“The Hounds Try” is a way for me to chronicle all the fun sports and activities I try with my dogs. This is the second entry, and I will admit that it is a little anachronistic. If you have even briefly skimmed this blog before, you will know that a couple of the hounds have been trying agility for awhile now. In fact, Juno has even earned herself a few titles. But, I didn’t want to skip writing about one of my favourite activities. And besides, one of the hounds, my whippet, is new to agility.
Juno is a nervous dog who prefers jumpers and snooker courses so we can stay fairly close together; I’ve had to work really hard to get some distance on courses. Mars, on the other hand, is already demonstrating that he will need extra practice on handler focus and we better get on top of those directional cues ASAP because there’s no chance whatsoever that I will be able to keep up with him physically. I think it is fair to say that I am learning a lot about agility all over again!
So, without further ado, here’s my quick and dirty rundown of agility:
What Is It?
- Dog and handler teams navigate obstacle courses in a set order and within a standard course time (determined by distance and potentially your dog’s level or jump height). There are several agility organizations in which to compete for titles. Being in Canada, I compete primarily in AAC and CKC agility, but occasionally UKI as well.
What I Love About It:
- Agility is an awesome, fast-paced sport that is exhilarating as both a competitor and spectator.
- It requires genuine teamwork between dog and handler; you are only as good as your partner and vice versa.
- Always changing, and with many levels of competition, there are constantly new things to learn.
- It works both the dog’s mind and body which can lead to happy, satisfied, smart dogs.
What I Don’t Love About It:
- If you don’t have a club or instructor nearby then it would be very difficult to get involved in this sport.
- Similar to the point above, if you can’t afford equipment or don’t have space then it can be hard to practice drills on your own time. This isn’t an issue if you just want to play for fun, but it can become a problem when you want to compete at a higher level.
Beginner Tips and Tricks:
- If you have a local club, join it! The agility community is usually very nice and welcoming.
- Work on solid foundations with your puppy; you’ll want good focus, socialization, basic cues (sit, down, stay), and decent recall before starting agility. If you have an adult dog, consider a basic manners or obedience course first.
- Find out what motivates your dog. There are a million articles on this and other great agility topics, but figure out what treats, toys, and types of attention your dog absolutely adores.
- Research trainers in your area. If you want to compete, you may want a trainer who has experience at high levels. Or, it may be more important for you to find someone who just meshes well with the personalities of you and your dog. Don’t be afraid to ask about training philosophies and the goals of the trainer for her own dogs.