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Agility training can play an important role in your dog’s overall training regimen. Even humans and dogs that have little competitive drive -- and will never enter an agility trial -- can benefit from agility work.
Incorporating an obstacle course into your daily dog walk, for example, will deepen the bonding process between yourself and man’s best friend. Working together toward a common goal, the two of you will celebrate each success, learn from each mistake and generally spend quality time together.
Interspecies communication also improves, as you learn to read your dog’s body language to look for signs of anxiety, confusion or willfulness as it approaches each station. The dog, in turn, will become more adept at interpreting your vocalizations and hand signals, as you guide the canine athlete through the agility course.
Agility training can even help with problem behavior. Burning calories on the obstacle course can drain energy from dogs that might otherwise apply excess ergs to chewing the furniture or barking inappropriately. For shy or nervous dogs, mastering a single station on an obstacle course can build confidence -- with happy spillover into daily life. The mental stimulation of an agility run, which promotes problem-solving skills, can snap a bored dog out of the sleepy doldrums or out of digging in the flower garden.
Many pet supply companies sell sturdy, reliable equipment for agility training. But if you want to save money -- and give yourself some mental stimulation -- you can fashion your own agility course. Make your own hurdle with PVC pipes. Create your own jump with a tire suspended (securely) at the right height for the canine athlete. Look around the house and yard for likely challenges: a board fence that can double as a squeeze-through station; a staircase that is optimally situated along a likely course; a bench that can serve as an obstacle to be cleared; or a board that can be reworked into a ramp.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|