All About Agility Dog Training and the Sport
October 14, 2007
photo courtesy of Sigridur Vala Gunnarsdottir
Agility dog training is all about teaching dogs tricks. Here the old adage holds true – an old dog cannot be taught new tricks. So the start must be made when they are puppies and just beginning to understand.
It is a sport – a sport with shows and prizes across the globe. The main artists are the dog and the handler. The latter guides the dog through an obstacle run in which both time and accuracy are crucial factors.
In dog agility training the dogs are kept unleashed and neither food nor toys are allowed to be offered as incentives. The handlers are not allowed to touch either the dog or the hurdles. The handler can only control the animal by the tone of his voice or movement of his body by using signals. Thus in this sport both man and animal are involved in an exceptional training programme and show.
A simple agility hurdle course consists of some standard obstacles laid out by the judge of the show. The area comprises roughly of 100 square meters with numbers laid out to show which obstacles the competitors must complete. The courses are complicated and so planned that a dog cannot complete the run without being directed by a human.
The handler gauges the course and decides ahead of the strategies to be undertaken. The dog has to be directed with accuracy and matching speed. What man does not have is compensated by the dog and vice versa. It is a matching game between weakness and strength with one making up for the deficiency of the other.
In agility dog training shows no two courses are alike. Hence the dog training guide is allowed to walk through the field and thoroughly inspect the set up unaccompanied by their pets. Sometimes printed copies of the field layout of the course are given to the guides.
Before the start of the actual show each pair is allowed once to rehearse the proceedings. The dog stands behind a starting line and when given the instructions by the handler sets off on course.
The usual hurdles laid out on the course are A-frame, see-saw, tunnels, collapsed tunnels, cross-overs, single jumps, tyre jumps, triple bar jumps, weave poles etc. It is a delight to see man and beast in partnership jumping over hurdles, swinging across another or zigzagging through a third.
For novices in the field dog training tips can be best obtained not only from the spoken instructions of the handlers but by actually seeing the duo in action streaking across one hurdle after another in joyous partnership.
The penalty counts vary and depend on timing, missed poles, knocked bars or any other measure. It varies from organization to organization and there are no set rules. Everywhere the dogs are however grouped according to their size with separate prizes for each in this agility dog training sport.