Dog agility is a sport that both you and your dog can participate in. While racing against the clock, you attempt to direct your dog accurately through an obstacle course. Your dog runs off-leash with no lures as incentives, and you cannot touch your dog or any of the obstacles along the course. Your communication is limited to only voice, movement, and body signals. This requires discipline and training of both you and your dog.
Agility Training has enormous benefits for your dog, in terms of his physical endurance and coordination, as well as improving his mental acumen. His ability to solve problems will increase and the attention that you require from him will strengthen his bond with you, and improve his communication skills. The physical demands of agility courses will improve your dogs overall health through physical fitness, and improve his behavior off the course - because a tired dog is a good dog.
To compete in agility your dog needs to be at least a year old, but you can prepare him earlier than that. Always remember when preparing your puppy for agility training, his joints are still forming, and his attention span is shorter. So be patient and keep the lessons brief.
The same principles apply to older dogs that start agility training later in life. As an older dog’s joints are weaker, and they tend to tire more easily so lessons should be kept shorter, and the jump heights may need to be lowered.
Many organizations now have special classes for older dogs. The following link will take you to a directory of agility clubs near you.
You will see all shapes and sizes on the agility course! While certain breeds may seem more naturally suited to the sport, more than 150 breeds have shown their sometimes surprising ability to perform well. In general, dogs that are physically active, full of energy and with a desire to please seem to be among the most successful dogs in agility competitions.
Never let the size of your dog put you off having a go. Smaller dogs will have lower jumps, and will be competing against other dogs of their size. Large breeds also can do agility, their bulkier size requires negotiating some of the obstacles more carefully, however they are still more than capable of competing if their enthusiasm allows for it. At the end of the day all dogs are highly responsive to lots of praise.
If you are just wanting to have fun, formal obedience training is not necessary but your dog must know the basic commands: sit, stay, down and heel. Taking classes is invaluable, and you can keep practicing your training at home.
The following link takes you to a directory of agility trainers near you.