Dog agility is designed to be an outlet for a dog’s natural hunting and chasing instincts. The dog races against the clock, zipping through a course filled with obstacles that are devised to mimic hindrances such as fallen logs that he would likely come across when chasing down prey in the wild.
So, is dog agility cruel? Agility is not cruel, as long as the dog is properly introduced to the sport and not asked to perform tasks beyond their ability. It is also quite good for dogs in terms of exercise, mental stimulation, and obedience training. The joy, satisfaction, and pride on a dog’s face after successfully completing a course prove that they truly enjoy the sport.
One of the best things that you can do for your dog is to enhance the quality of his life. Providing him with an activity that constructively channels extra energy and brings the relationship that you share to new heights can benefit both of you in many ways. Let’s investigate a bit and learn why dog agility is one of the fastest growing sports around.
Dog Agility Mimics A Natural Instinct
In a natural setting, a dog’s instincts would direct him to chase after prey in order to eat and survive. This survival instinct has not been bred out of canines and displays itself whenever a furry little creature darts across a hungry dog’s path.
During the pursuit of prey, a dog might find himself jumping over fallen branches, squeezing through dense hedges, dashing across downed limbs, ducking under low branches, and crawling through narrow spaces. The obstacles in an agility course are designed to replicate some of those scenarios.
There is nothing cruel about encouraging a dog to pursue an activity that comes naturally to him. In fact, the majority of dogs who are given the chance to try the sport really enjoy it and show great enthusiasm every time they get to practice.
The beauty of agility is that any healthy dog can participate. The obstacles can be adjusted to an appropriate level for any size dog. At competitions, dogs are grouped according to height to ensure a level playing field.
Due to the fact that canines are inherently pack animals, most dogs relish the opportunity to show off their skills while in the midst of a “pack” of dogs.
Dog agility satisfies deeply-rooted instincts while allowing the dog to maintain a high level of physical fitness. Agility fosters a deep bond between the handler and the dog which is evident when witnessing the partnership at work on the course. That partnership and the sheer joy on the dog’s face are truly beautiful to behold.
What Types Of Dogs Is Agility Best For
While breed is not the main factor in determining if a dog should pursue agility, personality definitely is. Agility is best for dogs who have lots of energy, enjoy learning new tasks, respond well to commands, and are good at focusing. If your dog possesses these traits, loves to spend time with you, and gets along well with other dogs, agility can be a worthwhile and rewarding pursuit.
Some breeds, however, are naturally better suited physically for Agility than others. Here are the Top 15 Agility Dog Breeds.
Properly Introducing Your Dog To Agility
There are a few important things to remember when first introducing your dog to the sport.
- Keep it fun! Practices should not run too long and leave him gasping for breath. Take it slowly and keep things simple at first.
- Remain positive. Mistakes are going to happen, but don’t lose your cool. Be upbeat and encourage him to try again. Always end a session on a positive note so that he will associate practicing with fun.
- Offer lots of praise. Constant encouragement and praise for correct action will go a long way to motivate him to improve. Remember – he wants to please you!
While it is perfectly fine to construct a homemade course in your backyard and enjoy working with your dog alone, some people find it very helpful to attend at least a couple of structured classes before going solo. Learning from a professional can ensure that you are using the correct techniques from the very beginning.
Signs A Dog Is Enjoying Agility
If you are in doubt as to whether or not your dog is having a good time with his training, study his body language. Some signs to look for that indicate happiness include:
- a wagging tail.
- an interest in and enthusiasm for the activity.
- a happy, relaxed expression on his face.
- total focus on you and the task at hand.
- willingness to keep trying.
When You Shouldn’t Pursue Agility
Generally, dogs with short, compact noses like pugs and bulldogs do not make the best candidates for agility due to their tendency to develop breathing and heart problems. It is often best to find a less strenuous activity for these dogs.
Short-legged, long-bodied dogs also often find agility to be too difficult. They simply were not bred to compete in activities such as high-speed sports or activities involving jumping and nimble movements.
Dogs suffering from disease or injury, of course, should refrain from agility activities. Also, dogs who obviously do not enjoy the sport should never be forced to participate.
Top Benefits of Dog Agility
Dog agility not only provides hours of entertainment for both you and your dog, but it is also a fantastic way to exercise your dog’s body and mind. A dog’s excess energy is quickly put to good use as he navigates at full speed each obstacle in his path.
While dashing through the course, the dog must focus on several things at once. He must concentrate on the current obstacle while looking ahead to plan his route for the next one. However, he must also be seeking his handler’s direction at all times. That is a lot for a dog to focus on in a relatively short period of time.
In addition to fun, physical exercise, and mental stimulation, dog agility also helps:
- to fulfill a dog’s natural desire to run and chase after prey.
- to build a dog’s confidence and increase his self-control.
- to reinforce basic commands and improve off-leash obedience.
- to solve any behavior issues caused by boredom.
- to increase trust and vastly improve communication between the handler and dog.
Handlers also reap the benefits of a full body workout when training their dogs. Leading a dog through a course involves a great deal of running, bending, reaching, twisting, and turning, which are all key components of a healthy cardiovascular workout.
How Fast Is the Fastest Dog on Record?
Verb, a border collie, recently beat 329 of his competitors to snag the title of Master Agility Grand Champion of 2019 with a best run-time of 32.05 seconds. In 2018, another border collie named Fame won the coveted title with an outstanding time of 29.53 seconds.
Is Dog Agility Dangerous?
While all sports carry a slight risk for injury, agility is not considered dangerous at all for healthy dogs. Actively growing dogs are still developing bone, muscle, and joint strength and should only engage in light training to minimize the risk of injury. Older dogs as well should take it easy to avoid harm.
Give It A Try!
If you are still unsure if dog agility is a smart idea, take the time to watch a few videos of the best in the business doing what they love. The moment that the dog completes his course in record time and throws himself into his handler’s arms might bring tears to your eyes. Nothing can quite compare to watching a dog do something with his whole heart and then rejoice at a job well done.