Friday, October 23, 2009
By Anna Lee
I am sure you’ve seen those dogs on TV, the little lightning bolts that seem to streak across the ground and fly through the air like the wind. I enjoy watching them, and it is amazing how they can move at such speeds and be so accurate! I wish the sport of Dog Agility was on TV more often because it is fascinating.
In Agility events the dogs must complete an obstacle course, which is set up in a large outdoor area. The course has many components to it. Some of the aspects of the course are: the sea saw, tunnels, dog walk, pause (not paws!) table, pause box, jumps, A-frame and weave polls. The weave polls fascinate me the most. Weave polls are a series of poles stuck in the ground, in a line maybe 1 foot apart. The dog works its way through the poles weaving in and out. That is just one small segment of the agility trials, but accuracy and speed are the keys. The course is timed, and if the dog misses an aspect or goes out of bounds, time penalties are added to the score. The dog with the shortest time wins and is proclaimed the champion!
The sport of Dog Agility requires a sure footed and speedy dog with determination and a will to compete. Not all dogs are physically able to run the course due to their size, their breed characteristics and their ability to listen to and follow commands. Three breeds that rise to the top in Agility Trials are:
The Border Collie – This dog was bred to gather and control sheep. He stares down his flock with an intense eye. The Border Collie has unlimited energy and stamina. This medium size dog weighs approximately 30-45 pounds and stands approximately 18-22 inches high at the shoulder, and can live to be 15 years old. I have several friends with Border Collies and they are amazing to watch under normal circumstances.
The Shetland Sheepdog – This dog was bred to stand guard for farmers. He kept birds and hungry sheep from the gardens. They make excellent family pets and they are superstars in dog sports. They only weight about 20 pounds, are 13-16 inches at the shoulder, and can live to be 15 year old.
The Australian Shepherd – This breed originated in the western United States, not Australia, and was bred to herd livestock. This is another great family dog that is full of energy. The Australian Shepherd is 18-23 inches at the shoulder, can weigh 40-65 pounds, and live about 15 years.
If you think you might be interested in Agility Trials and want to get a puppy and start training them, there is a lot of information online regarding this sport. You can start agility training while your puppy is still young. There are many good books and videos available as well. It is important to get proper guidance so that your dog or puppy does not get injured. The website Agility Training for Dogs (www.agilitytrainingfordogs. com) has a lot of very helpful information and is a good place to start.
There are several dog breeds involved in Agility Trials other than the three breeds mentioned above. As to what type of dogs are best suited for agility training, ask yourself: Is your dog the star of the dog park? Can your dog move like a speeding bullet? Can he jump like a jackrabbit? If the answer is yes to those questions, then maybe he should be given a chance at Agility Training and Trials.
For agility training you would not choose a Great Dane or a Mastiff; they are too big and slow moving. You also would not want to use a Dachshund or Yorkie as their legs are much too short. They are lovable dogs, but not quite right for this particular sport! It is important to have your dog checked out thoroughly by your vet first, as you do not want to put undue stress on your pet.
Read, learn, research, ask questions, watch videos, and attend Agility Trials – learn as much as you can before you get involved because it requires a great deal of time and dedication. Six to nine months of solid agility training is necessary before a dog can compete. This sport requires dedication from the dog as well as the owner. If you cannot invest the time required, it may be best for you to leave the agility training and trials to others.
As for Abby, my 11-1/2 year old Lab, we will sit on the sofa and watch the Agility Trials on TV together. The fact that she can still jump on up the sofa means she is agile enough for me!
Read more articles by Anna Lee