Is Dog Agility Training Good for Dogs?
Dogs are capable of incredible tricks and physical feats, but does that mean dog agility training is good for dogs?
Safe and regimented agility training provides dogs — and let’s not forget dog owners — with a wonderful form of physical and mental training. This exciting sport pushes dogs beyond basic obedience. Additionally, dog owners will find their connection to their dog stronger than ever as their pet becomes more confident, responsive, and social.
But be careful, people who take agility training too seriously can push dogs past their limits. A careful trainer should not put their agility training before their dog’s health.
What is dog agility training?
Imagine your dog running to you for a treat after running through weave poles, crawling through tunnels, and leaping through jump hoops and hurdles. That’s only the rigorous part of agility training.
Dog owners see their dogs turn into much more athletic, aware, and responsive canines after beginning agility training. From casual backyard or indoor agility training to competitive fun, you can choose your and your dog’s level of commitment to this hobby.
There are many agility events and agility training groups that can be found year-round and around the country. Also, dog owners who are interested should consider looking for a nearby dog agility training facility.
Can any breed participate in dog agility training?
If you’ve only seen dog agility events during national or international events on television, you may believe border collies are one of the few types of dogs that can compete.
There are classic breeds that you can expect to see in dog agility events, but the sport is welcoming to all breeds. The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) only recommends you train your dog in basic obedience and take your dog to the vet before starting agility training. The USDAA also has agility events and groups listed for new trainers.
Here’s a list of traditional and untraditional breeds:
- Chihuahuas — Surprisingly chihuahuas can be found in agility events and competitions around the United States. They’re a popular breed, so this may come as no surprise.
- Shetland Sheepdogs — A traditional type of dog found at agility events. Incredibly agile, Shetland Sheepdogs built up their speed and dexterity through generations of life on the farm.
- Siberian Huskies — Siberian Huskies may not be seen as the most dexterous dogs, but boy do they have power. They do attend but aren’t incredibly common at agility events.
- Border Collies — This breed is a classic for dog agility training, although it is predisposed to injuries if pushed too hard.
Mixed Breeds — Really, any dog is allowed to compete at dog agility events, even mixed breeds who aren’t easily classified.
Is dog agility training bad for dogs?
Dogs who are not prepared may not enjoy agility classes or, worse, get injured.
Many breeds of dogs are predisposed to experience certain injuries within their lifetime. Along with the USDAA, we certainly recommend adequate physical training and a veterinarian check before you take your dog to the course.
Also, dog owners should see if their dog enjoys the rigor of dog training before heavily investing in it. It can be hard for some dogs, who may not be interested in pushing themselves to their physical limit.
What are the benefits of agility training?
If you’re weighing your options about whether to begin, we’ve listed some of our favorite benefits of agility training:
1.) Physical exercise
Dogs are often better behaved when they get adequate care and exercise. Boredom is one of the main factors that cause dogs to act out and do things that we dislike.
Dogs running, jumping, crawling, and chasing through an obstacle course give them the exercise outlet they need. Agility training allows your dog to flex the muscles that dogs were bred to use.
2.) Mental exercise
Many breeds were not bred to stay inside all day and can act out if they find they’re not enriched enough.
Agility training not only stimulates a dog’s body but also stimulates its mind. It trains your dog to assess and traverse challenging obstacle courses while taking different physical and verbal cues. As opposed to fetch or tug of war, agility training often includes randomized agility courses that challenge a dog’s ability to read an ever-changing situation.
This also means it’s great for aging dogs who may not have dexterity but still need mental stimulation (just lower the difficulty a little.)
3.) Bond with your dog
There is endless research on how dogs benefit people’s lives, and how pet owners uniquely soothe their dogs, but how do you bond with your dog?
Put yourselves in the shoes of an agility course duo, where your shared experience training, running, and pushing your physical and mental abilities creates countless bonding opportunities. A dog-human bond is all about communication and trust.
From words of affirmation, treats, and pets, you and your dog will feel your love and bond grow.
4.) Boosts off-leash confidence
If you’ve never seen a confident dog, you may not understand why this is important.
Through attending competitions or casual group events, your dog will naturally be exposed to new people, dogs, locations, and obstacle courses. This process of repeated exposure to uncertainty, especially with positive reinforcement, teaches your dog confidence and obedience in uncertain situations.
It will give your dog confidence that they can trust your commands.
5.) Bonus: a social hobby
This one isn’t necessarily obvious, but dog agility training isn’t only good for the dog but it’s also good for the dog owner.
Dogs are much faster than humans. You will see your speed and agility increase as you try to keep up with your furry competitor. And by spending time with your special pet outdoors and moving your body, you’ll also improve your mental health.
This hobby can also be a social one if you join groups or enter yourself into competitions — serious or for-fun group events.
Through dog agility training, you’ll get to meet more dogs and people — just don’t get jealous if your dog is the star of the show.
Preventing ear infections in your pups is all about knowing what causes them — from their environment, food or even water.
After swimming or bathing, thoroughly dry and remove any moisture from their ear to prevent waterborne infections. Besides the occasional at-home ear cleaning, consider testing your dog for allergies to see if you can avoid exposing them to infections in the first place.