Fun agility has rightly become one of the most popular activities for owners to do with their dogs in recent years. It brings health and awareness benefits to both dogs and their owners and it now features regularly at the annual Crufts dog show, as well as all manner of local dog shows and events.
What is Fun Agility and what dog is it for?
So just what is Fun Agility? It involves running with and guiding a dog around a course with a variety of obstacles, such as tunnels, weave poles, see-saws, tyres and jumps. The handler must direct the dog to tackle these obstacles in the right order and in the fastest time possible.
Fun agility is open to all dogs to take part, no matter how big or small, whatever the breed combination or background, and showcases a huge spectrum of ages, unlike other competition grade agility that is sometimes seen on television or at shows. The focus is on the owner and dog having fun and learning together, rather than being a results-based activity. By doing this in a fun way, the mental and physical capabilities of the dog are built up and developed.
Agility for dogs is the equivalent of going to the gym for humans. Their bodies get stretched, they use muscle groups that aren’t otherwise used on a daily basis, they learn how to twist and bend, and they use up lots of excess energy.
It is a fantastic way to strengthen a dog’s body and to tire them out. It is a great way to keep the pounds off too – both dog and human! Agility can be taxing on the body, so care needs to be taken to ensure there are appropriate warm-ups/cool downs before and after sessions for the dog.
Impulse Control and Focus
There are so many amazing smells in a training environment, from previous dogs that have been there beforehand, to food crumbs from other people and barking or excited dogs who are also waiting on the sidelines. Imagine for a second that we are sitting at a table with a tutor who is wanting us to learn something brand new, but your phone is pinging every few seconds with all kinds of messages while other people are coming in and out of the room, talking about various things and eating wonderful pieces of cake. We all find this can be very distracting! This is the same for dogs at fun agility classes. A good class will teach the dog to rein in their excitement and check their impulse control.
They cannot just run off and do whatever obstacle they like in any order, despite their efforts to the contrary. Dogs learn not to do whatever they want, in favour of listening to their owner and obediently following their directions. Impulse control is hard for dogs, and fun agility teaches the dog to follow the directions of their owner, despite the exhilarating environment around them. Fun agility classes also include focus training where the owner becomes the sole attention of the dog. When the dog is focussed, not only will their agility improve, but their recall will become better, their general obedience will improve and they will be more inclined to controlling their impulses to chase rabbits on dog walks!
Dogs build up their confidence at fun agility classes. They discover what they might be hesitant at, what they thoroughly enjoy, and through guidance and encouragement, they learn to have confidence in themselves and also with their owner. This is especially important for younger dogs or rescued dogs. Confidence in their owner means their dogs become more connected to them.
They are more likely to respond to them, not just at the agility field, but in their everyday lives. Agility training often involves starting with a one hour lesson a week, but the confidence the dogs gain from doing fun agility can last a lifetime. It gives them the opportunity to be confident about showing their personalities, which is a good thing in a controlled way.
Performing fun agility with your dog creates a beautiful bond. Agility develops human-canine communication when you share in such a fun and exhilarating experience time and time again. Dogs associate the feeling of warmth and enjoyment with their owner whilst they are at agility classes. They strengthen the trust they have in their owners and they enjoy spending time together. Equally important, fun agility creates a fantastic experience for owners to have fun with their dogs and mix with similar like-minded people. Going to an agility club or agility classes is a fantastic way to socialise and make new friends, human or canine, that share the same interests in an enjoyable environment.
“Agility balances both physical and mental stimulation, which results in a happier and calmer dog.”
Dog agility is not only tiring in a physical way but mentally challenging too. Dogs need to be kept mentally stimulated in order to tire themselves out, enrich their lives and prevent boredom from setting in – always a danger in dogs, which can lead to all manner of antisocial behaviour.
Agility combines both mental and physical stimulation to decrease the likelihood of developing behavioural issues such as barking, separation anxieties or destructive chewing. Agility balances both physical and mental stimulation, which results in a happier and calmer dog.
Where can I find the right agility class for me?
If you are interested in reaping the benefits of getting active, bonding further with your dog and improving their training and obedience, then fun agility classes could be just the thing for you and your dog.
Find your local agility club by searching for dog trainers who specialise in fun agility. They will have introductory or beginners courses, as well as more advanced courses, so go along and give it a try, learn in a fun and rewarding environment.
There is usually a minimum age requirement before dogs are allowed to participate because jumping and contact equipment can be damaging for dogs under the age of about 12 months, but some foundations can be taught earlier. It is best to learn with a reward-based trainer and where the class sizes are small. This allows more readily to be able to go at the dog’s own pace – and, frankly, the owner’s too.
Caroline Walmsley, along with her young family, has two dogs; Trojan a Yellow Labrador Retriever and Apollo a Golden Retriever who is a Registered Education Dog. She founded her company Waggy Canine Services nine years ago and is proud to be an awarded company, specialising in bespoke Dog Walking, Pet Sitting & Care, Fun Dog Agility Classes, and webinars focussing on the interactions between children and dogs, based in Lincolnshire.
For more information Waggy Canine Services