Training can be fun for both you and your dog. Teaching games is a part of ground training for agility. So, tighten your belts, pull up your socks and play with your pooch.
Dog agility is a sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Agility is totally based on communication and teamwork between handler and his dog. It is very important for handler to spend quality time in creating a bond with his dog in the initial stages of training.
What motivates your dog?
As a handler we have to find out what motivates our dog to work with us. Different dogs work for different things. Some may work for treats, while others love to play with toys. It’s called a ‘dog’s drive’. Some have a high toy drive, while others have high food drive.
Simple and useful games for agility
Tug-of-War: A good game of Tug-of-War with a rope toy or rope Kong can be very exciting and encouraging for any dog. Initially, we can use soft ropes to make it easier and comfortable for the dog to tug on it and to hold on to it. Once he learns how to pull it, we can slowly increase the pressure and/or increase the duration of the game. It’s also important to teach them to ‘leave’ the toy when asked. Let your dog win this game more often than you win it, to maintain that excitement throughout training session. Treats can be used to teach him to leave the toy when asked.
Fetch: Dogs love to chase things and play with it. A good game of ‘Fetch’ with dog’s favourite toy can be very helpful in gearing him up before the training session. Different toys such as balls, flying discs, rings, kongs, squeaky toys can be used for fetching, depending on the dog’s preference. You can also develop a habit of using any particular toy only during training sessions as it becomes highly motivational for the dog. Toys used while training should be sturdy, compact and safe for dogs even during rough use.
Bait Bag: This is a unique pouch designed specially for dogs who are equally motivated by food and toys. You can stuff this pouch with tasty treats and lock it. You can teach your dog to play ‘Tug of war’ or ‘Fetch’ with it and also use the treats while praising the dog. Teaching him to leave or give it back to you is a must as dogs tend to run away with it. Bait bag should be used carefully with food possessive dogs to avoid any accidents.
Warm Up Sessions: A good short walk can be a great warm up for both handler and his dog. A short play session with his favourite toy helps him to focus on you and to build up his excitement.
I like to use a particular phrase to get the dog started for a fun filled training session. Every time I say “Are you ready” to my dog, he knows what I mean and gets very excited. You can also ask your dog to speak couple of times, give HiFi or shake hands, do roll over, etc. Just do anything that your dog loves to do for you.
Basic obedience: a must It’s a must to teach your dog some basic commands like Sit, Down, etc. This training always comes handy during agility course. Teaching a dog to Stay in either sit or down position also proves very useful. It’s very important to teach a “Release Command” to a dog to break the Stay position. You can use commands like “OK” or “Over” for such purpose. If the dog exactly knows when to stay and when to break it, handling him during agility course becomes easier and saves your time as well. Basic commands should only be used when required or else too much obedience can spoil the fun of agility.
A quick recall can be very useful during agility course. You can use special treats just for recall while training your dog, so he learns to return to you faster when called. You can save a lot of time during the course with a good recall and it also helps to control your dog with distractions.
Creating foundation for agility
If a handler spends enough time practicing this basic training with his dog, he can create a strong foundation for agility. It helps him create a bond with his dog and also helps the dog to communicate better with him during the course. Time required to teach and practice Basic Agility Training is different for every dog, depending on his breed, motivation, energy level, age and many more things. It’s definitely worth spending your time and effort for successful agility training.
(Pooja Sathe is trained under Northern Centre for Canine Behaviour and Training, UK.)