The pause table is not the most glamorous piece of agility equipment, but it is still an essential part of any agility course and will be required in competition, so it is necessary for you and your dog to learn to use it. But because simply getting your dog to jump onto a piece of equipment and stay there can be rather boring for both dog and handler, it may require some work for both of you to get used to the table.
Tables are used in agility competition for a very specific reason. They allow for the dog to come to a brief stop in the middle of running a complicated course. Not only can this help to sharpen the dog's focus for the rest of the course, it also gives dog and handler the chance to show off their communication skills.
Table work can be useful not just for agility training but for standard obedience training as well. Since you'll likely want to train your dog to obey "sit," "down," and "stay" commands, this is the perfect way to accomplish that while at the same time teaching agility.
Many handlers choose to start agility training with the pause table, as it is the perfect way to introduce novice dogs to the idea of agility. Because this is a piece of equipment that doesn't move or require climbing or tunneling, it may be easier for your dog to pick up. Once he's gotten the hang of jumping onto the table and staying for 5 seconds, then you can move on to teaching him some of the more difficult pieces of equipment.
Mark Herreid / stock.adobe.com
Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) on a pause table at a dog agility trial. I'm still looking for the perfect picture of an Aussie to go here. ;)
As its names suggests, the table is often a simple piece of plywood attached to a frame made of PVC piping. The plywood is often painted in the yellow contact color and reinforced with either outdoor carpeting or sand-infused paint to allow for better traction. Most tables come with a series of interchangeable legs that allow you to adjust the height of the table.
You can begin by just using the table top set on the ground, then once your dog masters this, move on to the shortest length of legs. If you are competition bound, you'll eventually want to work up to the standard competition height, which can vary from one organization to another.
For beginners or those who don't have a lot of money to spend on a competition style pause table, you can use a "pause box" instead. This is simply a rectangle of PVC piping which you lay on the ground. You can then teach your dog the same sit, stay and down commands that you would on the table without having to worry about the height issues. This may be the ideal solution for those who are simply taking up agility as a hobby and don't want to invest a lot of money in equipment.
In order to ensure that your dog gets the hang of the table, you need to reward him when he successfully completes a command. Soon, he'll make the connection that jumping on the table means stopping and sitting or lying down for 5 seconds. Once he's got the hang of the table you can start using it in conjunction with other equipment to simulate the conditions of a competition.
You can also start "distance training," giving your dog the sit, down and stay commands from a distance, as in many competitions the handler can be positioned as much as 10 feet away from the dog.
If you're just getting started with agility training or just want a fun way to teach your dog simple obedience commands, then the pause table is the perfect solution. Check out the various models available, find one that fits your budget and you can get your training started today!
United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. (USDAA) guide for pause table.