Agility Training Tips

The sport of dog agility was invented by a horse lover who was given the task of entertaining the crowds at Crufts in 1978. They loved it, and now there are around 300 licensed Agility shows every year.

Agility is described by the Kennel Club as “a dog competition, where the animal’s fitness and the handler’s ability to train and direct the dog over and through certain obstacles are tested.”

Agile breeds

Unsurprisingly, some types of dogs are more agile than others. Working breeds generally seem to suit agility training, so if you have a Terrier, German Shepherd, Collie or Spaniel, you’ll find they should take to the challenges well.

Giant breeds such as Great Danes aren’t ideal candidates for agility, and typically show little interest in it. Some short-nosed breeds such as Bulldogs will also find it too hard because they aren’t so good at tasks that make them breathe heavily. Other than that, most breeds enjoy the thrill.

Competing dogs don’t have to be pure bred, and there are three size classifications too: small, medium, and large. Classes also range in levels of experience from Elementary to Advanced .

What are the Benefits?

Agility training is an excellent way to enhance your dog’s natural behavior, and the added benefits include improved alertness, improved problem-solving ability, better obedience, and coordination. It could also be a great way to improve the bond between the two of you, as they rely on you to guide them through the obstacles.

Physically, the training may also improve your dog’s overall health and fitness (and quite possibly yours, too), increase their endurance, and might help them to get rid of any excess energy so that they’ll be no trouble when you get them home…

How to Teach your Dog Agility

The first thing you need to do is work on your dog’s obedience. Once you’ve mastered the basic commands (sit, down, come, heel, and stay), you should start looking for a class or group in your area. Some obstacles could be practiced at home; an old coffee table in the garden could be a good practice for the table obstacle, and jumps can be found online to the right specification too. Look for specialist training equipment websites such as Training Lines, or search Your Dog Magazine for training advice.

What to Expect

When you take your dog to an agility show you should expect to find a series of standard obstacles laid out in a ring. The general rules are that the fastest dog around the course is the winner, taking into account points deducted for any faults and for taking too long.

If you want to introduce your dog to agility but not compete, there are also clubs which will offer the chance to just have some fun training your dog. You can find more information on the Agility Club website.

  • Hurdles
    Competing dogs must jump over each hurdle without knocking it over. Hurdles are produced to a specific size for small, medium and large breeds, and designed specifically so they don’t injure the dogs.
  •  Rising spread jump
    Two hurdles close together; the first jump is lower than the second.
  •  Brush fence
    Another type of hurdle.
  •  Hoop (Tyre)
    A hoop or tyre is suspended at a fixed height and the dog must jump through it.
  • Table
    The dog shows off his obedience by staying lying down on a table of fixed height for a time set by the judge.
  •  Long jump
    The dog must jump a maximum length of 1.5m and clear a series of low jumps.
  •  Water jump
    This is a low hurdle which is placed in front of shallow water, which the dog long jumps over.
  •  Wishing Well or Lych Gate
    A hurdle which also has a roof.
  •  Collapsible Tunnel
    A tunnel the dog has to make his way through. It has a rigid round entrance, will be made of non-slip cloth, and can be up to ten feet long.
  •  Pipe Tunnel
    A two feet by ten feet tunnel for the dog to negotiate.
  •  Weaving poles
    A slalom-style series of up to 12 for the dog has to weave in and out of.
  •  Pause Box
    An area on the ground of the ring where the dog has to pause for as long as the judge tells him to!
  •  A’ Ramp
    An ‘A’ shaped ramp formed by two non-slip ramps for the dog to climb over. There are ‘contact points’ at the base, in different colors, and his paws must not come into contact with these areas.
  •  See-Saw
    A pivoted plank which the dog must negotiate without touching the colored ‘contact points’.
  •  Dog Walk
    A plank with fixed ramps at both ends which the dog must walk over, this time making sure his paws DO touch the contact points.


So, if you like the idea of trying something new with your dog, or you’re ready to take their training to the next level, why not try out agility training? It’s a great way to spend time with your dog, teach them new skills, and have a lot of fun together. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll get good enough to compete at Crufts!


Michael Palmer is writing on behalf of MORE TH>N pet insurance, which offers pet lovers the reassurance they need to care for their pet. These are his own thoughts and do not represent the views of MORE TH>N. Please note that policy exclusions apply at MORE THAN for any pet used for commercial breeding or monetary gain.

Image of dog jumping from Wikimedia Commons


Filed under: Dog Training Tips

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