Dog-Agility Course For Beginners

Dogs enjoy the exercise and challenge of an agility course.

Jumping Through Hoops

A circular feature to jump through, such as a tire or a Hula-Hoop, can also be added to a course. Regardless of the circle used, the obstacle should be less than 6 inches above the ground.

Weave Poles

“Weave poles are set up in a straight line, and the dog has to weave through the poles,” says Smith. “The dogs have to enter a certain way so they can exit a certain way.” Using Schedule 40 PVC, insert the poles in the ground about 1 or 2 feet, leaving about 2 feet sticking above the ground. Use two contrasting colors of duct tape to mark the poles, alternating the colors. Use end caps to seal off the end of the PVC pipe.

Pause Table

One of the last challenges in professional dog-obstacle courses is the table. After the dog has raced through a variety of obstacles, it has to stop and lie down on the table to show control.

Getting People Interested

The USDAA, American Kennel Club, Canine Performance, and Humane Society have groups available for people who want to learn how to train their dog to run an agility course. “If the park contacted the groups, they might find someone who could come in and provide a short training session,” says Smith.

“The training sessions would help introduce the dog owners on how to train their dog with positive reinforcement by using treats and toys to show the dogs that it is safe and it is OK to do the obstacle.”

For younger handlers, there is a 4-H Dog Agility Project, with the following goals:

• Provide positive motivational-training methods, interactions with the dog.

• Enhance a working relationship between the dog and handler.

• Provide a better conditioned dog and handler.

• Promote good sportsmanship and citizenship.

• Promote a well-rounded handler and dog team.

• Build confidence in both dog and handler.

• Provide a variety of competitive areas for the dog project.

Start Small And Build

Just as with dogs that have never experienced an agility course, start small and build confidence. As more dog owners use the course, build a base of loyal fans by communicating with them through a park’s website, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook page. You’ll need their support and enthusiasm before moving on to a competition-level dog-agility course for your park.

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at tammy@landsharkcommunications.com.

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