Agility will make you JUMP JUMP!
The sports that exist for our dogs are designed to mimic what they would do naturally. Flyball is about chasing down prey and going as fast as they can over any obstacle that remains in their way. Lure coursing is about following a prey at full speed through zig zags and beating the other dogs there. Agility is about chasing after prey, jumping and weaving through whatever obstacles are in their path to get it. The latter is what I would like to discuss in this blog because of the three prey driven sports, agility puts the greatest emphasis on the handler-dog bond.
Of course since Pet Health Academy was created with the health of your pets in mind, I do want to make a statement about always practicing safely with your canine compadre in any sport. While nature intended our furry friends to dash through the woods at break-neck speeds, nature did not intend for dogs to be taught to do so repetitively. Keep in mind that any repetitive motion that is strenuous such as jumping can lead to injury if not trained safely, properly and most importantly; if your dog is not allowed to take a break.
My story goes like this; before the two whipper snapper Boxers I own now, I shared my life with two other Boxer beasts. One of my former boys used to love to jump and run at full speed no matter what and I always thought he would be an amazing sport dog.
I just never knew or bothered to follow through with how to get involved. Plus with my erratic schedule as a pet sitter I convinced myself it was impossible. When I got my new crew I made a promise to them that I would try every dog sport within an hour of us and whichever one they loved the most, we’d do no matter how crappy I was at it. Debbie chose agility and while I have struggled to keep up with her, the bond that we have developed is undeniable.
Debbie's first agility trial from Pet Health Academy on Vimeo.
With just a slight tilt of my shoulder I could throw her off course or with a raising of my non-lead hand I can cue her to turn. Unlike most, I didn’t learn how to do these things, I learned that Debbie was picking up on my signals and then I learned to do them at times that would benefit us running the course the way it should be run. I had switched training centers and miss-read a course description, prematurely signing us up for advanced agility where by being submerged in a class with the best, Debbie and I learned how to work like a well communicating team. Agility became like a drug to us, she was hopping all over things in the house on my cues and I was itching to get to the next class. You could see it in her face when we were in the ring, she’d stare up at me with her big brown eyes as if she were saying, “I’m ready mom, lets run this course like a champ!”
debbie arm jump from Pet Health Academy on Vimeo.
No doubt there is a rush you feel and when you add in the element of competition, especially with being a super competitive person, the feeling only intensifies. But if I never went to a trial and just ran courses in class and in my yard for fun, the both of us would be happy campers.
Agility can seem quite overwhelming at first. Your intro class is a painstaking 6 week class where you spend so much time getting your dog used to all the obstacles, the seesaw, weave polls and dog walk being some of the most challenging. You might even do this class twice. Then there are handling classes, sequencing classes and so on. I was overwhelmed at the thought but from my first class I was hooked. When I saw that Debbie wanted to learn what she was supposed to do and again, when she gave me those big brown eyes (even though she was begging for the treats in my pocket) I just knew we had found our thing.
Agility with Debbie from Pet Health Academy on Vimeo.
I encourage everyone to get out and do a sport with your pup. Keeping in mind safety comes first. Agility jumps should not be started any younger than 6 months old due the repetitive movements on growing bones and just like with humans, take it easy. Don’t rush anything and listen to your dog, if they don’t want to do it, don’t try too hard, it could have an adverse effect. Injuries can be common if you don’t keep your dog moving during times when not training. Due to the repetitive jarring on the joints, dogs that are not in shape or limber can experience lameness. If you have any question as to whether your pup is fit for agility consult with your veterinarian.