If you are thinking dog agility then find out as much as you can before you start and hopefully then you won’t make the mistakes than many people do (including the author of this article!).
What age can Dogs start Agility Classes?
This will depend on the club or the organiser. It is important to be aware that dogs are not fully developed until they are 12-18 months old. There are many classes that will take puppies from six months but this should be for ground exercises only. These classes should not include jumping, climbing or weaving until your dog is at least 12 months old.
Do all Dog Agility Classes teach the same type of Agility?
It is important to be aware that there are two very different types of dog agility class. There are “fun agility” classes which are often run by dog trainers and then there are agility classes run at a local agility club which will normally be taken by experienced dog agility competitors which are usually incredibly fun… but beware dog agility if trained correctly can be very addictive!
“Fun agility” classes usually involve teaching your dog to go over the equipment and through tunnels and then once they can do this they may do a short course. Sometimes these classes are conducted with the dog on the lead but generally the dog is trotting at your side.
“Dog agility club” classes will usually take a very different approach. They generally set out to train your dog to run fast around a course and teach you how to direct them using your body language. Most of these classes will teach your dog to run fast and learn some foundation skills before introducing the agility equipment gradually. They will usually aim to teach your dog to perform obstacles to competition standards without any help from you.
Can I start agility at a “Fun Agility” class and then move to a “Dog Agility Club” class later?
Probably BUT you need to be aware that most dog agility clubs will want you to start again in a beginners class as you are unlikely to have learnt the essential foundation skills. Some agility clubs aren’t keen on recruiting those who have done a fun class because it is likely they will have developed some “bad habits” such as running over contacts without stopping or learning to run at their handler’s side.
Are Dog Agility Clubs mainly for people who want to compete?
Definitely not! The vast majority of dog agility club members have never competed and probably never will. They simply want to have great time with their dogs once a week. Interestingly though the vast majority of people who do compete only ever started agility to have some fun with their dog.
Do all Dog Agility Clubs have members who compete?
In my experience most of them do although some only cater for those competing in the lower grades. If you happen to be ambitious then make sure you find a club who have members competing in at least Kennel Club grade 5.
Do all types of classes use the same equipment?
Most dog agility clubs will use equipment which meets the current Kennel Club specifications which is important as safety is always the first priority. Some fun agility classes use very similar equipment but others design and construct their own!
Is Dog Agility just for young fit people?
Definitely not! The great thing about dog agility is you can be taught how to handle dogs at a distance! So if you are not very mobile that really isn’t a problem which means that dog agility is suitable for people of all ages.
Can all breeds of dog do agility?
Agility is great for most breeds. If you have breed though that is prone to breathing difficulties or which has a very long back then it is always advisable to have a chat with your vet first to check that the activity is suitable for your dog.
How long does it take to get to competition standard?
This is a common question from those who are already thinking about competing but a tricky one to answer. It depends on the dog (they all learn at their own pace) and how much training you do outside class – but certainly not less than a year and probably at least 2 years if you have never done it before!