What Happens At An Agility Class? An Insider’s Look
Agility is one of the most popular dog sports – and perhaps it’s one you’ve been thinking about trying for a while.
If you’ve never tried agility before, we know that joining a new club can be nerve-wracking. However, knowing what to expect from your first class can really help you get past your nerves and get stuck in.
That’s why we’ve put together this step-by-step guide with help from agility expert Lucy King, who runs Kiln Agility Training Society, near Basingstoke.
Lucy says: ‘Agility is a fantastic sport, which anyone can take part in. We've had dogs ranging from Chihuahuas right up to Great Danes taking part and it's brilliant fun.
‘Agility is an excellent way to bond with your dog and can help to focus and calm down dogs that get over-excited. It’s always a huge thrill for me to see the confidence that nervous dogs get from attending classes. I would recommend agility to anyone.’
You might be worried about your dog not having much experience – but you might be surprised by how little your dog needs to know to get started.
Lucy likes dogs to be able to sit on command before coming along. It’s also a bonus (but not essential) that trainee dogs can recall (our expertly-made dog training toys can help with this) and ‘wait’ before they turn up. But that’s it – no party tricks necessary!
Lucy says: ‘Everybody worries about the first session, thinking that I am expecting their dogs to perform miracles, or be immediately able to run around a Crufts course! That’s just not the case.
So what happens in a typical first session?
‘Our first session begins gently with an introduction to the sport,’ Lucy says.
‘It’s important to explain that the owners will have as much, if not more, to learn than their dogs and that every dog and person will have different strengths and weaknesses.’
‘We then move on to looking at groundwork exercises (with all dogs kept on leads at this early stage),’ Lucy says.
‘This includes weaving through cones, playing with wobble boards and walking over a dog ramp. We also do some controlled behaviours such as sitting within the confines of a hula hoop.
‘This helps to focus the dogs and calm the owners down.’
‘Next, we have an introductory look at different types of jump,’ Lucy says.
‘This includes single bar jumps, double bar jumps and cross poles, with detailed explanation on why each jump is used.
‘We’re not expecting expert jumpers at this stage. Instead, we ask owners to step over the jump with their dog. In the next session, we progress to side on handling.’
‘Tunnels are a big part of agility so we look at these next,’ Lucy says.
‘At first, we use shortened, straight tunnels, with the owners at one end calling their dog and me helping to guide the dog into the entrance.
‘Once each dog has done the tunnel for the first time and they realise how fun it is, we then lengthen the tunnel and begin to make it more complicated.’
‘Before the session ends, all owners are given simple tasks to work on ready for next week’s class,’ Lucy says.
‘This usually includes some circle work to encourage dogs to be able to work on both sides of their handler, or perhaps some target training.
‘During all sessions, dogs and owners are encouraged to progress at their own pace.
‘The focus is always on having fun – there is nothing to be afraid of!’
If you want to go the extra mile in practising at home, check out our range of dog training tug toys that can help take your training to the next level.
Looking for an agility class that’s near you? Visit Agility Net.