Training

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The secrets of training a dog for agility

Intro & History Dog agility training began as a sport in the UK in the 1970s, and involves successful completion of an obstacle course. It's a great way to develop a strong bond between pet and owner; it can also help build confidence in timid dogs (and owners). It's also a great form of exercise as it uses not just the dog's physicality, but the intelligence as well. The human partner may find that their fitness improves as they are required to do as much work as the dog. Whilst agility training can be done to allow participation in competition, there's no rule to say it's not just for a fun time with your dog.

Type of suitable dog In the serious, competitive sport, the breeds of dog that excel at agility tend to be those that are generally classed as intelligent, such as Border Collies and Labradors. However, as long as your mutt is fit, healthy and has enough brain cells to cope the basic obedience commands, there is no reason why he or she can't succeed in agility, even if it's just for fun. It's even suitable for puppies a young as 8 months. Some of the obstacles can be strenuous on the joints, so training any earlier than 8 months is not recommended.

Equipment Of course the object is to encourage Fido to complete an obstacle course, so to train you need the obstacles, as well as the space to run around in. Requirements are: a tunnel, cones for weaving, jumps, an "A" frame, possibly a see saw and a pause table. It would be best to join a local class or club. However, if money is no object it is possible to buy portable equipment that can be taken to a local park. You might want to have Fido's collar and lead in the initial stages of training.

Procedure It's best to start slowly: allowing your dog to become familiar with the obstacles. Walk your dog around the course, learning that there is no threat. You may find that you will have to demonstrate the obstacles to your dog so that he or she gets the idea of what he/or she is supposed to do. Start the jumps low and gradually increase the height. You may want to concentrate on one obstacle and then add more. Always, always praise and reward with treats when something, no matter how small, is done well. Never punish: the idea is for you to enjoy your time with your dog.

If you are really interested in training your dog, then you need to find some qualified help. There is some great information available on the Internet specifically written to allow you to train your dog to do pretty much anything. And this is not restricted to agility training either. If your dog jumps, nips or just cries, then there is something that you can do.

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