How to Agility Train Your Dog at Home
One of the fastest-growing sports for dogs is agility training, and believe it or not, it’s not nearly as difficult as it looks. Not only is this a great way to keep your dog healthy and happy, it will be loads of fun for both you and your dog. You can take agility classes, or you can train your dog yourself at home, which is often best in the case of younger puppies. Today we are going to offer up a few tips that will help you learn how to agility train your dog at home so you don’t have to worry about hiring an expensive trainer. Let’s get started.
Use Plenty of Praise
One of the first things you need to do is make sure that no matter what you are teaching your dog, you need to praise them at every turn when they do something right. You don’t need to be stressed out if your dog doesn’t learn things right away. It will all come in time. Start with small challenges and slowly increase the difficulty, praising your dog every time they do something right. Some dogs learn quickly, while others will need more patience from you. At-home training sessions should last no more than 10 minutes or so in order for it to be fun and for your dog to not lose interest.
Teach Your Dog to Focus
You and your dog are a team, and agility is supposed to be a team sport. Your dog needs your guidance, so they know which obstacles to take on instead of just running around willy-nilly. One way to help teach your dog to be focused is to make eye contact with them using a certain cue that will work with them such as saying “look at me.” It is best to start this training in a quiet area, and once they are able to be focused on your commands, you can start using other locations with distractions.
Teach Your Dog Tricks
One of the best ways to improve training techniques is to teach your dog tricks. This is also a great way to help improve your dog’s coordination, and they will be more confident. There are lots of tricks that are necessary for dog sports, such as touching their nose to your hand. Once you have trained them to do this, you will be able to move the dog simply by moving your hand.
A fun trick to begin with is to teach the dog to walk backwards. This will help the dog to become more aware of their body because they have to pay attention to all four paws. Another fun trick to work on is jumping through hoops. This is a great way to get your dog ready for tire jumping.
Flexibility Development is Important
Try to teach your dog tricks that are going to help to improve their flexibility. Some tricks that can help with this include spinning, and you can use the nose targeting trick to get them to go around in circles. Another trick that helps with flexibility is bowing. It will help to stretch out their back. You can also teach them to weave a figure eight through your legs. Learning tight turns helps with flexibility, and it comes in pretty handy when it comes time to train them to weave through poles.
How You Handle Your Dog is Key in Agility Training
How well your dog does on an agility course has a lot to do with how you handle your dog. Handling includes putting the dog in front, moving them from one side of your body to the other, and getting them to work while you are not standing right beside them, or from a distance. You can begin by teaching your dog to be comfortable working on your right and left sides. Once they are comfortable with doing this while you are standing or walking, you can move on to running. Make sure you reward your dog each time they stay when you tell them to switch sides. Be sure to always have treats in your hand for that positive reinforcement for good behavior. It’s great motivation for dogs when they know a treat is coming if they behave properly.
An easy way to start getting your dog to move away from you in any direction is to toss a treat in that direction. That will help them to understand what they need to do, and that they don’t need to be glued to your side at all times.
Another introductory trick is to teach your dog to turn tightly around an object, which is known as wrapping. This is going to help when it comes time to teach them how to turn tightly between and over jumps. You can do this by using objects such as cones or barrels, or if you don’t have those, even garbage cans will work. Get your dog to go out to the object and then go around it. Remember to award your dog at every step until they learn to walk around the object and then come back to you.
Jumping is fun for dogs, and it is an important part of agility training, and it is easy for you to do at home. You can use any type of stick, even a broomstick or a hockey stick for the dog to jump over. Make sure you aren’t working on a slippery surface. If your dog falls, they might be hesitant to try the trick again. Jump heights should be low, particularly for growing puppies, in order to avoid injuries.
Finally, the Weave Poles
The most challenging obstacle for a dog to learn is weaving in and out of the weave poles. There are many ways you can approach teaching this trick. The easiest is to put small stakes in the yard, spaced about two feet apart from one another. Train your dog to enter between the first two poles from their left side, and then to start weaving between the poles.