Agility is one of the most popular and spectacular dog sports. Like all dog sports, it has many benefits for your four-legged friend, provided that certain precautions are taken.
So how do you go about it? At what age should you start? We tell you everything about agility!
What is agility?
Agility is a fun and demanding dog sport. Derived from equestrian jumping, it consists in making your dog complete an obstacle course with jumps, slaloms, tunnels and contact zones.
The difficulty lies in the fact that you can only guide your dog by voice and gesture. Indeed, during an agility session, the dog is free, without a leash. It is therefore a discipline that requires a lot of listening and obedience from the dog. This dog sport is based on the relationship of complicity that exists between the master and his dog.
Agility was created at the end of the 1970s in England by John Varley. He was looking for a way to avoid dead time at dog shows, and had the idea of creating a dog sport inspired by equestrian sports.
The craze for the discipline was fast, and at the end of the 1980s, the Société Centrale Canine (link to: https://www.centrale-canine.fr/cneac-gt-agility) added agility to the list of dog sports.
Who can practice agility?
Agility is a discipline that is open to everyone. Children can practice agility with their dog, as long as they are able to memorize a course and lead the dog. The children's class starts at about 8 years old and ends at 14 years old. From the age of 14 onwards, you move on to the "Senior" class, which has no age limit. There is also an agility class for people with disabilities.
There are no restrictions for dogs of any breed. Dogs of any breed can participate. However, some breeds of dog are naturally good at this activity, such as the Border Collie, the Poodle, the Jack Russel, or the Australian Shepherd.
In order to make the competition fair, and the obstacles adapted to each size of dog, the dogs are divided into 4 categories (in the French competitions):
Category A: for dogs under 37cm at the withers
Category B: for dogs from 37 to 46 cm
Category C: for dogs over 46cm at the withers
Category D: for molossoids, such as bulldogs for example, which are less fast and agile than other dogs.
At what age can a dog start agility ?
As in any dog sport, it is better to respect the growth of your puppy before starting agility. Indeed, agility involves jumps and slaloms that should not be performed until the dog's growth is complete, ie between 12 and 18 months, depending on the size of your four-legged friend.
This will prevent joint problems later on.
Other types of obstacles can be started at around 10 months.
It is better to start early because it is easier to learn. But agility is not only for puppies. It is also possible to start agility with an adult dog!
How to practice agility ?
To start agility, your dog must first of all have a good education.
Agility can be practiced in leisure or in competition
In competition, the course must be completed within an allotted time, and each mistake will result in a delay penalty. Agility is above all a sport of skill!
It is now possible to buy agility kits and obstacles to practice alone. However, if you are a beginner, it is recommended to be helped by a dog trainer who has practiced this discipline. He or she will be able to teach you the correct techniques for leading your pet. They will also be able to advise you on the length of the training sessions, so as not to tire your dog too much.
You will have no problem finding agility sessions, even for beginners, in the dog clubs in your area. The discipline is now widespread in France.
During training sessions, plan to bring treats that your dog will appreciate or his favourite toy. This will help you to teach him the course! Positive reinforcement is used during agility sessions.
In summary, agility is a fun activity to practice with your dog. On the one hand, it will allow you to exercise your dog physically and intellectually, which is very important for his well-being.
On the other hand, it is a great opportunity to strengthen the bond between you and your dog, and to improve his obedience and discipline.
Before starting agility, we advise you to consult your vet to check that your dog is fit for it!
So, what do you think of agility? Are you ready to start this activity with your dog?