Step one of each run is the walkthrough. If you’ve ever been to an agility trial and seen a group of people walking around in the ring with one arm out and muttering commands to an invisible dog, you’ve just witnessed the walkthrough portion of the trial. These people may look three fries short of a Happy Meal, but they’re actually hard at work memorizing the course and plotting out how they will run it.
Here at 3 Lost Dogs, we’re all about giving dogs jobs. Boredom is the leading cause of behavior problems, because dogs were bred to WORK. All this sitting around at home with only a daily walk or run does not a happy dog make. They need some kind of challenge, or they’ll find their own. And it’ll usually be something like digging up the yard or barking incessantly at all who dare pass the front window. Agility provides the perfect combination of physical exercise and mental stimulation to keep Fido entertained and out of trouble.
If your dog is refusing to go over a hurdle, practice in a narrow hallway. Set up a small jump and put your dog on one side with you on the other. Your dog should have nowhere to go but forward over the jump. Encourage your pup with treats and a happy tone of voice. With a little patience and positive reinforcement, your dog will soon be a confident jumper.
But wait, there’s more! Agility gives you something cool to do with your dog. This is important if you have a hard time getting your dog to do what you say. It teaches Fido that you are lots of fun and worth listening to. Compare this to another common activity for dogs: the dog park. At the dog park, you let him off leash and he goes off to do his own thing. Returning to you is no fun because it means he has to go home. You’re not Fido’s best buddy. You’re his chauffeur.
Dog training shouldn’t wait until you’re having behavior problems. If you get a new puppy, start from the beginning with professional training to give both you and your puppy the tools you need for a healthy relationship. Dog training is as much about teaching the owner how to interact with their new dog as it is about the dog learning to behave. Puppy training can start as early as eight weeks old. Trainers who offer puppy training programs may works specifically with dogs between the ages of 8 and 18 weeks old. Trainers can teach owners about potty training and how to deal with accidents, working with separation anxiety, and training your pooch out of destructive behaviors like chewing, biting and demand barking. Puppies will start to learn to walk on-leash and other basic skills.

There is an ever-growing list of agility sanctioning organizations. The ones you’ll hear about most often in the US are NADAC, AKC, and the USDAA (see below for a more complete list of national and international groups). Each organization has its own rules and style. For example, NADAC courses are spread out and focus on speed. They often challenge the handler to send their dog through the course at a distance. USDAA courses are “tighter” and more technically challenging.
The leash or lead is used to connect the dog to the handler, lead the dog, as well as to control the dog in urban areas. Most communities have laws which prohibit dogs from running at large. They may be made of any material such as nylon, metal or leather. A six-foot length is commonly used for walking and in training classes, though leashes come in lengths both shorter and longer. A long line (also called a lunge line) can be 3 metres (ten feet) or more in length, and are often used to train the dog to come when called from a distance.
Weave Poles: This one might be the most exciting element to watch a dog complete, but can be one of the most challenging to train for. If you’ve ever seen a ski slalom race, you already have a good idea of what the dog will need to do to get through this obstacle. Several vertical poles are set up in a row and the dog must weave its way back and forth between them in a snake-like fashion.

Dog training depends on the dog and how much homework the dog owner is willing to put in. Puppy training is similar to dog training in that the onus of the work depends on the owner learning new ways to interact with their dog. For a quick crash course, you can opt for a single, two hour smart-start puppy training consultation to teach you the ins and outs of being a new dog parent. You can learn how to manage potty training and what to do if the puppy experiences separation anxiety. As long as you’re willing to work on dog training a little bit each day, your puppy will quickly learn these new behaviors. If you’re not confident about training your puppy yourself, you can enroll in a 6- to 8-week puppy training course, with weekly lessons touching on everything from bite control to obedience. Puppies usually need to be at least three months old for group training classes. If you want more intensive one-on-one work, you can opt for private lessons. Some behavior problems can be resolved in one session if the dog owner learns and can implement new skills. In the case of more serious issues, 3 to 10 private sessions can typically correct challenges.

Agility first appeared in England in 1978, as essentially a half time show at Crufts. The creators based the demonstration on horse jumping competitions, intending to show off the dogs’ natural speed and agility. Dog owners and trainers looking for something new to do with their pets pricked up their ears and said, “Hey, MY dog could do that.” Thus the sport was born.
Herding breeds like border collies are the masters of this game, which is why you’ll see a ton of them at trials, but they’re not the only players. Chihuahuas, pit bulls, huskies, hounds, even Great Danes. You name it, my dogs and I have probably been shown up by it at some point. Surprisingly, certain toy breeds like Papillons have a real knack for agility.
"Training with John gave me the tools to better communicate with my pup. He is very patient, and willing to work on specific problems or challenges with each person with whom he works. My dogs behavior has improved in all aspects, and our bond is stronger because he understands what is acceptable and what is not. Thank you for helping me get there, John."
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