The beginner's guide to agility training for dogs
Looking for something new to try with your dog? Agility training is a super fun dog sport where dog and human work together as a team. It’s a brilliant activity which builds your bond, expends energy and injects plenty of fun into your life.
Let’s explore agility for dogs so you can see whether it’s a good fit for you!
What is agility for dogs?
Agility is a dog sport which combines various obstacles for your dog to navigate, including weaves, tunnels, seesaws, jumps and more. Agility courses can be created at home for fun, or you can train and enter agility shows up and down the country and around the world!
Agility is brilliant physical and mental stimulation for your dog and a great way to spend time together, growing your bond.
Is your dog a good fit for agility?
Dogs who compete in agility must be motivated, focused and, above all, have a strong relationship with their handler. When you step into that ring, it’s just the two of you in the world, taking on the course ahead and having a blast together!
Any breed of dog can enjoy agility, but they must be in good physical shape and fully developed physically. Agility requires a lot of twists, turns and stamina to make it around the course.
What age should a dog be to do agility?
Due to the physical exertion involved in agility, it’s important for dogs to be fully grown before they officially start. This will vary by breed but generally is around 12-18 months of age.
That doesn’t mean you can’t start teaching the foundations that will set you up for success on the agility course though. There’s plenty to do before your pup’s ready to start running and weaving their way through obstacles!
You can also introduce your dog to low-level agility equipment to get them used to it, which will pay off in spades when they hit the high jumps in the future!
How do you train a dog for agility?
Before you hit the agility course, there are some foundation behaviours that you need to master!
Basic Behaviours - sit, down and stay
Your dog will need to master basic dog training cues such as sit, down and stay. Start by teaching these in a quiet environment, then progress to practising them in busier, more distracting places until your dog can sit on cue anywhere!
Using a toy as a reward can be a brilliant way to keep your dogs attention. Our pocket magnet range is brilliant for on-the-go training as they fit in your pocket for easy access wherever you are.
The range features fur tugs, ball tugs, and faux fur pocket tug toys for you to choose from.
In agility, your dog needs to be able to wait patiently at the start line before being given the release to hit the course. This requires enormous self-control, especially if your dog can’t wait to get going!
You can build up your dog’s ability to control their excitement by playing tug! First, start the game, and then ask your dog to stop/leave the toy before rewarding them again with a quick game.
Start with a lower-value toy, and build up to playing with your dog’s favourite tug toy!
Your dog needs to be motivated to run the agility course! The answer to building motivation and drive in your dog? Play, of course!
Some dogs are more challenging than others to engage in play. Get our top tips for boosting your dog’s desire to play here.
Your dog needs to be able to come back to you when called, even around distractions. When you enter the agility ring, there will be other dogs, people, noise, food and a hive of activity going on around you.
Check out our top tips for teaching your dog a perfect recall here.
Teaching your dog to play fetch can be a surprisingly great way to improve your dog’s recall. If your dog is willing to come back to you and part with their favourite toy, you’re going great guns!
The ultimate team sport for dogs
Whether you want something fun to do at home with your dog or have goals of moving through the grades in the agility ring, you’re set to have a fabulous time.
We hope you’ve found some helpful tips for getting started with your agility training and giving it a go. You and your dog are going to have an awesome time together!