Editor’s note: At Kurgo, we're all about helping you get out and enjoy the world together with your dog. Agility is something anyone can learn and can be a great way to bond with your four-legged friend! This is our third and final post on this topic. Check out our posts on 4 Reasons Agility is Amazing and What to Look for in an Agility Class
With a new bouncing bundle of joy added to your life, you may think that with all the other training you have to do, you won’t have time to start agility. Or maybe, you’re interested in agility, but you think your dog is too old to get started. Let me tell you that this is grossly untrue! There are a lot of exercises that combine basic commands and agility and set up your foundation for a long and successful career. Here are just a few to help you get started!
1. Practicing Recalls
When you tell your dog to “come,” do they walk? Run? Sprint? A great way to have your dog come to you – and be excited about coming – is to do what’s called a “restrained recall.” If you’ve already got a recall command for your dog, this is still something you can do to make your dog even more delighted about coming back to you. It’s useful for agility because your dog will get used to running close to you, just like they would on an agility course.
To do a restrained recall, you will need two people. One person will hold the dog’s collar but should not otherwise interact with the dog. The other person – the one who is the “handler” – should get the dog excited about running after you. You can do this by squeaking excitedly, jumping around, or asking your dog “Are you Ready? Reeeeeaaaady?” Or, you could do a combination of all three. After you get your dog excited, start running away from your dog. In mid-stride, say your release word, and have the person holding the dog let go. Ask your dog to “come.” The dog should run after you at the speed of light! Make sure you reward your dog for coming by giving him a treat, some pets, or a good ol’ tug with a tug toy.
2. Adding “Sides” to your Recalls
In agility, there are times that you need to switch sides with your dog. It’s very helpful for them to understand to follow your hand. It will make training the handling easier! This exercise should your dog to understand which side he should be on.
After your dog starts understanding the restrained recalls and enjoying them, you can take the next step and add sides to your recalls! The first few steps are essentially the same. However, before you begin to run away from your dog, hold your reward in your right hand. Show your dog the reward. After you take off running, wait for your dog to come to your right side, and then reward your dog. Do the same thing for your left hand.
3. Playing with Your Dog
Agility is a sport that encourages your dog to release their energy. It’s also a sport that encourages you to play with your dog. One of my favorite ways to reward my dog after an exercise is to tug with them! It refocuses their attention towards your relationship. Tugging with your dog is all about you guys. If you just throw the toy for a reward, then it doesn’t redirect any attention to you. The command I use to tell my dog to start tugging on his toy is “get it!” You can start this by practicing off of the agility course. To teach your dog to tug, you should get on the floor with them and drag a toy around on the ground. The more interest you show towards the toy, the more interested your dog will be as well! As soon as your dog paws or bites at the toy, mark it with a “yes!” This way they know you want them to bite at the toy. Eventually, you can build this up into playing tug with them!
TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND
No matter what your level of agility is, how competitive you are, or how much you train, there are a few things that everyone should keep in mind!
One of the most important things in agility is to stay positive! Your dog can sense your frustration. They may shut down or become too stressed to focus. Of course, it’s much easier for someone to tell you to stay positive than actually doing it. Whenever I feel too frustrated, I always stop training and try to end on a positive note! Ending on a positive note will allow both you and your do to look forward to the next session. Agility is a game: it should be fun! In my experience, when dogs are having fun, they learn much faster.dd
It’s more beneficial to your training to do an exercise well 4 or 5 times instead of repeating it until your dog makes a mistake. Short, intensive training sessions help your dog learn faster than one long training session. Think of training your dog like teaching little kids. If you keep making them repeat themselves, they’ll get bored and have a fit!
In addition to ending on a positive note, it’s a good idea to end your training session earlier than later. It’s a good thing to stop while they are still interested in training. By doing this, it makes them want to train – and enjoy it – even more!