Many parents put their children into sports or other extracurricular activities because the benefits of such programs help kids to grow as a whole: learning the value of teamwork, discipline, communication, and so on. What many people don’t realize is that dogs—and their owners—can grow in many of the same ways when placed in challenging training programs.
Some of the benefits of dog agility training include:
Building Confidence: Agility training isn’t just for dogs in national dog shows and the obstacle course competitions that you sometimes see on TV. It’s a great way to strengthen the relationship between dog and owner. Additionally, it can help improve overall demeanor and behavior. Agility training helps many dogs overcome their fears of unusual surfaces (do you have a dog that is afraid to walk on tile or linoleum?), “scary” stimuli, small or confined spaces, and moving away from their owner.
Self-Control: Agility isn’t just about running, jumping, and coordination. In agility training, dogs have to politely wait their turn while other dogs and their trainers are using equipment, and then walk on a leash in a controlled manner to the beginning of the course when it’s their turn. And once they’re on an obstacle course, dogs must halt at stays placed throughout the course, come when called, remain focused in complex, ever-changing situations.
Off-Leash Control: Due to their inherent nature, agility courses and training are off-leash activities. As such, agility training emphasizes training dogs to respond to verbal and visual cues from their owners, rather than the physical restraint of a leash. We start off by having owners hold their dog’s leash move on the having the dog drag he leash, and then begin to periodically remove the leash altogether as training progresses. Dogs are directed through the courses via their handler’s body language, verbal cues, and commitment to obstacles.
Improved Owner-Dog Communication: It is essential in agility training and obstacles for dogs to be able to understand and follow directions. In agility training, owners learn how to express their wishes to their dogs in a clear and controlled fashion, while their dogs are taught to be attentive and responsive to the instructions of their owners. This skill-set allows dogs and their handlers to easily handle the rapidly changing and often distracting conditions of the real world.
Because of these many advantages, The Local Bark is proud to offer a comprehensive series of agility training courses, including a foundational course for beginners.
For those who have never before taken part in an agility training course before, we offer our Dog Agility Foundations course. Some of the skills introduced in this beginner’s course include:
Target training: In target training, owners send a dog out to collect a treat from a nearby plate. This allows the dog to move independently, away from their owner, while still performing tasks and following directions. Developing this independence from the owner is extremely important, as just about all dogs are faster than their human companions. Thus, there are many situations where the skills developed in target training are important for ensuring a dog’s safety.
Recall with Distractions: It’s one thing to get a dog’s attention. It’s another thing entirely to pull its attention away from something else that is piquing its curiosity. Once dogs complete a sequence of obstacles, it’s important to be able to recall the dog to the owner’s side, despite the excitement of having run the course. While many dogs come into the course with a basic understanding of recall, this skill will be extensively strengthened and tested throughout the foundations course.
Stay with Distractions: It’s important for dogs to remain in one place and wait their turn while other dogs are running a course, and to stop appropriately at stays located within a course. This ensures everyone’s safety, and on the course allows owners to give the dog information as to which direction to head next.
Bodily Awareness: When tackling agility obstacles, dogs are faced with challenges which require them to remain aware of what their body is doing and where it is in relation to their environment. Many young dogs don’t really discover their rear feet and hindquarters until they are faced with a tight, confined environment. Agility training develops this awareness as dogs learn how to navigate through small spaces, tight corners, narrow walkways, and so on.
Introduction to Jumps: Jump training begins with dogs being led by a leash over low jumps toward a target plate. This progresses to running the jumps while off-leash, having to make turns, and tackling jumps as part of a sequence of other obstacles.
Introduction to Tunnel: Tunnel-training exercises many different facets of agility training—following verbal cues, performing tasks while outside of an owner’s view, and maintaining bodily awareness. Tunnels can be an intimidating obstacle for many dogs, which is why we progress with tunnel training very gradually. In our foundations course, we start with short segments of tunnel, gradually extend the length, and then add other challenges like slight twists and curves. Despite it being a scary obstacle for many beginners, most dogs learn to love these obstacles!
Introduction to Table: Tables are type of stay that ups the difficulty for dogs and their handlers, where dogs halt on elevated platforms located throughout a course. The table can be a challenge for some dogs, due to having to stop and collect themselves in the middle of merrily romping through a fun agility course sequence.
Introduction to A-Frame: A-frames are two-way ramps that dogs have to traverse—first up, and then down—at a steady and controlled pace. This is a great training opportunity for dogs that are afraid of heights or walking on uneven surfaces.
Ready to check out our beginner’s dog agility foundations course?
If our Dog Agility Training Foundations course sounds like a blast, we invite you to enroll now and come give it a try.
Health prerequisites for participation:
Dogs should be at least five months of age
Be vaccinated for DhPP and Bordetella
Already know the basics of agility training? Try out one of our advanced courses!
If you have already previously completed a beginner’s agility training course with your pup, then we suggest that you check out one of our many more advanced agility training classes. Contact us for more information on the schedules and content of our agility classes. The agility classes we currently offer in addition to the training foundations class include:
Agility Level 1: Build on the basics by strengthening obedience commands, self-control, confidence, and focus.
Agility Level 2: Build confidence and proficiency on the agility course, and learn new obstacles such as teeter-totters and elevated walkways.
Agility Level 3: It’s not just the dogs who learn in our agility classes. In Agility Level 3, we’ll help you hone the skills needed to effectively direct your dog through more complex obstacles and maneuvers.
Agility Level 4: Improve your dog’s focus and obstacle execution by working on their proficiency with A-frames, dog walks, and teeter-totters, learning to weave without aids, and completing obstacle discrimination sequences.
Advanced Agility: There’s no such thing as too much practice. Advanced Agility is for dog and handlers who are comfortable with all types of agility course equipment, and can competently complete full courses. Our trainers will focus on the nuances of running agility courses, so that you and your dog can make the difficult leap from being great, to being excellent!