Many people don’t realise that there are two very different types of dog agility class – “fun agility classes” and “dog agility club classes” – and they generally teach very different types of dog agility!
Although it is really difficult to generalise most “fun agility classes” are run by dog trainers and focus on teaching dogs to go over obstacles and through tunnels. They are often done on a lead or with the dog trotting at the handler’s side as they are taken from one obstacle to the next.
Dog agility classes are usually taken by experienced dog agility competitors and take a very different approach! Their ultimate objective is to teach dogs and their handlers how to complete a dog agility course at speed keeping the dog running fast in the right direction switching the dog from one side of the handler to the other using crosses (front crosses, blind crosses, rear crosses to name but a few). (Handlers who are not very mobile are taught how to handle their dog at a distance. It is truly a “sport” for all). Most of these classes will start by teaching your dog foundation skills before introducing the equipment very gradually. They will then normally train dogs to complete obstacles independently without any help from you.
There are of course classes that fall somewhere in the middle often taken by dog trainers who have also done some training with a dog agility club but perhaps not at a particularly high level.
Fun agility classes were originally referred to as “fun classes” because 20 years ago many dog agility clubs were only interested in training dogs for competition. So people started up “fun classes” for people who didn’t want to compete.
How times have changed. The vast majority of people I know who go to dog agility clubs do not compete and probably never will – they just want to have a great time with their dog once a week learning an amazing sport. Their dogs just love to run at speed.. and it is such great fun learning to direct them around a course!
So be careful to make sure you understand what type of agility you will be doing before you sign up for a class!