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Agility training is a wonderful, energy-burning and mind-challenging sport for dogs and their handlers. Even dogs not registered with the AKC can participate in agility competition, thanks to a plethora of agility registries such as the United States Dog Agility Association and the North American Dog Agility Council. Finding a good agility class or trainer can take some time, but is a fairly simple process. But how do you know when your dog is ready to start training for agility?
Before you being any new training or sport regimen with your dog, take note of his or her current physical shape. Is he the correct weight and eating a high-quality diet? Are his vaccinations current? Does he have any health problems that might interfere with running, or jumping? When in doubt, it is best to have your dog checked by your veterinarian before you begin.
Keep in mind that puppies, especially large breed puppies, shouldn’t do any serious jumping until their growth plates have closed — usually between 12 and 18 months. Again, ask your veterinarian if in doubt.
While agility is often great fun for dogs and handlers alike, there is no question that it requires a higher level of training than does say, hiking, or a game of fetch. If your dog has never taken a training class of any kind, you may want to complete a basic obedience course before attempting agility. Some agility instructors will accept dogs with no training whatsoever, but most recommend the dog at least know how to sit or lie down on command and come when called (at least some of the time)!
If you’re feeling confident you can train your dog to a basic level without a class, some of the resources listed below may be helpful.
Want to know a little more about teaching your dog to jump safely, quickly and accurately? Jumping from A to Z: Teach Your Dog to Soar is a good introduction to any dog sport that requires a lot of jumping, and agility is no exception.
Don’t worry if your dog isn’t quite ready, or isn’t able to compete in agility trials. There is plenty of time to prepare a young dog for his or her first trial. And older or less mobile dogs can still compete in agility for fun — ask your vet, trainer or club members about agility fun classes and matches. Happy running!
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