Why should you train your dog to do the sport of canine agility? Is there truly a benefit to training your dog to climb an a-frame or run through a tunnel? The sport of canine agility has been growing at a rapid pace, and there are many reasons why.
The benefits to training dog agility include:
- Increased Confidence – Teaching your dog to interact with new, potentially scary, obstacles can greatly increase your dog’s self-confidence. Think about how proud of you are of yourself when you learn something that previously was challenging for you….your dog will feel the same way. BUT, this benefit will not be earned if you apply force in training dog agility. You can not pull a scared dog up an aframe by his harness and expect him to gain self-confidence. The benefit of confidence is earned as the dog learns to conquer the obstacle at his own pace.
- Increased Body Awareness – Has your dog ever rolled off the bed? Or maybe slammed into your knees? Teaching dog agility can help him learn to be more self-aware. He will learn where all four feet are, and how to decelerate or turn instead of just running into you.
- Increased Dog-Owner Relationship – Training is bonding. Helping your dog conquer “scary” new obstacles is bonding. Learning to run a course as a team is bonding. Play is bonding. All of these things happen in dog agility training. Ask someone who has been in dog agility for years how their dog reacts to their agility bag or how they react upon arriving at agility trials/classes….most will tell you that their dog is incredibly excited to be there. Training a team sport that creates such excitement with your dog helps build your relationship!
There are so many benefits to training dog agility, and interestingly enough, there are also benefits to competing! I’m not saying everyone should compete, but there are benefits.
The benefits to competing in dog agility include:
- Increased Stress Tolerance – The ability to focus and perform in a variety of different environments with a lot of potentially stressful stimulus in those environments greatly improves the dog’s and handler’s ability to handle stressful situations. Dog agility shows have a lot of people, dogs, sounds, sights, and smells (and they are different from show to show), so dog agility competitors must learn to handle these new environmental stimuli in order to perform. This ability to handle a variety of stimuli greatly increases the dog’s and handler’s ability to handle stressful situations in the future even in areas of life that are not related to agility.
- Increased Endorphins – Studies have shown that both moderate and high-intensity activity have a positive affect on mood. This is because the body releases chemicals when engaging in such activities that stimulate feelings of happiness such as endorphins, dopamine, and so on. This is true for both people and dogs! While training agility may instigate this natural chemical release, it is more likely to occur with prolonged activity such as the kind that would occur at a weekend trial.
- Increased Social Involvement – These days it is very easy to get sucked into a Netflix marathon or a weekend of Facebook, but with a dog agility competition marked on your calendar, you are headed for a much more physically and emotionally beneficial weekend. A weekend at a dog agility trial with friends is full of laughs, activity, and friendly competition. If the trial is outside, you will have the added benefit of natural Vitamin D. If you have competitive goals, you may also accumulate some amazing awards and memories over the course of an agility career.
In the end, only you can decide if agility is right for you, but with all these benefits it would be worth it to both you and your dog to at least give it a try. Your dog will love it as long as you train agility with fun, positivity, and no force.
Try it. What have you got to lose?
Still unsure? Ask me questions in the comments below…I’d be glad to help you get started in agility!