by Audrey Harvey, DVM
Agility is one of the most enjoyable things you can do with your dog. Imagine an obstacle course with jumps, tunnels, ramps and weave poles. Imagine running around that course with your dog running beside you and gleefully completing each of those obstacles. Imagine hugging your dog after you’ve both had a great run at a competition. That’s agility.
In an agility competition, the aim is to have your dog complete all the obstacles in order, and within the time limit specified by the judge. Even if you don’t want to compete, the training sessions are great fun. It doesn’t matter what breed, size or shape of dog you own, most can have a go at agility training at some level.
All dogs love agility: it gives them physical exercise and it’s an excellent way to build a connection with your own dog. Whether you win or lose, it doesn’t matter, you’ve both had a good time and will come home tired and happy.
Training for Agility
The best way to train your dog to negotiate the agility obstacles is with food rewards and positive reinforcement. That’s the best way to maintain his enthusiasm and keep the sport fun.
Don’t be in a rush when you are training for agility. Some of the obstacles, such as the dog walk and A-frame, can cause injury if they aren’t used correctly. You are much better off taking it slowly, keeping your dog safe and making sure he finishes the training session unscathed.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of jumping, turning and twisting involved when your dog runs an agility course. This can cause trauma to his joints. It’s important that you use a safe and effective joint support formula to prevent wear and tear that could cut his agility career short. Joint Resolution is that formula. Its Biocell Collagen II contains Hyaluronic Acid and chondroitin, as well as collagen, all designed to reduce inflammation in the joint and improve the lubricating effect of the joint fluid. Add to this a blend of herbs including Boswellia, devils claw and licorice, and the result is a palatable liquid that reduces pain and inflammation, and helps your dog to recover so he can run, jump and weave another day.
When you and your dog have mastered all the obstacles, and worked out how to remember the order in which the obstacles need to be performed, you may want to try your hand (or paw) at an agility competition.
While there are always winners in these competitions, it really is you racing against the clock. Your goal is ultimately to finish the course correctly and under the course time.
Some dogs become extremely excited before their run, and exhaust themselves before the starters whistle goes off. If your dog does that, then think about giving him a dose of Sleepytime Tonic 20 minutes before his run. Don’t worry, it won’t make him fall asleep at the start line. It contains a unique blend of herbs, including Verbena officianalis, and Bach Flower Remedies such as Cerato and Passion Flower. These will reduce restlessness and muscle twitching, and increase his attention and ability to focus. The result is your dog will perform better during his run.
Most dog obedience clubs offer agility training. Ask around, and you should be able to find agility classes in your area. Just be aware that it is addictive and when you start, there is no going back!
Audrey Harvey is a veterinarian who has worked in small animal practice for 20 years, and has been involved in teaching and competing in dog obedience and agility. She is passionate about preventative health care in dogs, particularly obesity management and the prevention of boredom related behavioral problems. Audrey lives in Brisbane Australia, and shares her couch with an Australian Cattle Dog, an Australian Working Kelpie and two Whippets.