Agility classes can be the perfect way for both you and your dog to get the hang of working a dog agility course. Even if you are only interested in agility as a hobby, classes can provide a fun learning environment where you can interact with other handlers and dogs and pick up tips from the experts. It can help you to improve communication between you and your dog and let both of you get a regular workout in the process.
Many communities have organizations that sponsor classes for both obedience and agility and they are usually open to the public for a nominal fee, or potentially even free of charge. You should check your area to see what kinds of classes are available and whether this kind of approach is right for you and your dog. You can contact a local dog agility club to see if they offer classes or can provide recommendations of instructors.
Remember that working in a class is not the same as working one-on-one in your own backyard and it will require a different level of focus. Classes can be particularly useful for those intent on competition to help your dog learn to work under pressure and with distractions.
In most cases, facilities that offer agility classes recommend that your dog have some level of obedience training first. This will help to ensure that he's ready to learn the commands and actions involved in agility. As agility work is all about following commands, the two really do go hand in hand. And since it's always helpful to make sure your dog can follow basic obedience commands, it's a good idea anyway.
This is Wicket my 3 year old female Aussie. She LOVES agility! She knows when it's time to go to class, and bugs me until we go.
Once you have basic obedience under your belt, you and your best friend can move on to agility. Classes can be split up into several levels, from beginner to advanced, and you can decide just how far you care to go in your training.
Beginner classes usually start with the basics of agility, learning the commands such as "sit", "stay", "jump" and "tunnel", and becoming familiar with the specific pieces of equipment, so that your dog learns to associate certain commands with certain pieces.
In the next level, you can work on simplified courses, linking together several pieces of equipment and beginning to get the idea of running a full agility course.
More advanced agility classes will prepare you specifically for competition, with a focus on speed, accuracy and getting used to competition level courses. You can participate in advanced classes even if you don't compete, as it will still be a good skill for you and your dog to master.
Some places also provide more focused classes that work with one particular piece of equipment at a time. This can be useful if your dog has issues with a certain piece. Is he tentative about the teeter or apprehensive about tunnels? Does he find climbing the A-frame or completing jumps cleanly difficult? You can identify and target his weakness and then take a class to help him conquer it so that he can move more smoothly through an agility course.
Whether you are a casual participant or set on competition, agility classes are a great way to introduce yourself and your dog to this sport while getting the chance to interact with others. So check your local area and find out if there are any classes available. You and your dog will both be able to learn something new and have a lot of fun in the process.
American Kennel Club (AKC) offers an agility training FAQ.
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