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Monday, January 30, 2012

Indoor Agility Basics

Doing indoor agility exercises with your dog is a great way to build teamwork with your dog, mentally and physically exercise your dog, build your dog’s confidence, and self-control.

The sport of dog agility is something that most people have seen on TV where the dogs are speeding through weave poles, over jumps, in tunnels, and over teeter totters.   The dogs seen on TV are top competitors and many are super-fast border collies or similar hard driving breeds.  In “real life” all kinds of dogs can learn agility.  I personally have done agility with a Golden Retriever, two Cocker Spaniels, and now a Pug.  You don’t see too many Pugs in the agility competitions, but Rosie is going to be pretty good at running the courses.

I recommend teaching your dogs the same skills that agility competitors use in the ring even if you are just training your dog for fun.  Doing agility doesn’t have to be practiced with the goal of competition.  It is a way to keep the relationship with your dog fun and fresh.

When the weather is not so great or when you are teaching beginning skills you can do many of the basics indoors.  One of the things I like to start with is teaching the dog to go out and around something like a hula hoop or you can make a free standing hoop. To begin, lure the dog up to the hoop and click just as it goes through.  Pretty quick you can stand still and click the dog as it goes through the hoop back and forth.  Gradually move yourself back so the dog goes away from you and through the hoop.  This exercise teaches the dog to go away from you and complete the obstacle.     
Another basic skill that is often over looked is jumping technique.  You need to teach your dog to jump from a standing position so it learns to collect her body up and over the jump.  This keeps the dog from developing bad jumping habits.  Start close and lure the dog over the very low jump.  Click as they clear it and deliver the treat on the ground.  The dog should go up and over tucking their back legs to clear the bar.  Gradually raise the bar until you get it to the height the dog will be jumping regularly.  Young dogs should not jump higher than their elbow until they are over a year of age.

You don’t have to have fancy equipment for this.  You can use broomsticks and phone books to build your jumps if you want.  The main thing is to have fun don’t think of this sport as one just for competitors.

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