How to Teach a Dog Agility at Home

by M.B. Lachlei
    The tire, weave poles, and tunnel are three obstacles in agility.

    The tire, weave poles, and tunnel are three obstacles in agility.

    Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

    Dog agility is a sport that has been growing in popularity. Dogs love agility because it makes play fun, and people love it because it is challenging and rewarding. While it is best to take a class that teaches agility to dog owners and dogs, you may wish to teach your dog agility to get a head start on classes, or perhaps simply to enjoy your dog learning new skills. Dog agility requires dogs to learn obstacles, which vary depending on which style of agility you're interested in. For example, agility sanctioned by the United Kennel Club (UKC) will have different obstacles than agility sanctioned by the American Kennel Club (AKC), North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC), or United States Dog Agility Assocation (USDAA). Likewise, the titles, courses, and rules will be different.

    Step 1

    Determine if your dog is old enough and healthy enough to do dog agility. Have a veterinarian examine your dog for fitness before starting any exercise program. Dogs who are too young, too fat or too old, or who have medical conditions, such as heart problems, joint problems, or arthritis, may not be good candidates for dog agility.

    Step 2

    Decide which type of dog agility you wish to train your dog in. Visit the websites of USDAA, AKC, UKC, and NADAC listed in the resources to look at the rules.

    Step 3

    Purchase or build a few obstacles used in your type of dog agility. Easily made or purchased obstacles include hurdles, weave poles, tire hurdle, and open tunnel.

    Step 4

    Set jump heights to the lowest height and equipment to the easiest to navigate. For example, you'll need the tunnel set to the shortest length with no curves in it. For the A-frame and dog walk, you'll need to set them to the lowest height.

    Step 5

    Choose one obstacle to work on. Do not choose a moving obstacle, such as a seesaw, sway bridge, or swing plank as the first obstacle, because it can scare a new agility dog.

    Step 6

    Teach your dog each new obstacle by clipping a leash onto his flat collar and using treats to lure him over the obstacle. Do not coerce or force him to perform the obstacle.

    Step 7

    Train your dog to perform each agility obstacle without his leash.

    Step 8

    Put together two obstacles in sequence after your dog has mastered more than one obstacle. Put them in enough space so that your dog can finish the first obstacle properly and enter the second obstacle without having to turn too tight or miss the obstacle.

    Step 9

    Add more obstacles as your dog becomes proficient with each of the obstacles.

    Step 10

    Design sequences of three or more obstacles and run your dog through them. Put together different sequences to make a course and try running your dog through those.

    Items You Will Need

    • Rulebooks for AKC, UKC, NADAC, USDAA or other sanctioning body of dog agility.
    • Place to set up dog agility obstacles with good footing, such as dirt or grass.
    • Agility obstacles or equipment to build agility obstacles.

    Tip

    • Getting an agility book or enrolling in a class will help you learn agility much faster. Praise your dog lavishly each time he performs an obstacle. Make it fun for him. Keep each training session short enough so that he will not get bored with them.

    Warnings

    • Be sure to have your agility area fenced or indoors so that if your dog bolts you won't lose him.
    • Do not train an injured or sick dog in agility.
    • Do not train a young puppy in agility. Too much jumping can injure a puppy's joints.
    • Do not punish or use coercive methods on your dog to teach agility.

    Photo Credits

    • Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

    About the Author

    M.B. Lachlei is an award-winning author of more than 30 pet and science-fiction/fantasy books. She is also the publisher of Sky Warrior Books.

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