At What Age Do You Start Agility Training for Your Dog?

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Agility is an exciting competitive sport that dogs and handlers compete in. It is a course that is made up of obstacles that include tunnels, jumps, and walkways.

The dog and handler work together as a team to complete the course, with the handler assisting the dog to complete the obstacles in the right order.

While some owners enjoy doing agility training with their pup for fun, others train their dog for competitive agility trials. No matter which you choose, you need to know what age to start agility training with your dog.

What Age to Start Pre-Agility Training

What Age to Start Pre-Agility Training?

If your pup is less than one year old, you can start doing pre-agility training with them. Any training that includes jumping, repetitive actions, and contact equipment will need to be started when they are older.

Starting your pup too young can cause permanent joint damage. Puppies have unclosed growth plates and very soft bones. Exercise like agility training can cause permanent and sometimes substantial damage.

Why Do Your Dog’s Growth Plates Matter?

The growth plates are the soft parts at the end of your puppy’s long bones. They have rapidly dividing cells which help the bones grow longer. Growth plates thin when your pup approaches puberty at around 18 months. The only positive way to check if the growth plates are closed is through an x-ray. If your puppy’s growth plates are still open, they are vulnerable to injuries.

Additionally, your puppy’s tendons and muscles are stronger than the growth plates. When they perform a repetitive behavior, such as jumping, if they land wrong and their leg twists, rather than getting a simple sprain, they pull their soft tissue apart from the growth plate.

This type of injury may not heal correctly, which could result in a misshapen or shortened limb, and it could even make them prone to more injuries as they grow up.

Puppies have very soft bones. Like human babies, a puppy doesn’t have fully grown bones until puberty. Repetitive behaviors like landing hard when descending contact equipment like the teeter-totter, A-frame, or dog walk, or landing wrong after jumps may result in leg fractures.

In fact, spiral fractures are very common in puppies, with more than half of these fractures happening to puppies under 12 months old. Exercises that put stress on or twists your pup’s legs puts them at risk for a fracture.

What Age to Start Agility Training

So, What Age to Start Agility Training?

Dogs that compete in agility training normally do so between the ages of 1 and 2 years old. Young dogs could injure themselves when jumping hurdles, so it is best to consult with your veterinarian to work out if and when your dog is ready to try jumping.

You can start obedience training with your pup from the age of 6 to 8 weeks so that they learn things like sit, stay, lie down, heel, and come. These are very important when attempting to complete the agility obstacles.

Attending basic obedience training classes are also a great way to get your puppy started because they will learn how to behave around other humans and dogs, and how not to get distracted by them.

Once your vet has said that your pup’s growth plates have closed, normally between 12 and 18 months, you can train your dog to do agility. If there is an agility group or class in your area, it is best to start training with them. They will offer the necessary direction to get your puppy started while also introducing your dog to the obstacles in a non-threatening way.

Additionally, you will not have to spend money on building or buying the obstacles for yourself, especially if you do not know yet if your pup will enjoy agility.

If you find that your dog enjoys doing agility and you have the space in your yard to train them at home, you can do this too. Take the process step-by-step and never force your dog to do an obstacle they don’t want to do.

Rather show them by placing them at the end of the obstacle and letting them walk off the end. Then move them a few steps further from the end, and so forth, until they are completing the whole obstacle without you dragging them across it.


Agility is an exciting and competitive sport that is enjoyed by dogs and humans alike. If you train your dog correctly and start at the right age, not only will your pup excel at the obstacles, they will not get injured in the process. You may want to start earlier, but do not. This could lead to lifelong injuries and pain for your dog.

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