Not only eating and sleeping, inviting your pet along on your adventures is always a lot of fun. Participating in agility training and competition is a great way to spend some quality time with your dog, and both of you are sure to enjoy yourselves. And, believe me, nothing bonds you with your dog more than the spirit of competition! My dogs and I have been doing it for a few years now, so I’ve put together a brief guide:
Just what is agility?
An agility trial is essentially a teamwork event. It starts with training, as you teach your dog how to complete a timed obstacle course that includes things like jumps, tunnels, and weave poles. At higher levels of competition, courses also include contact objects like balance beams and teeter-totters.
What kind of dogs can participate in agility trials?
All kinds of dogs! AKC events allow only registered, purebred dogs, but there are many community events that welcome all dogs, and mixed breeds often do very well. Your dog does, of course, need to be healthy, so you may want to check with your vet before beginning training. Other than that, though, all sizes and shapes participate, and jump heights are based on the size of the dog, to make it fair.
How do we get started?
Since some of the obstacle course features can be pretty expensive, don’t buy your own until you’re sure you and your dog both enjoy it. Instead, start by trying to find a class in your community. If your dog is AKC registered, you might want to start with your local AKC branch. In addition, the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) has a feature on their web site that lets you search for groups in your area. Your local parks and recreation department may be able to provide you with some information, too. And, if you really get hooked on agility competitions, you can always travel to events in neighboring communities. If you enjoy spending time with your dog, I encourage you to give agility work a try. I have to warn you, though – it can be addictive! After doing it for a while, I can see why it’s the fastest-growing dog sport in the United States. Just make sure you bring along a pet stroller so you can give your hard-working athlete a restful ride home!
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