Why Should My Dog Take Agility Classes?

Enrolling dogs in obedience classes is a solid way to improve their behaviour. Conventional obedience classes, however, can get just a little bit dull. A dog agility class, on the other hand, is an exciting way for you and your dog to learn to work and perform together.

Terrier jumping a fence in a dog agility course

It's great to have a dog that knows how to sit, stay, and lie down, but those aren't exactly mind-blowing tricks, are they? Dog agility is a fast-growing sport which provides a great workout, teaches your dog positive behaviour patterns, and best of all, it's loads of fun!

Dog agility involves a variable obstacle course that your dog completes based on your signals and commands. Agility competitions evaluate both speed and accuracy, so agility classes emphasize both of these aspects. Virtually any dog can participate in agility classes, and you and your pup will both enjoy plenty of benefits from regular practise.

Agility classes have the following five significant advantages:

Vigorous Exercise

Walks in the park and other forms of daily exercise are definitely essential to your dog's health. Agility classes are a nice way to supplement these outings by adding something novel to the mix. Agility improves a dog's endurance and coordination because of the range of equipment and variety of tasks involved in each class.

Strong Dog-Handler Bond

Agility helps to build a strong bond between you and your dog. Dogs must pay close attention to their owners because they rely on hand signals and verbal cues to find their way through the course. Encouraging your dog to look to you for direction will enhance your ability to communicate effectively with them. Plus, dogs have such a great time at agility class, you'll win major bonus points for being the fun-loving human who made it happen.

Border Collie weaving through poles in an agility course
Border Collies love nothing more than running around agility courses

Increased Canine Confidence

Classes and competitions in agility can dramatically increase a dog's confidence level. Successful completion of courses teaches them to overcome obstacles by problem-solving. They go over the obstacles of their own accord and are rewarded through positive reinforcement, a process that builds their spirit and self-assurance. Agility classes also provide a way for dogs to learn how to interact with others in a productive and non-threatening environment – the lessons learned in class can then be applied in other areas of your pup's life.

Utilize Dogs' Natural Instincts

Agility appeals to dogs in large part because it works with their natural instincts. Historically dogs were hunters, wired to chase their prey through dense underbrush and hop over logs, streams, and any other objects in their path. Speed and the ability to navigate obstacles were the keys to success, and these are precisely the skills utilized in agility courses. Agility also provides focus for a dog's active mind – they are given a specific job to do, and these designated tasks discourage many of the destructive or frustrated behaviours associated with bored canines.

Embrace Flexibility

Finally, agility has the advantage of being incredibly versatile. You can engage in it for lighthearted recreation, or get serious and enter challenging competitions. Nearly any breed, size, or age of dog can participate – your dog doesn't have to be a purebred to enjoy the thrill of agility. In addition, most of the obstacles are adjustable to suit the height or other needs of individual dogs. Agility is designed to be fun and flexible, and agility groups and trainers are notoriously friendly and encouraging.

Dog agility classes are a great way to meet new people and their canine friends, and to teach your dog some new tricks at the same time. As you and your dog improve in speed and confidence, you can explore the possibility of competing in agility trials. Regardless of whether you choose recreational or competitive agility, you and your dog are guaranteed to have a fantastic experience.

One final cautionary note: young dogs should not run a complete agility course until their bones are fully developed. In most cases, their bones are adequately developed once they reach their full adult weight. While puppies are never too young to learn the basics of agility, the impact of jumping from any appreciable height while their bones are still growing can lead to growth defects or joint issues. It is best to stick to obstacles that don't involve jumping – like the tunnel, dog walk, teeter-totter, or weave poles – to protect their growing bones. The best thing to do is check in with your vet – they will know when your pup is ready to jump safely with the big guys.

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