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04 Training


This article is from the Dogs Agility FAQ, by J L Gauntt with numerous contributions by others.

04 Training

Some basic obedience training is necessary before commencing agility
training. At a minimum, the dog must be able to sit, down, promptly
come when called off-leash, hold a brief stay, maintain control around
other dogs, and accept handling by strangers. Off-leash heelwork is a
big plus but not required. In addition, a trainer/handler that has
encouraged their dog from puppyhood to play fetch will have a distinct
training advantage over someone who has not.

Initial agility work begins by introducing the dogs to low and/or
smaller versions of the obstacles. The height and/or length of the
equipment is slowly extended over several training sessions to their
full competition forms. Dogs at this stage of training require
physical 'spotting' similar to gymnastics training while they develop
the necessary skill and confidence on the obstacles. Leashes are
usually quickly dispensed with as they may become entangled on the dog
and/or equipment. Techniques or collars that apply physical
corrections of any type should not be used; they are disruptive to
maintaining balance & physical coordination (and may therefore lead to
injury) and will slow down the dog's opportunity to become physically
and mentally confident in his ability to negotiate the equipment
safely. Physical handling and spotting techniques are often
supplemented with food, praise, and fetch/tug type objects that both
lure and reward the dog to perform the equipment.

Once the basic obstacle work is learned, the dog enters the next phase
of training. During this time, the handler works to gradually
condition the dog to higher jumps and obstacle heights, and to develop
a working 'command vocabulary' of both verbal and body signals
necessary to direct the dog off-leash around an agility course. A
well- trained agility dog learns to respond instantly to commands
directing him to perform specific obstacles (when obstacles are placed
immediately adjacent to one another) as well as commands causing him
to run faster/slower, turn left/right and veer away from/closer to his
handler. At the highest levels of agility competition, it is possible
to see dogs that are able to perform these commands and maneuvers
instantly and accurately even when working at full speed several yards
away from their (much slower) handlers.


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