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Dog Agility: Tips to Start Training

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. February 16, 2017
Dog Agility: Tips to Start Training

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Dog agility is fun and fulfilling sport suitable for all dogs older than 18 months old. In dog agility, the guide - that is, the owner - leads the dog through a pre-set course while overcoming various obstacles in a certain order and set time. At the end, the judges decide who is the winning dog based on their skill and dexterity.

Agility training improves and sharpens the dog's intelligence, obedience, physical skills and concentration, while strengthening its muscles and deepening the bond between dog and owner. If you are driven, have enough time and want to have fun, dog agility is the perfect option: you don't need to have advanced knowledge or ability as a trainer. Stay with us at AnimalWised to learn all about dog agility with our tips to start training.

You may also be interested in: Starting Canicross Training with your Dog

FCI regulations for dog agility

Agility is a regulated dog sport, with standards and specifications arranged by international associations such as the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale). The FCI organizes the official worldwide championship and sets the ground rules: you can find the guidelines and regulations in their website. There are other associations that host their own agility competitions, as well as unofficial trials with less limitations.

Remember that dog agility is a great way of having fun with your pet, so you should never force your dog to participate if you notice it doesn't enjoy it at all. Only adult dogs - at least 18 months old - can participate in agility training. Pregnant, sick, injured dogs, as well as dogs under medication, are not allowed to participate.

Dog Agility: Tips to Start Training - FCI regulations for dog agility

What dogs can participate in agility?

As we mentioned above, dogs of all types and groups can practice agility as long as they are healthy and willing. To make the competition fair, dogs are classified according to size in official competitions:

  • S or small: Dogs below 35 cm (14 in) at the withers.
  • M or medium: Dogs between 35 and 43 cm (14 and 17 in) at the withers.
  • L or large: Dogs over 43 cm (17 in) at the withers.
Dog Agility: Tips to Start Training - What dogs can participate in agility?

Courses and types of obstacles

Agility courses have a variety of obstacles placed in the field. Each competition and club has different courses, and there is no set order to the obstacles. Their number and variety determines the level of difficulty and speed the dog is submitted to. There is a defined timeframe for the entire course.

These are the requirements for a professional dog agility course:

  • Have a space of at least 24 x 40 m (80 x 130 ft) large.
  • Have an inside track of at least 20 x 40 m (66 x 130 ft) large.
  • The course should be 100 to 200 m (330 to 660 ft) long and have 15 to 20 obstacles, 7 of which at least must be hurdles or jumps.
  • The height of the jumps will be proportionate to the dog's category.
  • The distance between obstacles is also fixed according to the dog's category.
  • The guide must be able to stand on both sides of each obstacle if necessary.

There are various types of different obstacles which the dog must overcome:

  • Jumping fences or hurdles
  • Wall or bridge
  • Wheel
  • See-saw
  • Fence
  • Runway
  • Canvas tunnel
  • Rigid tunnel
  • Slalom
  • Long jump
  • Table
Dog Agility: Tips to Start Training - Courses and types of obstacles

Starting agility training with your dog

Before you sign up to official agility competitions in your country, you should start agility training properly and work until you reach a basic level. It is important that this learning process is gradual: you shouldn't force the dog to train intensively all of a sudden or work until exhaustion.

To start agility training, you have two options: you can find a club where they will teach you dog agility, or you can make your own training course at home. This latter option is fun, but not always viable.

  • Signing up to a club is a good idea if you want to practice this sport and participate in official competitions. Teachers will guide and show you techniques, ways of motivating, the right rhythm and so on. In addition you will be accompanied by others, which will encourage your dog to socialize. Your dog will be more willing to follow the course if it sees other dogs doing it too.
  • Creating an agility course at home is a fantastic idea if you want to enjoy teaching your pet independently, without any pressure. If you have a big enough garden and the financial resources to do so, go ahead! You will have a great time with your dog.
Dog Agility: Tips to Start Training - Starting agility training with your dog

Are you interested in advanced dog training? Take a look at the following articles:

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Jamie
Great article here, Josie! I have a 1-year-old Aust. Labradoodle (Oliver) and just got him started with agility. I’m hoping he does well even though he’s not a breed that’s typically known for doing agility. 🙂
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Jamie,

They are not as well known for their agility as compared to other breeds such as the Border Collie. However, they are an active and intelligent breed which should be able to (at the very least) have fun learning agility training. Thanks for the comment and let us know how you get on!

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