Teaching your dog agility

When most people think of agility, they picture high energy working breeds like border collies and Australian shepherds racing through a challenging course at high speeds. It’s hard to imagine that an activity like this could be beneficial to lower energy dogs, after all the main goal of agility is to burn physical energy… right? Wrong!

It’s true that agility is an excellent way to fulfill dogs physically, but this activity is just as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Even the laziest of dogs can get a lot out of an agility course simply through the way this activity works their brain. A dog does not have to race through an agility course at top speed to get the most out of this fun and fulfilling activity, as the mental challenge of following their owner’s commands and learning how to complete each obstacle is draining enough!

In fact, when you’re first teaching your dog how to navigate an agility course, I recommend going as slow as possible to make sure they comprehend everything you’re teaching them. After all, pretty much every obstacle in agility will be new to your dog, so they need a calm and patient leader to take their time introducing each and every new challenge. Take the time to teach them how to overcome one agility obstacle at a time, before moving to the next step of having them complete obstacles in succession.

My girl Sprout is a 2 year old french bulldog, which you would think given the stereotypes around bulldogs would mean she’s a lazy couch potato. But this couldn’t be further from the truth! Sprout is a highly intellegent and very active girl who needs constant mental and physical challenges to be fulfilled. As you can imagine, the current state of the world and the increased demand for social distancing is making meeting her needs more of a challenge than normal, but that’s where agility comes in for us! I have found that this wonderful activity is the perfect way for me to challenge her and for both of us to have some fun without having to leave the safety of our backyard! After just a few days of working through the obstacles together, she’s already mastered jumps, the tunnel, and doing both in succession. I coudln’t be more proud, and she couldn’t be more fulfilled! After just a 30 minute training session, shes ready for a 2 hour nap. That’s the power of agility and its ability to burn both her physical and mental energy.

Remember that your dog doesn’t have to be able to complete each obstacle perfectly to enjoy agility – this activity is all about having fun, not about being perfect! The main goal is to have your dog be checked in with you throughout the entire course, and follow your direction to the best of their ability. You’re teaching your dog something that is new, and possibly a little intimidating for them, and that’s why agility is one of the best ways you can strengthen your bond with your dog. Together, the two of you will work through the challenge of learning new things and overcoming new obstacles, and what could be better than that?

If you’re thinking of starting agility at home with your dog, here’s a list of some beginner equipment you’ll need;

  • Jumps with adjustable height
  • A tunnel
  • Weave poles
  • A pause box (a place board will work!)

It’s also important to note that agility does not have to be an expensive sport to participate in. You can find fairly cheap agility sets on amazon, or you can even make your own at home with a few simple supplies! It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be safe and functional!

So get outside, have fun, and learn something new!


Blog written by Claire Guistini, Puppy Trainer at The Dog Haus


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