Dogs 101 – What is agility?
Dogs and their skills
Dog agility is a sport that combines both accuracy and coordination. It involves a tricky obstacle course that your dog must complete, and the course is so complex that the dog owner must help your pup along, but off-leash. What’s really tricky is that you aren’t allowed to touch your dog or the obstacles, or use toys or treats as incentives to get your dog to finish the course. Instead, you, as the handler, can just your own voice and body gestures. This means that your dog has to be extremely well trained so that he or she can understand each individual movement or word you use. Since most dogs can only understand about 100 words, your dog needs to either be incredibly smart or be able to adapt your commands to each complex situation on the course.
The courses are very complicated, which means that your dog cannot hope to overcome them by his or herself. That means that you must work with your dog, using the aforementioned voice or body signals, to guide your dog along and complete the course.
Now, let’s talk about the agility obstacle course. The obstacle course is usually set up by the judges in a competition, and consists of several standard obstacles that you and your dog must work together in order to win. In certain competitions, the obstacles are numbered to indicate the order in which you must complete them.
The good thing is that you don’t have to arrive at the obstacle course with no idea of what you’re getting you and your dog into. You can check out the course right before your dog goes through it so that you can decide on some key signals to use when you’re guiding your dog through.
Your dog will be judged on speed and precision equally, but what’s really tricky about this is that dogs are generally faster than humans, and humans are generally more precise than dogs. Consequently, you, as the handler, will need to come up with some signals or strategies to compensate for the differences in your and your dog’s capabilities.