When it comes to dog agility training, Aussies love the competition - and the fun! Champion dogs in agility dog training are often Aussies. Of course, this comes as no surprise to Australian Shepherd owners. Australian Shepherds are naturals for this sport and dog agility competition is a perfect outlet for their incredible energy and a showcase for their athleticism.
It is a fun sport that is becoming ever more popular. With dog agility equipment, training, books and videos readily available it is easier than ever to join in the fun. Although you can go to a dog agility training center or join a club, this is a sport for dogs that you can even enjoy in your own backyard.
The equipment for agility training and competitions can vary as courses are often quite different. You can order your own equipment and set it up to suit your needs (and the size of your yard). There is even software to help you design the layout of your obstacle course.
This sport offers a great way for your Aussie (and you) to get some good excercise. It's also a great way to meet new friends for both you and your Aussie.
Training schools and clubs will help you get started. Joining club will put you in touch with other enthusiasts who will be able to share stories and training tips. Soon you will be on your way to being a winning team - with lots of new friends.
The key word here is "fun". It has to be fun for you and your dog. So dogs should not be forced or scolded into participating or getting on, under, over or through a piece of equipment. Here's a dog agility training tip. Start early with your puppy or your dog and take it slow with your dog agility introduction. Use positive reinforcement and rewards for encouragement.
Australian Shepherds excel at dog agility training.
The only activity that Becky likes more than jumping hurdles and going through tunnels is catching her frisbee.
In order for agility training to stay fun for you and your Aussie make sure to play safe. You can begin agility training with your puppy but take it easy. If they are still a little unsteady hold off on the balancing equipment like dog walks and teeters until they are a bit older. You wouldn't want your puppy falling off the agility teeter and building a negative association with the equipment.
At the beginning the priority is familiarization with the agility equipment, learning to work as a team and building communication. If you have a puppy you might as well go slow because you won't be permitted to compete until they are older anyway.
This is for the safety and well being of your dog. Puppies are growing and their bodies are still developing. It is not recommended to engage in more physically demanding aspects of agility such as jumps and weaves until the growth plates of their bones have closed. This can take from 6 to 12 months depending on your dog and which bones. It takes longer for some growth plates to close than others.
Some dogs can take much longer than the average. Just because your dog appears to have stopped growing does not mean that the growth plates have closed completely. The growth plates will fill in as your dog matures fully.
Dog agility competitions have minimum age requirements for this reason. Some allow dogs to compete at 6 months, others insist on at least a year, but why take chances. I would recommend that you discuss this with your veterinarian and let her know exactly what your plans are with agility training and competition.
Some owners have their dogs x-rayed to ensure that it is safe for them to participate in agility training or competitions. This is also a good record of your dog's baseline bone structure as well as confirmation of growth plate closure. That way you have a means of making a comparison if you need to later in your dog's life. You will easily be able to see exactly how things have changed.
Just using common sense can eliminate most safety concerns. Can your dog see well enough to do agility training? Are their nails trimmed? (This will give them better traction.) Since your dog will be off-leash, do they come when called? Are they well enough socialized to get along with other dogs?
The dog agility sport is gaining in popularity and there are many clubs and training schools that can help you get started. If you just want to get involved with agility training for your enjoyment or if you want to go all out and someday compete for titles, this sport has something to offer.
If you would like to get some agility equipment to give it a try but you don't want to spend a fortune check out Affordable Agility. They can get you set up with a starter set and they have more advanced equipment if you decide to take it to the next level.
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Eric is his name, male, born May 2006. He loves agility and shouts at me all the way round!!
Photo: Garry Smith