If you’re training your dog in the sport of agility, then you know it requires precision, speed, balance and trust between you and your dog. You are partners in the sport, communicating with each other to attain perfection. Working as a team, you rely on each other to navigate the many obstacles during your run.
While training your agility dog, you developed skills to perform together with accuracy through the weave poles, balance on the dog walk and speed through the tunnels. Agility training is one of the best ways to learn how to communicate with your dog. Once you’re both on the same wavelength, you’re ready to enjoy the incredible thrill of your first dog agility competition.
Know Your Obstacles
When preparing for your first competition, make sure you and your dog are adept at all the obstacles.You don’t want your dog to refuse to enter a tunnel or stop at a jump. Practice running a sample obstacle course, making sure your dog is comfortable with all the obstacles. During the agility trial, you’ll be working on four types of obstacles: tunnels, jumps, weavepoles and contacts like the dog walk, A-frame, seesaw and pause table. Your dog should be able to charge up the A-frame and take the jumps on a run. If you find he’s balking at certain obstacles, concentrate on perfecting those before the competition. Both you and your dog have to believe in your abilities to complete the run. The agility judge will be watching your team as you run and using hand signals for the scoring bench to record. It’s a good idea to know the judge’s hand signals before you go to the trial.
“Agility training is one of the best ways to learn how to communicate with your dog.”
Is Your Dog Ready?
Your dog might be physically ready to enter his first competition but is he mentally prepared? Can he focus in a high-noise level environment with many other dogs around him? All the activity going on at an agility trial can often cause stress and over stimulation for many dogs. Before bringing your dog to a trial, take him out where there are several dogs. A good place is a dog park but don’t bring him inside with the other dogs. Walk him around the perimeter, keeping him focused and concentrating on you. If your dog can remain calm and non-aggressive, then he’s ready for his first agility trial.
What to Bring to an Agility Trial
Once you’ve decided that you and your dog are ready to compete, gather up the supplies you’ll need to bring with you. Always bring a water bowl, poop bags and a portable crate. The crate gives your dog a quiet space to relax before and after the competition. You can also bring a cover to put over the crate if this helps your dog stay calm. Don’t forget the treats!
As your dog completes that final obstacle, running into your arms, you want to treat him for what a great job he did in his first agility trial.