do with your dog. The handler directs the dog through a series of obstacles, like jumps, tunnels, see-saws, and a-frames. Whoever does it the fastest and the safest, wins!
However, I quickly realized I could use agility training with almost all my clients. My fearful and less confident clients (canine or otherwise) would light up at the sight of the agility jumps because I had taught them how to be confident about one thing. It doesn’t matter that it is an agility jump. I showed them they could be good at one thing, so why not something else? My high energy clients could burn off some energy before class. My highly intelligent dogs could get the challenge they had been craving all week long. I even found ways to practice recalls with families using the equipment. Everyone loved it and soon I started getting requests to bring the equipment more often and even had some dogs start officially training for agility shows.
Why should you do agility with your dogs? Follow along to find out!
1. Agility builds confidence – in canines and humans.
With many of my fearful or shy canine clients, I will bring out the agility jumps. They can normally be taught to jump over the agility jumps within one session and most dogs have no experience with such a thing. For the agility jumps, you have to teach the dog to go through the two sides of the jumps, which support the bar the dogs actually jump over. This alone can be scary for even the average dog.
I start out taking baby steps with the dogs by walking them through the jump without a bar across. Nothing is forced and I prefer to actually teach this off-leash, so it is always the dog’s choice.
Slowly, you see the dog’s confidence build and then you can add the jump bar at the lowest setting. As they get more comfortable and confident, you can raise the bar. The dogs love this because they get treats for going over the jump and they get out of their head and into their body. The fearful or shy dogs quickly start to trust the equipment and the handler in the process. I have used it with every single one of my personal dogs to build confidence in a safe, non-forceful way.
2. Agility builds trust – in canines and humans.
Where there is confidence, there is trust. Agility can be trust between you and your dog. If you can trust your dog to follow your fast-paced, complex directions in the agility ring, you can trust your dog to follow directions at home. I find some owners get stuck on not trusting their dog to follow through with cues and it is a shame. They could have a well-behaved dog, but they do not even realize it.
Most of us with chewing, food stealing fur machines probably would not believe this, but I have gone to client’s homes and wondered why on earth I am there. Their dog is perfect, but they claim he doesn’t listen. When they do the cues in front of me, he listens just fine and they say their dog never does that with this surprised look on their face! The issue can sometimes be that they are saying the cues with more confidence and feeling while I am there because they are trying to somehow will the dog to follow through because no one wants to be embarrassed in front of the trainer. The thing is – it actually works for some dogs!
In those cases, I bring out the agility equipment; we teach even harder things than sit, down, stay, etc. and keep the owner’s mind busy. At the end of the session, I point out how many times their dog sat and stayed and how many more advanced behaviors the dog did in just one hour. You have to trust your dog, just as much as your dog needs to trust you.
3. Agility makes you exercise your dog – the fun way!
Agility is fun for adults, children, and the dog. I normally have to tell my clients when a good time to stop practicing is because the dog will continue to push himself and the clients will keep training because they are caught up in the process. If you do not like walking your dog or worse yet, you cannot control them on walks, homemade agility equipment could be your answer.
Many clients of mine would rather get out in the backyard and mentally stimulate their dog with the agility equipment than go for a walk. Walks are still important, but no matter how much I stress that, some people just will not walk their dogs. If I can get them out into the backyard, running an agility course with their dog for exercise then, I will take it!
4. Agility with other dogs can create mimicking behavior.
When I have two dogs or more during a session, I take my most confident dog through the course first. You will find your less confident dogs may follow or perform better after seeing a familiar dog run the course. Dogs have the ability to mimic the behavior of other dogs.
When I see we have two close-knit dogs, I take advantage of that. I can use that to train them and put any fear the dog may have out of its mind. So, if you have a fearful, shy, or not-so-confident dog, pairing them with a more outgoing dog in the household while teaching the equipment can help you bring that dog out of its shell.
5. Agility promotes the use of positivity to get what you want.
Agility would be a sport that would be hard or impossible to teach using adverse methods. Clients that rely on prong collars or e-collars for confidence that their dog will comply, I teach them agility too. Why? Because that correction will only make the dog afraid of the equipment and take my client further from their goal. You cannot and should not use training collars in the agility ring for many reasons, but I find people do not know how to get rid of them. They become a crutch for training and they just do not know what to do.
So, I put my clients in a strange situation since many have never tried agility and I start showing them how. I give them the skills to training their dogs with encouragement, instead of corrections. People start to put the dots together at that point and wonder if there are other ways to train their dog. Then later, I can take them back to skills they already know how to train with the corrections and say, “How would we take what we just did with the agility jumps and teach your dog using those same skills?”
Looking for dog agility classes in Jackson, MS? Look no further! We have in-home private agility classes enrolling now! Just send me an email at LaurenETsao@yahoo.com or call us at 769-251-4104.